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Thursday, March 21, 2013


Does Inclusion in Democracy Lead to Liberty?

To increase inclusion in democracy, Young argues for proportional representation as means to encourage voter involvement in politics. A voting system that elects party members proportionate to the overall votes they receive, eliminating “single-member, winner-take-all” system that we currently utilize, “provides more opportunity for differentiated representation,” (Young 152) claims Young. Furthermore, “proportional representation tends to increase party competition and enable more parties to obtain legislative seats.” (Young 152) This, Young believes, will eliminate exclusion by giving minority groups more incentive to vote. She believes proportional representation to be a viable solution to many of the problems that are apparent in our democratic process.
            Young says participation is still an important factor in the success of proportional representation. Without it, representatives are “liable to become separate from the constituents, and the citizens relatively passive in relation to the representatives.” (Young 152) While Young discards this as a minor problem with the thinking that this model encourages participation by giving minority parties a deciding voice in political situation and one which holds politicians accountable, I disagree. Proportional representation gives these groups a false sense of inclusion, “you can speak and we will listen but, your voice doesn’t matter,” consequently promoting exclusion. In addition, it follows that the proportion of the popular vote that is received by a minority politician, is also the weight of their particular vote in legislative decisions. It seems improbable that the small percentage of influence that is possessed by a minority group could ever be enough to swing a positive result in their direction, even if several groups agreed on the same issues and voted accordingly, the problem would still persist.
            Political congestion is an inevitable outcome that would seem to positively correlate with the number of parties that exist. With an expanded legislative system that is required to accommodate proportional representation, it follows that inefficiency in the government process is a strong possibility. Assuming that the model works and many different groups are represented proportionately. With such diverse opinions presented across a wide range of represented groups, if a conclusion could ever be agreed upon, the concessions made to achieve a compromise would in no way satisfy the entire population of groups, if any at all. Assuming again that the model works and many different groups are represented, but disproportionately, the weight of their vote is once again taken into account making their vote irrelevant; much like a third party in our presidential elections.
Again, assuming that proportional representation does work and the new system does give opportunity for minority groups to gain power. The possibility then increases for radical groups to achieve representation. If inclusion is indeed promoted and representation is in fact accounted for, nothing is present to prevent groups like the National Socialist Party of America from gaining legitimate status in government. It may be a stretch to argue this fact, but a causal link does exist and with Young’s argument being so general in nature, it seems she overlooked some of the key variables that could have at least added some validity to her argument. 
Another reason for criticism of Young’s model is it fails to present any viable options for eliminating corruption through elections. With the existence of advocacy groups such as lobbyists and money from big business, whose interests often oppose those of the general public’s, the doors still remain open for unethical decisions that are influenced monetarily and predacious activity that is inconsistent with liberty. The process of campaigning for a political position and the money required to even be a feasible candidate presently puts the minority in a position of exclusion from the start. Until these problems are addressed it seems that any democracy that suffers these initial setbacks is flawed from the beginning. The quandary with the repeating process of political corruption is the group of politicians, businesses, and advocacy groups who benefit from the existing conditions, ironically are the ones who have the power to change them. If the incentive outweighs the likelihood of repercussion, political corruption through campaigning will persistently be a problem that needs to be addressed.  
Young argues that equal representation is a key aspect of justice and inclusion in democracy. I agree, but I fail to see where Young makes any clear accounts of how to accomplish this. The solutions that she supports don’t seem to rid politics of the oligarchy or even the fascist tendencies that are present in our contemporary model. The proportional representation model argued for in this instance, still allows for the same unequal grounds in representation that our current model boasts. Existing problems will endure until the terms money and politics are no longer synonymous or each individual citizen takes our political process to be one with intrinsic value.   

Young, Iris Marion. Democracy and Justice. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2000.

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