Democratic Deficits and the U.S. Ratification Debates
This chapter uses the eighteenth-century ratification debates between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists to reflect upon competing accountability tendencies inherent in representative democracy. Both sets of authors conceived of electoral accountability mechanisms as part of a politics of control designed to manage the various gaps separating representatives from citizens. However, they had different understandings of what such a politics should entail. Counterintuitively, the Federalists believed that expanding the distances between citizens and representatives could actually enhance the accountability of government. The Anti-Federalists, by contrast, placed greater emphasis upon the pacifying effects accountability institutions can have upon citizens. They believed republican accountability depends on the active participation of diverse citizens, a form of participation that is undermined when government grows distant. Drawn together, these competing visions illustrate numerous pitfalls of institutional design and how republican appeals to accountability can be made to serve conflicting agendas. They demonstrate the need to balance the effects accountability institutions have on government with the effects they have on citizens.
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