Democracy in the Fifty States

Democracy in the Fifty States

Democracy in the Fifty States

Democracy in the Fifty States

Synopsis

The disillusionment of scholars and nonscholars alike who conclude that democracy in the United States has failed calls for an innovative examination of our democratic processes. Kim Quaile Hill, arguing that these critics have been too hasty in their judgment, presents the first comprehensive assessment on the extent of achieved democratization. He examines the range of representative democracy in the states by comparing them on the key components of democracy indicated in empirical democratic theory- equal rights to vote, competitiveness among political parties, and the degree of mass participation. Building on empirical democratic theory and scholarship in comparative state politics, Hill follows the tradition of prominent cross-national studies to develop this intranational analysis of democratic processes. These analyses provide considerable evidence that the states vary substantially in the extent to which they approximate the democratic ideal. Hill begins with an evaluation of each of the primary ocmpenents of democracy and how states fulfilled them. He also replicates this analysis for the late 1940s and the early 1980s, two periods chosen for their historical distinctiveness in terms of legal regimes relevant to democracy in the states. The preceding analysis results in comprehensive measures of democracy in the states. For readers skeptical of gauging such a complex concept as democratization, Hill provides an empirical demonstration of the validity and reliability of the measures. And, for critics who still ask "Does democracy deliver the goods?", he presents strong evidence that more-democratic states adopt more equitable policies for citizens' welfare and ensure a greater range of civil rights than do less-democratic states.

Excerpt

The British scholar James Bryce once wrote of the United States, "No nation ever embarked on its career with happier auguries for the success of popular government." Throughout our history Americans have been preoccupied with the extent to which we have achieved that goal. Many scholars and political observers have explored the matter. Their deliberations range across every stripe of ideology, explore every possible related topic, offer a host of rewarding insights, and, inevitably, reach divergent ends and conclusions. Controversy rather than consensus prevails here.

In my judgment there are two, differently flawed camps into which the bulk of the systematic writing on democracy in the United States falls. in the first group are books that have evidence but no conclusions. These books, in other words, explore in great detail the various components of government relevant to democracy, but they venture no judgment about the whole that is composed of those parts. the typical political science textbook is of this character -- providing lengthy discussions of all the nuts and bolts of government but seldom offering a characterization of the entire machine.

Second, there are books that have conclusions but no evidence. There are innumerable popular and scholarly writings, that is, that begin with an assumption about the condition -- usually the poor condition -- of U.S. democracy and then proceed to offer either an . . .

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