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Ideas of David van Reybrouck, by Text

[Belgian, fl. 2013, Freelance political writer.]

2013 Against Elections
1 'Crisis' p.6 Democracy is the best compromise between legitimacy and efficiency
     Full Idea: Democracy is the least bad form of all governments precisely because it attempts to find a healthy balance between legitimacy and efficiency.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 1 'Crisis')
     A reaction: There seems to be a widespread feeling that democracy is declining in efficiency, and that may be because our remoteness from government decreases legitimacy, so we have less commitment to getting things done.
1 'Crisis' p.12 Nowadays sovereignty (once the basis of a state) has become relative
     Full Idea: In the twenty-first century, sovereignty, once the basis of the nation state, has become a relative concept. ...Powerlessness is the key word of our time.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 1 'Crisis')
     A reaction: The point is that nation states now have limited power, in the face of larger unions, multinational companies, and global problems.
2 'democracy' p.23 Technocrats may be efficient, but they lose legitimacy as soon as they do unpopular things
     Full Idea: Efficiency does not automatically generate legitimacy, and faith in the technocrat melts away as soon as spending cuts are implemented.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'democracy')
     A reaction: They can hang on to legitimacy if they can come up with some technical mumbo-jumbo like 'monetarism' which the people will swallow.
2 'electoral' p.55 Today it seems almost impossible to learn the will of the people
     Full Idea: Imagine having to develop a system today that would express the will of the people.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'electoral')
     A reaction: Our recent Brexit referendum didn't do the job, because it was confined to a single question. Van Reybrouck laughs at the idea of expressing it through a polling both. How about a council of 500, drawn by lots? Meet for three months.
2 'populism' p.18 There are no united monolothic 'peoples', and no 'national gut feelings'
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as one monolithic 'people' (every society has its diversity), nor is there anything that could be described as a 'national gut feeling'.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'populism')
     A reaction: Rousseau yearned for a republic no bigger than Geneva. I don't see why we should give up on the general will in huge modern societies. It is likely, though, to be an anodyne lowest common denominator. No bad thing, perhaps.
2 'technocracy' p.21 Technocrats are expert managers, who replace politicians, and can be long-term and unpopular
     Full Idea: Technocracy is a system where experts are charged with looking after the public interest. ...Technocrats are managers who replace politicians, so they can concentrate on long-term solutions and announce unpopular measures.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 2 'technocracy')
     A reaction: I like technocrats. They just need to be accountable. In the UK we have far more respect for the governor of the Bank of England than for any politician.
3 'democratisation' p.104 In the 18th century democratic lots lost out to elections, that gave us a non-hereditary aristocracy
     Full Idea: The drawing of lots, the most democratic of all political instruments, lost out in the eighteenth century to elections, a procedure that was not invented as a democratic instrument, but as a means of bringing a new non-hereditary aristocracy to power.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 3 'democratisation')
     A reaction: This is the basic thesis of Van Reybrouck's book. He argues for the extensive use of lots ('sortition') for getting people involved in modern democracies. I love the idea that in a good democracy you get an occasional chance to rule.
3 'procedure' p.62 Representative elections were developed in order to avoid democracy
     Full Idea: Bernard Manin (1995) revealed how, immediately after the American and French revolutions, the electoral-representative system was chosen with the intention of keeping at bay the tumult of democracy.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 3 'procedure')
     A reaction: At the time America and France were two of the largest countries in the world, and communication and transport were slow. That has changed.
4 intro p.106 You don't really govern people if you don't involve them
     Full Idea: Even with the best of intentions, those who govern the people without involving them, govern them only in a limited sense.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 4 intro)
     A reaction: But if they are highly involved, who is governing who? Do we want the people to become happier about being governed, or do we want them more involved in doing the governing?
4 'remedies' p.124 A referendum result arises largely from ignorance
     Full Idea: In a referendum you ask everyone to vote on a subject that usually only a few know anything about.
     From: David van Reybrouck (Against Elections [2013], 4 'remedies')
     A reaction: Tell me about it! I was forced to vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and felt thoroughly out of my depth on such a complex economic question.