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Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State$
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Samuel DeCanio

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198782

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198782.001.0001

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State Autonomy in Democratic Societies

State Autonomy in Democratic Societies

(p.25) Chapter 2 State Autonomy in Democratic Societies
Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State

Samuel DeCanio

Yale University Press

This chapter presents a theory of the state that challenges the assumption that democracy makes the state responsive to social preferences, electoral coalitions, and public opinion. It makes three arguments regarding the consequences of high levels of voter ignorance for democratic politics: that public ignorance grants democratic states autonomy from society, allows elites to manipulate public opinion, and facilitates regulatory capture. As the source of legitimacy of modern states, democracy virtually ensures that society will not control the state since the electorate cannot be informed about the tasks undertaken by modern governments. The chapter also considers how public ignorance and anarchy influence political competition and how the public's knowledge of politics affects state autonomy.

Keywords:   democracy, social preferences, electoral coalitions, public opinion, voter ignorance, democratic politics, elites, states, anarchy, state autonomy

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