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Public Choice and the Challenges of Democracy

Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz

This timely and important volume addresses the serious challenges faced by democracy in contemporary society. With contributions from some of the world’s most prestigious scholars of public choice and political science, this comprehensive collection presents a complete overview of the threats democracy must confront, by both contesting accepted ideas and offering new approaches. Using theoretical and empirical evidence, this book will be a significant addition to the current literature, providing original and enlightening perspectives on the theory of democracy.
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Chapter 8: Should the Democratic Model Be Applied to Non-Governmental Organizations and Firms?

Pascal Salin


8. Should the democratic model be applied to non-governmental organizations and firms? Pascal Salin 1 INTRODUCTION ‘Democracy’ is the taboo word of our time. It tends to be the single criterion by which humane institutions and organizations are evaluated. Its importance is such that it has obtained an ethical dimension: being democratic is good, being non-democratic is bad. There is even a shift in the meaning of the word since, for instance, democratizing education just means extending education to a wide category of people and not only organizing education according to democratic processes. However, let us keep the concept with its strict meaning, namely a system in which a collective decision is adopted through voting, for instance with a majority rule. Given the importance given to the democratic character of institutions in the modern world, it is not surprising that many people consider it desirable to apply democratic rules to as many organizations as possible, beyond the public sphere for the working of which they have been initially designed. Thus, it is claimed that firms, associations and even, perhaps, the family ought to be managed according to democratic principles. At first glance this seems to be very attractive: why, for instance, would wage earners, who are concerned by what will happen in their firm, not be associated with decisions that can affect them? Why, in non-profit organizations – such as a university – would those who are concerned by the correct working of their institution not participate in decisions? Such...

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