Friday 2 May 2014

Democracy in Decline

Professor James Allan will be discussing his book, Democracy in Decline, at the University of Canterbury on Wednesday, 14 May. Here's the blurb; you can register for the event at the link.
The New Zealand Initiative invites you to the launch of James Allan's new book Democracy in Decline. Professor Allan will speak at public events in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch on 12, 13 and 14 May.
Democracy in Decline charts how democracy is being diluted and restricted in five of the world's oldest democracies – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. James Allan targets four main, interconnected causes of decline – judicial activism, the transformation and growth of international law, the development of supranational organisations, and the presence of undemocratic elites.
He presents a convincing argument that the same trends are occurring whether the country has a constitutional bill of rights (United States and Canada), a statutory bill of rights (the United Kingdom and New Zealand), or no bill of rights at all (Australia).
Identifying tactics used by lawyers, judges, and international bureaucrats to deny that any decline has occurred, Allan looks ahead to further deterioration caused by attacks on free speech, intolerant worldviews, internationalisation through treaties and conventions, and illegal immigration. Social and political decisions, Allan argues, must be based on counting every adult in a nation state as equal.
Professors Allan's lecture will be of interest to anyone concerned with majority rule and fairness in numbers.
About the speaker:
James Allan
James Allan is the Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland. He is a native born Canadian who practised law at a large firm in Toronto and then at the Bar in London before moving to teach law in Hong Kong, New Zealand and then Australia.
Allan has published widely in the areas of constitutional law, legal philosophy and bill of rights scepticism. He also writes regularly for weeklies and monthlies including being a regular contributor to The AustralianThe Spectator Australia, and Quadrant. He was elected to the Mont Pelerin Society in 2011.
Allan worked in the Faculty of Law, University of Otago for 11 years, from 1993 to 2004. During that time he was a regular contributor to the National Business Review.
The event at Canterbury is being facilitated by our excellent Economics & Finance Student Society.

I will be attending and plan on harassing James a little.

While I entirely side with him in favour of individual choice over elite choice in our personal lives, I'm more sceptical about it when it comes to "undemocratic elites" versus the median voter. Sure, "undemocratic elites" want a lot of silly things, and we're far more likely to describe elite-preferred things that diverge from median-voter-preferred things in those kinds of terms when those things are particularly silly. But the median voter wants a lot of silly things too - we could (nay, should! must!) equivalently talk about the perils of undue deference to the hooples. Can we really be sure we don't do harm by strengthening the already strong ties between voter preferences and policy outcomes? Mightn't there be some optimal level of elitism? Or structures - like the ones we have now - that allow for elite veto of particularly pernicious populist policy?


  1. "Allan
    looks ahead to further deterioration caused by ... illegal immigration." So is he in favour of the elite who, through accident of birth, have citizenship of wealthy, freeish countries, having privilege over those who didn't have such lucky births? Or have I misunderstood?

  2. I like James; I disagree with him on stuff like this. I'm going to have fun.