Democracy and Dissent
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Democracy and Dissent

The Challenge of International Rule Making

Frank Vibert

Frank Vibert expertly examines the fundamental issues involved in attempts to rethink international institutions and their rule making procedures. He analyses the basic problems with the existing system and the main approaches to its reform. The book rejects the idea that there are any simple institutional ‘fixes’ for current problems – such as relying on the G20 to coordinate global rule making and also rejects more ambitious attempts to prescribe new general organizing principles for world governance. It calls instead for specific remedies for specific problems. The author recommends new procedures for all international rule making so that both expert groups and governments are subject to much stronger external checks on what they do.
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Chapter 7: Diagnosing the Democratic Deficit

Frank Vibert


THE LACK OF SIMPLE IDENTITIES When Presidents Roosevelt and Truman commended the post war international bodies to the American people they made a simple equation between the role of the new institutions and the interests of democratic electorates. Because the new bodies were essential for peacekeeping and for removing the sources of tension such as trade and exchange rate disputes that had nearly extinguished democracy in Europe, American leaders could claim that there was a necessary connection between the rule-making activities of the new bodies and the continued survival of democracy. American leaders could thus claim an identity or congruence between the values attached to the new organisations and fundamental American values.1 The actual practice of international rule making has refuted this simple equation between international rule making and democracy. In a world where there are deep divisions about fundamental values, bodies such as the UN cannot always be relied on to act in ways to uphold democratic values. Moreover, in a world where international rule making has spread into a huge variety of policy areas, many of which have belonged traditionally to the domain of domestic politics, it is not possible to relate particular policy issues to general over-arching questions of war or peace, or to the survival or eclipse of democracy within countries. Nor is it easy to link national and international policy making together through less direct ways of making value judgements. In the context of domestic policy debate, political parties will often suggest ways in which...

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