Month: July 2017

Welcome to episode 17 in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Today I’m talking with Dr Simon Longstaff the Executive Director of The Ethics Centre, based in Sydney, Australia.
Simon began his working life on Groote Eylandt (Anindilyakwa) in the Northern Territory where he worked in the Safety Department of the then BHP subsidiary, GEMCO. He is proud of his kinship ties with members of the island’s Indigenous community. Following a period studying law in Sydney and a brief career teaching in Tasmania, Simon undertook postgraduate studies in philosophy as a Member of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Simon commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in 1991. Simon is a Fellow of CPA Australia and in June 2016, was appointed an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University based at the National Centre for Indigenous Studies. Formerly serving as the inaugural President of The Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics, Simon serves on a number of boards and committees across a broad spectrum of activities. He was formerly a Fellow of the World Economic Forum.
The Ethics Centre (previously known as St James Ethics Centre) is an independent not-for-profit organisation that has been working for over 25 years to help people navigate the complexity and uncertainty of difficult ethical issues. The Ethics Centre delivers innovative programs, services and experiences, designed to bring ethics to the centre of professional and personal life, and align actions with values and principles.
I speak with Simon about how democracy and ethics interact, both ideally and in practice. Simon argues that “any divorce between ethics and politics completely destroys the capacity of democracy and particularly representative democracy to operate as it ought to do.”
The next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast will be the last in Season 2 and will be part 4 of the ‘one change to democracy’ set. 
After that, I’ll be taking a break to put together Season 3, which is all about elections, voting and alternatives. 

Check out this episode!

Welcome to episode 16 of Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. In this episode, I talk to a few of my previous guests about the relationship between representative democracy and capitalism. Some common themes emerge, specifically around the power of capital challenging the power of democratically elected governments and the problem of growing inequality and the erosion of the welfare state and social democracy.

My first guest is Professor Wolfgang Merkel who spoke about his paper Is Capitalism compatible with Democracy?

Professor Merkel is the Director of the Research Unit: Democracy and Democratization at the WZB Social Science Research Centre Berlin, as well as heading up the Centre for Global Constitutionalism and a number of other projects. He has written widely on democracy, democratisation, social democracy and democracy & capitalism to name but a few in academic and non-academic publications. Professor Merkel is a co-project leader of the Democracy Barometer.

Next, I spoke with Professor Leonardo Morlino who suggests that whilst we can legitimately talk about alternate systems to democracy asking about alternatives to capitalism is a rhetorical question.

Professor Morlino is a professor of political science and director of the Research Center on Democracies and Democratizations at LUISS, Rome. Prof. Morlino is a leading specialist in comparative politics with expertise on Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and the phenomenon of democratization.

My third guest is Associate Professor Sofia Näsström who spoke about a paper she wrote with Sara Kalm from Lund University, titled A democratic critique of precarity in which they identify precarity as ‘as the material and psychological vulnerability resulting from neo-liberal economic reforms.’

Associate Professor Näsström is from the Department of Government, Uppsala University in Sweden. She works in the field of political theory, with a particular focus on issues related to democracy, constituent power, the people, the right to have rights, representation, freedom and precarity.

And finally, I spoke with Professor Archon Fung about the relationship between representative democracy and free-market capitalism, and also about his work around workplace democracy. I hope to look at workplace democracy in more detail in a later season of the podcast.

Professor Fung is the Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. His research explores policies, practices, and institutional designs that deepen the quality of democratic governance. He focuses on public participation, deliberation, and transparency. He co-directs the Transparency Policy Project and leads democratic governance programs of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School.

In the next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast I’ll be talking with Dr Simon Longstaff the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre here in Australia about ethics and democracy. He touches on democracy and capitalism too. I hope you’ll join me then.

Thank you for joining me in episode 15 in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast.
I ask all of my guests two questions:
  1. what for them is the essence of a real democracy? and
  2. if they could change one thing about our system of democracy what would it be?

This episode is the third episode where I’ve put together a range of my guests’ answers to the question:

If you could change one thing about our system of democracy, what would it be?

We are very near the end of Season 2 – only three episodes to go and I will soon be starting interviews for Season 3 about elections, voting and alternatives.

I intend to continue to ask all of my guests their view on what is the essence of a real democracy.

I’m thinking of replacing the ‘one change’ question from Season 3 onwards and would appreciate your ideas on a new question. 

Please send your suggestions either via email to or let me know via Twitter or Facebook. I’ll be starting the interviews for Season 3 soon and would like to have the new question ready for those interviews.

First up we hear from Professor Gerry Stoker who was part of episode 12 in Season 2 talking about the democratic deficit. Gerry is Professor of Governance within Social Sciences: Politics and International Relations at the University of Southampton. He is also the Centenary Professor of Governance in the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra. In this episode, Gerry outlines both what his research says about what citizens would like changed as well as sharing his views.

The next person is Dr Roslyn Fullerwho was my guest on episode 2 in Season 2 talking about the role of direct democracy in ancient Athens.Roslyn is a Canadian-Irish academic and columnist, specializing in public international law, and the impact of technological innovation on democracy.She’d like to see quite dramatic change, although she does recognise it may take time.

Up next is Max Hardy who was a guest in Season 1 episode 11 talking about facilitating deliberative mini-publics in Australia. Max is the Principal at Max Hardy Consulting where he works with leaders and organisations to achieve results through collaboration. Not surprisingly Max would like to see citizens involved more directly in decision-making.

Carolyn Lukensmeyerwas also a guest in Season 1 episode 13 talking about her work with America Speaks. Carolyn is currently the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, an organisation in the United States that works to reduce political dysfunction and incivility in the political system. She identifies two changes, both institutional, that she would like to see.

Ben McPeek shared his experience as a member of the Residents’ Reference Panel for the Davenport Community Rail Overpass project in episode 17 of Season 1. He identifies the need to respect expertise.

Caroline Victor was a member of the Dogs and Cats Citizens’ Jury in South Australia and was also part of episode 17 in Season 1. She would like democracy to make more use of technology.

I first spoke with Didier Caluwaertsin episode 14 in Season 1 about the G1000 in Belgium.Didier is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the VUB. He would like to set up systems which support a long-term focus in decision-making.

Emily Jenke shared her experiences designing and facilitating deliberative mini-publics in South Australia in episode 10 of Season 1. Emily is a co-CEO of Democracy Co a consultancy focused on helping people come together to consider complex issues and make lasting decisions. She identifies two changes both of which are structural.

And finally, Professor Janette Hartz-Karp would I spoke with in episode 5 of Season 1 about her work in Western Australia designing and managing large deliberative mini-publics. Janette is a Professor in the Sustainability Policy Unit at Curtin University in Western Australia. Janette would like to see much more co-decision making.

Thank you for joining me today. In the next episode of Real Democracy Now! a podcast I’ll be talking to a number of people about the relationship between representative democracy and capitalism. I hope you’ll join me then.


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Welcome to this bonus episode in Season 2 of Real Democracy Now! a podcast. Season 2 is about representative democracy and this episode is about the democratic deficit.

In episodes 12 and 13 of Season 2 I spoke to a range of academics about the democratic deficit arising from declining levels of trust and structural aspects of our current system of representative democracy.

Today I talk with Professor Pippa Norris about the democratic deficit arising from the gap between people’s expectations of democracy and their perception of its performance.

Pippa is the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard University where she has taught for two decades. She is also ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. She is a political scientist focusing on democracy and development, public opinion and elections, political communications, and gender politics. She directs The Electoral Integrity Project, a multimillion dollar six-year research project with a team based at Sydney and Harvard.

She has published almost forty books, two of which are particularly relevant to my discussion with her today Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Governance, published in 1999 and Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited, published in 2011. She continues to work in this area and she is currently writing a new book Democratic Deficits: Rising Aspirations, Negative News or Failing Performance?.

Thank you for joining me for this bonus episode. I will be talking to Pippa again in Season 3 about The Electoral Integrity Project.

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