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Recent Comments in this Document
13 February 2023 at 09:52
In the pars destruens of my book I have argued at length that the flaws I have tried to dissect are structural, inherent to the current framework of democracies, and therefore inescapable in this context. Of course, the depth of the distortions generated by the basic fault as identified by Schumpeter (“the democratic method produces legislation and administration as by-products of the struggle for political office”) and its six negative corollaries is, as I wrote, a matter of empirical enquiry, “depending on people, situations, effective deterrents, and the level of public culture and ethics in a given political/institutional/historical environment” (I.1. The seven flaws of democracies). Thus, while I refrain from discussion on how any democratic framework will be doomed to be defective, due to intrinsic human nature (the Kantian “crooked timber of humanity”), I try to offer, with REDemo, a betterment project.
In this sense, the reference to the New Deal is interesting. As I wrote (see 1.1. Form and substance in Constitutions), the great reform that FDR was able to realize in the USA was not complete: “In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that the Constitution should be enriched with a (social and economic) Second Bill of Rights: employment, food, clothing and leisure with enough personal/family income to support them; farmers’ rights to a fair income; freedom from unfair competition and monopolies; housing; medical care; social security; education. The constitutional amendment was not drafted, but a number of federal laws (e.g. labour and agricultural acts, the Civil Rights Act, healthcare acts etc.) were inspired by that philosophy (see Sunstein 2004¬): there are some scholarly calls to enact such a major improvement of the American Constitution, incorporating socio-economic rights into the constitutional text (see e.g. Michelman 2015).” We may imagine that a renewed REDemo institutional structure may be in a better position to carry forward that gigantic task – certainly more so than the current party-political entities which are so polarized, fractured and litigious.
As for the dire straits that Greece had to face during and after the Great Recession, or similar examples of the forced compliance of heavily indebted countries to conditions imposed by international financial institutions, I am afraid I have no particular insights to offer: I made clear that a limit of REDemo is in its (hoped-for) applicability at national and subnational levels. I have some ideas regarding a possible enlargement of the reform proposal beyond state borders, but this will be a subject for possible future developments.
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13 February 2023 at 09:51
I heard this kind of comment from a couple of readers of a previous draft, and I admit that they have a point. To explain my viewpoint, I wrote in chapter II.18.4. Informing policy with competence:
“The foreseen sections of the scientific assemblies should mostly involve the areas in which public choices can be helped by policy-related competence (law, political science, economics, sociology, land/urban planning, industry/infrastructure design, biotechnology, agriculture, education, health, the environment, culture, university and research, and moral philosophy): these are the kinds of expertise that can have a beneficial ‘return’ if translated into rationally designed, evidence-based, constitutionally-grounded collective decisions. As important and significant as all fields of knowledge can be, we think that government can take the greatest advantage from specialists in fields which have a direct connection with socio-political-economic life – but professors of arts and literature may be excellent legislators and ministers in education policy or cultural heritage.”
Then I added an important note:
“Indeed, the development of ‘disinterested’ search for knowledge should be encouraged. The value of cultivating science zones which apparently have no immediate practical use is shown by a recent example of startling advancements in the life sciences: techniques of gene editing (in particular CRISPR), which are extremely promising in various biotechnology sectors (medical, agri-food, bio-remediation of polluted soils, etc.) were developed from studies regarding certain obscure mechanisms of defense that bacteria operate against viruses (see EASAC 2017). The two scientists who discovered the phenomenon and foresaw its applications were awarded the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2020.”
I expressed the opinion that a National Scientific Assembly can replace an existing Senate (although not in certain federal democracies), but I reaffirm my view that it would not be a sort of higher chamber: as far as procedures and legislative mechanisms are concerned, the party-political and the scientific legislative bodies would be at the very same level, in a renewed sort of perfect bicameralism. Regarding the structure and, so to speak, the internal partition of scientific assemblies I am open to suggestions: however, I do not think that any places should be reserved for honorary appointments, like Italy’s unelected “senators for life”.
Furthermore, I have never been convinced by the alleged/supposed “end of history” concept: the great endeavour of (national and supranational) democracy is not only a matter of administration of the political dynamics; substantially, the REDemo project is aimed at realizing the objectives and goals of democratic constitutions, which are currently in a state of partial and uneven implementation.
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13 February 2023 at 09:49
This Hippocratic motto has a sort of cautionary meaning that, in the context of REDemo, is welcome: such an attitude should rein in any excessive enthusiasm regarding the positive results one may imagine if/when the renewed democratic framework is put in place. It is a caveat that I have repeatedly expressed: I devoted an entire sub-chapter recommending to keep a moderate and non-utopian perspective (see II.4.4. Reasonable, not excessive expectations) The reference to the concept of “post-normal science”, i.e. the use of science on issues where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent” (Funtowicz, Silvio. Post-normal Science. Science and Governance under Conditions of Complexity. Politeia, 2001, XVII(62):77-85) is appropriate: it frequently happens that politics must face a tangle of urgent decisions in difficult and unclear conditions. Simply put, REDemo’s view is that policy directions taken or guided by elected scientists/experts (as authorized by the majority of the electorate which approved their programmes), far from being the best by definition, would hopefully be better informed by the available evidence, as partial and tentative as that can be, than those carried on by party-political officials – who, as I have argued quoting several scholars (see I.1.4. Competence? Not necessary – and science often “politicized”), also discussing some real-life cases (see II.17.2. Fishery; II.17.3. Climate crisis), too often ignore or dismiss or distort facts.
Having said that, I must note that the notion of post-normal science has been linked, by its creators, to the dubious concept of “extended peer-review”, that I have briefly criticized (see II.11.2. Against misconceived “democratism”).
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13 February 2023 at 09:44
It is certainly a complicate and intricate subject: this is not the place to outline possible solutions. Yet we could imagine that, in a renewed REDemo framework, elected academics would be able to intervene with appropriate legislative/regulatory/governmental action – something that today’s politicians do not have at the top of their agendas. So, let us imagine that Professor Pievatolo, who has a thorough knowledge of the issue, stands for office and wins a seat in the Italian National Scientific Assembly, presenting a programme with her ideas, having been able to convince the electorate of the need for deep reform: she may possibly gain the consent of her fellow elected experts and negotiate with the party-political branch a resolute, progressive intervention aimed at reforming “the administrative and bibliometric research assessment” and, in parallel or consequently, the scientific publishing sector. If she is not interested in taking forward such an action personally, i.e. she is not willing to be a candidate, she may involve some elected colleagues who care about the problem; while, in the current framework, it looks hard to grab the attention of political decisionmakers. Does such a scenario sound attractive?
This is just an example of how REDemo, explicitly conceived as a meta-reform, could improve the game of policymaking and “rationalize” democratic dynamics.
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7 February 2023 at 15:30
You might want to deepen your account of the idea of post-normal science, which is founded on a Hippocratic condition: Vīta brevis, ars longa, occāsiō praeceps, experīmentum perīculōsum, iūdicium difficile. When the issues at stakes are uncertain and dangerous, the post-normal scientist supplements the traditional peer review with an extended peer review, rather than imposing his uncertain expertise as it were irrefutable and certain. To see un example of post-normal science at work, see this article, recommended by Silvio Funtowicz himself.
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7 February 2023 at 11:04
La commissione europea prenderebbe in considerazione questa proposta indiana? Se rendessimo pubbliche e premiassimo le revisioni, le discussioni e l’insegnamento e anonimizzassimo le pubblicazioni, da depositare in archivi aperti come Zenodo o ArXiv, otterremmo due effetti positivi:
Certo, per fare una cosa del genere la commissione europea dovrebbe abbandonare l’ideologia dell’eccellenza e della competitività…
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7 February 2023 at 02:17
Did you take into account the hypothesis that the seven flaws of democracy do not depend on democracy itself, but on its post-democratic weakness? Why did Franklin Delano Roosevelt succeed in answering the 1929 crisis, while the economist and politician Yanis Varoufakis and the democratic choice of Greece were crushed in 2015?
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7 February 2023 at 02:05
Why do you include only social and applied scientists? Why are not there historians, theologians, mathematicians, physicists and other basic researchers? You do list moral philosophers, it is true: but applied ethics is the branch of philosophy most prone to be exploited by commercial and political interests (see for instance the case of AI ethics). Do you share, perhaps, the perspective of the “end of history”, according to which all our remaining problems are just administrative?
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7 February 2023 at 01:24
It is not just about some “predatory journals” and “bad apples”, but about a whole system of parasite publishers, whose monopoly power depends on the current administrative and bibliometric research assessment. Today’s institutional science can hardly correct itself, because the power to assess itself by doing a public use of reason has been taken from it. There is a huge body of literature about such questions, but to get a general picture you can see some of our AISA statements or the very article of Francesca Di Donato, which is about an EU project of research assessment reform. Indeed, the troubles of the current research assessment methods have become so obvious that the EU commission itself is encouraging their reform.
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5 February 2023 at 10:36
I reply to both the previous comments.
It is reasonable that Professor Martinico, as an expert in comparative constitutional law, asks why I chose certain examples of some topics from a number of countries’ constitutions rather than others. The simple answer is that I quoted the cases randomly – no comparative purposes – just to give some references indicating that, in the varied and composite panorama of today’s democratic constitutions, basic ethical-political principles are a strong, inescapable, and theoretically well-founded, common denominator. I tried to underline that it cannot be otherwise, since those aims and goals are necessarily – forgive me the pun – constitutive of constitutions. In my introductory chapter, I aimed merely to hint at that subject. I will insert this short clarification in my book.
The second comment touches an issue of enormous importance. Yet, as I stated more than once, the pragmatic approach of my book is intended to rest on solid arguments, but it must of necessity exclude broad treatment of theoretical themes.
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