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Framing Democracy

Framing Democracy: A Behavioral Approach to Democratic Theory

Jamie Terence Kelly
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Framing Democracy
    Book Description:

    The past thirty years have seen a surge of empirical research into political decision making and the influence of framing effects--the phenomenon that occurs when different but equivalent presentations of a decision problem elicit different judgments or preferences. During the same period, political philosophers have become increasingly interested in democratic theory, particularly in deliberative theories of democracy. Unfortunately, the empirical and philosophical studies of democracy have largely proceeded in isolation from each other. As a result, philosophical treatments of democracy have overlooked recent developments in psychology, while the empirical study of framing effects has ignored much contemporary work in political philosophy. InFraming Democracy, Jamie Terence Kelly bridges this divide by explaining the relevance of framing effects for normative theories of democracy.

    Employing a behavioral approach, Kelly argues for rejecting the rational actor model of decision making and replacing it with an understanding of choice imported from psychology and social science. After surveying the wide array of theories that go under the name of democratic theory, he argues that a behavioral approach enables a focus on three important concerns: moral reasons for endorsing democracy, feasibility considerations governing particular theories, and implications for institutional design. Finally, Kelly assesses a number of methods for addressing framing effects, including proposals to increase the amount of political speech, mechanisms designed to insulate democratic outcomes from flawed decision making, and programs of public education.

    The first book to develop a behavioral theory of democracy,Framing Democracyhas important insights for democratic theory, the social scientific understanding of political decision making, economics, and legal theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4554-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology, Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Behavioral Law And Economics grew out of the larger disciplines of economics and legal theory as a result of a desire to incorporate insights from empirical psychology into theorizing about markets and the law.¹ These subdisciplines reject the rational actor model of human decision making (often referred to ashomo economicus²) and replace it with a picture of humans as boundedly rational, where the bounds of our rationality are drawn by heuristics that, under certain specifiable conditions, result in biases in our choices. These two disciplines have generated important insights into how certain facts about human decision making affect our...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Framing Effects
    (pp. 7-43)

    Recently, the behavioral approach to law (Sunstein and Thaler 2008), economics (Ariely 2009), and other social sciences (Shleifer 2000; Shefrin 2002) has been gaining popularity.¹ This approach is characterized by an attempt to reform existing disciplines (e.g., law, economics, and finance) through the development of a new model of human decision making (H. Simon 1955; Gintis 2004). Traditionally, these disciplines have employed a model of choice borrowed from classical economics.² This model construes individuals as maximally rational and seeks to understand human behavior in terms of a set of optimal rules for the solution of decision-making problems. This approach has...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Theories of Democracy
    (pp. 44-58)

    Before We Can Further Develop the behavioral approach, however, we need to pause awhile in order to contend with the current state of normative democratic theory. As things stand, there exists no single, unified field of research on democracy or democratic government. Instead, there are a number of individual disciplines and subdisciplines, each treating democracy in its own particular way.¹ Further adding to our difficulties, these disciplines have by now produced an astounding number of distinct, interconnected, and sometimes redundant theories of democracy. As a result, despite the benefits of terminological simplicity, if we are being careful, we should not...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Behavioral Democratic Theory
    (pp. 59-73)

    In This Chapter, I lay out the advantages of a behavioral approach to democratic theory. In particular, I contrast this approach with three more common ways of treating the decision making of citizens in a democracy. In order to bring out the contrast, I use the notion of epistemic competence to stand in for the various cognitive skills and abilities that are required for democracy to function properly. I show that rejecting the rational actor model of human decision making allows us to focus on three important theoretical considerations. First, the behavioral approach facilitates the use of a cost-benefit analysis...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Behavioral Democratic Theory Applied
    (pp. 74-96)

    In This Chapter, I narrow my focus once again and present my assessment of the relevance of framing effects for particular normative theories of democracy. Having introduced the phenomenon of framing in chapter 1, I will now show how it ought to affect our thinking about democracy. Drawing on my characterization of the field of democratic theory from chapter 2, I will show the relevance of framing effects for particular categories of normative theories of democracy. I use the description of behavioral democratic theory from chapter 3 to show that emphasizing moral reasons, feasibility constraints, and institutional design leads to...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Institutional Implications
    (pp. 97-121)

    In This Chapter, I illustrate some institutional implications of the behavioral approach to normative democratic theory. In the previous chapter, I laid out how various theories of democracy are affected by framing. I hope to have shown that all but the most minimalist theories of democracy must rely, at least to some extent, on claims regarding the reliability of citizens’ judgment. Further, I hope it is clear that our susceptibility to framing poses a threat to any such claims. If this is the case, then any non-minimalist theory of democracy, in order to be feasible, ought to recommend institutional mechanisms...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 122-124)

    In this work, I have tried to demonstrate that a behavioral approach to democratic theory— one that rejects the rational actor model of decision making in favor of a picture of choice informed by empirical psychology—can yield important theoretical results. In order to do this, I have focused on the phenomenon of framing effects and its relevance to normative theories of democracy. I hope to have generated two results that will validate the behavioral approach. The first concerns democratic theories at the minimalist end of my spectrum. The second result applies to theories that place epistemic demands on the...

  11. References
    (pp. 125-148)
  12. Index
    (pp. 149-157)