Trust and Political Information: Attitudinal Change in Participants in the Youth Parliament in Brazil

 

This article analyses the impact of socializing experiences on the political attitudes of youngsters. More specifically, our goal is to evaluate the impact of the Youth Parliament program on youngsters’ confidence levels in the Minas Gerais State Assembly (MGSA). The analysis focuses on the cognitive foundations of attitudes and results show a substantial increase in confidence levels in MGSA, an increase associated with the acquisition of information on the institution. It is asserted that the increase in confidence in MGSA represents and attitudinal “gain”. The study design involves quasi-experimental research on a non-random sample. We conducted two rounds of interviews in 2008, prior and subsequent to the program, with 335 participants (167 in the treatment group; and 168 in the control group).

By Mario Fuks, Gabriel Avila Casalecchi, Brazilian Political Science Review, Vol 6, No 1 (2012)

Who is willing to participate, and how?

This paper [PDF] draws on a new survey of British citizens to test the hypothesis that there are two quite distinctive types of attitude prevalent among those who are ‘disaffected’ with politics, the ‘dissatisfied democratic’ and ‘stealth democratic’ orientations, the former being more widespread in the UK. While neither manifests a high level of trust for the political elite, the dissatisfied democratic citizen is politically interested, efficacious and desires greater political participation, while the contrary is generally true of the stealth democrat. However, although stealth democrats are unwilling to engage in most forms of participation or deliberation, they are ambiguous about direct democracy, which can be attributed to the populist nature of stealth democratic attitudes.

By Paul Webb, University of Sussex, 2012.

Technology and Politicians’ Promises

Increasingly popular, promise-tracking platforms are software solutions designed to track the extent to which elected officials fulfil their promises made during electoral campaigning. David Sasaki has written an interesting post about these “promise meters”. Given that we are still in the early stages of development of these innovations, a few considerations might be noteworthy.While the cases that David lists focus on candidates for the Executive (e.g. gubernatorial elections), for illustrative purposes I focus primarily – but not solely – on cases in the field of parliamentary informatics. That is, existing or potential solutions for tracking politicians’ promises in parliament.
As David mentions, promises are not always the best metric. This may become even more evident when we consider the issues of collective intelligence and deliberation. To clarify, let us think of parliaments in their simplest form. As the etymology itself indicates, parliaments are in their origin conceived as spaces of dialogue. Such a deliberative component, some might argue, is precisely the epistemic basis that justifies the existence of parliaments as such. From this perspective, the mechanism that leverages the knowledge dispersed amongst the different parliamentarians relies on i) exposure to diverging points of view, ii) the justification of arguments on a rational basis, and ii) the willingness of parliamentarians to change their positions and preferences. From this perspective, a parliament in which its members do not change their preferences may in fact be counterproductive. The same applies to actors from the Executive as they interact with actors from other branches (e.g. Legislative) and levels (e.g. sub-national) of government and society as a whole.
Another question refers to the object of promise-tracking software. Some examples may fall prey to focusing on politicians as opposed to political parties, neglecting the role played by electoral parties in politicians’ behavior. Such oversight is particularly undesirable in the context of electoral systems that tend to foster strong party organizations (e.g. proportional representation), where parties’ directives tend to guide political action more than any individual agenda. This is perhaps one of the reasons for which voting advice applications (VAAs) developed by political scientists, such as theEUProfiler, have structured their design around political parties.
Finally, one could argue that promise-tracking platforms are built under a normative assumption that privileges a “delegate model of representation” over a “party delegate model” or a “trustee model” of representation.  Unintentionally, the discussion surrounding promise-tracking software enters a lively – and still unsettled – debate in the field of political representation theory. Edmund Burke would have loved to be a part of it.
(originally posted on the World Bank’s IC4D Blog)

Democracy, Redistribution and Equality

Via ABCDemocracy I came across this great article in the Brazilian Political Science Review by Adam Przeworski, one of the most important political scientists in the field of democracy and political economy. Here is the abstract of Przeworski’s paper Democracy, Redistribution and Equality: 

The article argues that economic inequality inevitably generates political inequality, which in turn reproduces economic inequality. Basic concepts are introduced first along with strong caveats concerning the quality of the cross- national data on income distributions; historical patterns of income inequality are summarized next, and with these preliminaries, a distinction is made between redistribution of consumption at a particular time and equalization of income earning capacities over time. Following this economic considerations, the article discussion moves to political factors that may block redistributions.

And for those working in the field of open government, money and politics; here are some interesting thoughts:

The impact of money on politics cannot be reduced to “corruption.” True, corruption scandals abound: suitcases filled in cash are found in the prime minister’s office, government contracts are awarded to firms co-owned by government ministers, public officials exit politics to cushy jobs in private companies they favored, insider trades are rampant, political parties are found to have bank accounts in Switzerland, local governments operate systematic bribe schedules on contractors, the list goes on and on. Moreover, such scandals are by no means limited to less developed countries or to young democracies: these examples are drawn from Germany, Spain, France, Italy, United States, and Belgium. But reducing the political role of money to instances of “corruption” is deeply misleading. Conceptualized as “corruption,” the influence of money becomes something anomalous, out-of-ordinary. We are told that when special interests bribe legislators or bureaucrats, democracy is corrupted. And then nothing needs to be said when special interests make legal political contributions. In order to exist and to participate in elections, political parties need money. Because election results matter for the private interests, they understandably seek to befriend parties and influence results of elections. The logic of political competition is inexorable. That the same acts are legal in some countries and illegal in other systems – some U.S. political financing practices would constitute corruption in several democracies – is in the end of secondary importance. The influence of money on politics is a structural feature of democracy in economically unequal societies.

(…)

The relation between money and politics can be to some extent mitigated so that the impact of economic inequality on political inequality varies across countries. Various regulatory schemes have been proposed and various are in use but we have no systematic knowledge of their effects. Perhaps instead of legal regulation, more effective are mechanisms by which poor people can pool their resources in order to counterbalance the influence of the rich. Unions provided this mechanism in the past and still do in some countries: income inequality is lower in countries which continue to have encompassing unions (Scheve and Stasavage 2009)22 Non-governmental organizations now play some of this role and, as the 2008 Obama campaign has shown, perhaps the internet will provide an alternative mechanism. But perfect political equality is impossible in economically unequal societies. Something is wrong when a plurality of citizens in a democracy answer the question about which institutions have most power in their country with “banks.23 Perhaps the most plausible explanation of the persistence of inequality is the feedback from political to economic inequality. High economic inequality generates high political inequality, disproportionate political influence of the rich perpetuates the inequality.

Definitely worth reading.

Open Government: Technology and Citizen Engagement

A talk I recently gave at the World Bank on citizen engagement and technology.    

Mapping Participatory Budgeting and e-Participatory Budgeting

This is still work in progress. I have been trying to map  participatory budgeting and e-participatory budgeting initiatives across the world.There are many more e-participatory budgeting initiatives to be inserted, as well as offline initiatives. The e-PB initiatives included so far are highlighted in red color.

If anyone here at can think of any cases to be included or would like to collaborate in this effort, please let me know.

Any suggestions on how I could make this map more useful are very welcome.

 

Directory of Online Budget Simulators / Games

Obviously it is not participatory budgeting, but this rather short list that I have compiled provides an idea of the variety of online initiatives type budget simulators / games. This might be useful to some of those interested in the use of ICTs in Participatory Budgeting experiences.

If you know of other similar initiatives please let me know.

(originally posted in Facebook’s Participatory Budgeting group)

The Budget Allocator:

http://bangthetable.com/products/budget-allocator/ 

Budget Simulator

http://www.budgetsimulator.com/

Croatian state budget calculator

http://proracunskikalkulator.com

Calgary iPhone Budget App

http://www.calgarycitynews.com/2011/03/calgary-business-plan-budget-app.html

Stabilize the Debt

http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt/

FloodSim

http://www.floodsim.com/

The Maryland Budget Game

http://iat.ubalt.edu/MDBudgetGame/budgetmap.html 

Hamburg (Germany)

http://www.buergerhaushalt-hamburg.de/

Federal Budget Challenge

http://www.concordcoalition.org/learn/educators/online-version-principles-and-priorities-budget-game

Colorado Backseat Budgeter

http://www.backseatbudgeter.com/

California Budget Challenge

http://www.next10.org/budget/challenge.html

Cyber-Budget (France)

http://www.cyber-budget.fr/

Minnesota Budget Balancer

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/projects/2007/03/budget_balancer/

Kansas T-Link Calculator

http://www.kansastlink.com/calculator/

M assachussets Budget Game

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/specials/budget_game/

Spending Public Money

http://citizensnetwork.accenture.com/SpendingPublicMoney/

Budget Hero:

http://officeofstrategicinfluence.com/budget/

Montgomery County Budget Game (Washington Post)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/interactives/montgomery-budget/

Budget Explorer:

http://www.kowaldesign.com/budget/index.html

The New York City Budget Game

http://www.gothamgazette.com/budgetgame/budgetgame.html

The Guardian Budget Game

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Budget_Game/0,4263,675654,00.html

Stateman’s Budget Game

http://www.statesman.com/insight/content/norails/budget_game

National Budget Simulation

http://www.nathannewman.org/nbs/longbudget06.html

Council for Economic Education Budget Simulation

http://www.econedlink.org/lessons/index.php?lesson=EM306&page=teacher

Cumbria County Council Budget Simulator

http://bit.ly/2BYoU

City of Austin FY2010 Budget Simulation Exercise

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/budget2010/index.cfm