(Re)designing Democracy for the Long Term


Tuesday, December 3, 2013, 12:00pm to 2:00pm


Conference Room (Room 226), Ash Center, 124 Mount Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

definition of democracyA light lunch will be served

About the Speakers:

Éloi Laurent, Senior Economist at OFCE (Sciences Po Centre for Economic Research in Paris, France) and Visiting Scholar, Center for European Studies/Visiting Professor, Environmental Science and Public Policy.

Michael MacKenzie, Democracy Fellow, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School.

Graham Smith, Professor of Politics, Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, U.K. and trustee for the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, currently Ash Center Senior Visiting Scholar.

About the workshop:

Many of our most pressing political problems involve long-term issues such as environmental degradation, debt accumulation, education spending, or the viability of social policies such as public pension plans. Short electoral cycles create strong incentives for politicians to adopt policies that produce near-term net benefits. Moreover, individuals are often more concerned about their own immediate interests than they are about long-term collective problems. For example, environmental concerns have consistently ranked far behind immediate economic concerns in almost all democracies since the start of the “great recession” in 2008. But is this a structural problem with democracies? Are democracies inherently vulnerable to fall prey to the concerns of the present?

While there are features of democratic systems that create and nurture short-term imperatives, democracies are not without resources for overcoming these challenges. Democracies have the capacity to be dynamic and can, at least in principle, remain responsive to both short- and long-term concerns. If democratic regimes are to overcome their own susceptibilities to short-termism, they need to be equipped to do so.

Please join this seminar for a discussion on (re)designing democracy for the long-term. More specifically, what institutions and practices – constitutional protections, new forms of citizen engagement, alternative metrics and indicators, etc. – can help produce a better balance between the interests of the present and those of the future?

The workshop will begin with short presentations by specialists in the field on aspects of institutional design for long-term decision making and then open up for discussion and deliberation.