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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Democratic Institutional Design Revisited

Heather Gerken has posted a helpful reply to my thoughts about her recent posts about an electoral process reform subfield within election law.

I suppose I think that the only potential disadvantage that flows from Heather's "conservative" vision is that to qualify for the right to weigh in on a reform agenda, one would already need complete bona fides within a subfield.  Of course, scholars shouldn't be encouraged to make systematic reform proposals without having a strong background in the area to which they are addressing a proposal.  But there are real skills to doing institutional design well, I think, that can be disentangled from substantive area studies.  Maybe a good analogy is the new enthusiasm for ELS.  It has its own set of methodologies that can be taught and learned.  Yet, it is also a "portable" discipline that can be applied to a broad set of substantive areas.  ELS types are routinely forgiven for not specializing in one area of law, a freedom few outside of the L&E mold get. 

I'm not sure this analogy works but it is what comes to mind in response to Heather's latest set of
reflections and helps me refine what this "democratic institutional design" field could look like.  Perhaps it is worth comparing my thoughts here to the debate I once had with Michael Heise (of the ELSblog) about the status of ELS.  David Stras has a (sort-of) related post here.

Posted by Ethan Leib on June 26, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink

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