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Democracy Distorted


  • Page extent: 268 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.54 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521700177)

Democracy Distorted
Cambridge University Press
9780521876650 - Democracy Distorted - Wealth, Influence and Democratic Politics - By Jacob Rowbottom

Democracy Distorted

High-profile controversies surrounding the funding of political parties have shown how inequalities in wealth can enter the political process. The growth of the professional lobbying of MPs and the executive raises similar questions about money in politics. More broadly, inequalities emerge in terms of the opportunities the public have to participate in political debate. This analysis of the ways wealth can be used to influence politics in the UK explores the threat posed to the principle of political equality. As well as examining lobbying and party funding, the discussion also focuses on the ownership and control of the media, the chance to be heard on the Internet and the impact of the privatisation of public spaces on rights to assemble and protest. Looking at this range of political activities, the author proposes various strategies designed to protect the integrity of UK democracy and stop inequalities in wealth becoming inequalities in politics.

Jacob Rowbottom is a lecturer in Law at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.

The Law in Context Series

William Twining

(University College London)

Christopher McCrudden

(Lincoln College, Oxford) and

Bronwen Morgan

(University of Bristol)

Since 1970 the Law in Context series has been in the forefront of the movement to broaden the study of law. It has been a vehicle for the publication of innovative scholarly books that treat law and legal phenomena critically in their social, political and economic contexts from a variety of perspectives. The series particularly aims to publish scholarly legal writing that brings fresh perspectives to bear on new and existing areas of law taught in universities. A contextual approach involves treating legal subjects broadly, using materials from other social sciences, and from any other discipline that helps to explain the operation in practice of the subject under discussion. It is hoped that this orientation is at once more stimulating and more realistic than the bare exposition of legal rules. The series includes original books that have a different emphasis from traditional legal textbooks, while maintaining the same high standards of scholarship. They are written primarily for undergraduate and graduate students of law and of other disciplines, but most also appeal to a wider readership. In the past, most books in the series have focused on English law, but recent publications include books on European law, globalisation, transnational legal processes, and comparative law.

Books in the Series

Anderson, Schum & Twining: Analysis of Evidence

Ashworth: Sentencing and Criminal Justice

Barton & Douglas: Law and Parenthood

Beecher-Monas: Evaluating Scientific Evidence: An Interdisciplinary Framework for Intellectual Due Process

Bell: French Legal Cultures

Bercusson: European Labour Law

Birkinshaw: European Public Law

Birkinshaw: Freedom of Information: The Law, the Practice and the Ideal

Cane: Atiyah’s Accidents, Compensation and the Law

Clarke & Kohler: Property Law: Commentary and Materials

Collins: The Law of Contract

Cranston: Legal Foundations of the Welfare State

Davies: Perspectives on Labour Law

Dembour: Who Believes in Human Rights?: The European Convention in Question

de Sousa Santos: Toward a New Legal Common Sense

Diduck: Law’s Families

Elworthy & Holder: Environmental Protection: Text and Materials

Fortin: Children’s Rights and the Developing Law

Glover-Thomas: Reconstructing Mental Health Law and Policy

Gobert & Punch: Rethinking Corporate Crime

Goldman: Globalisation and the Western Legal Tradition: Recurring Patterns of Law and Authority

Harlow & Rawlings: Law and Administration

Harris: An Introduction to Law

Harris, Campbell & Halson: Remedies in Contract and Tort

Harvey: Seeking Asylum in the UK: Problems and Prospects

Hervey & McHale: Health Law and the European Union

Holder & Lee: Environmental Protection, Law and Policy

Kostakopoulou: The Future Governance of Citizenship

Lacey, Wells & Quick: Reconstructing Criminal Law

Lewis: Choice and the Legal Order: Rising above Politics

Likosky: Transnational Legal Processes

Likosky: Law, Infrastructure and Human Rights

Maughan & Webb: Lawyering Skills and the Legal Process

McGlynn: Families and the European Union: Law, Politics and Pluralism

Moffat: Trusts Law: Text and Materials

Monti: EC Competition Law

Morgan & Yeung: An Introduction to Law and Regulation, Text and Materials

Norrie: Crime, Reason and History

O ’Dair: Legal Ethics

Oliver: Common Values and the Public–Private Divide

Oliver & Drewry: The Law and Parliament

Picciotto: International Business Taxation

Reed: Internet Law: Text and Materials

Richardson: Law, Process and Custody

Roberts & Palmer: Dispute Processes: ADR and the Primary Forms of Decision-Making

Rowbottom: Democracy Distorted: Wealth, Influence and Democratic Politics

Scott & Black: Cranston’s Consumers and the Law

Seneviratne: Ombudsmen: Public Services and Administrative Justice

Stapleton: Product Liability

Tamanaha: Law as a Means to an End: Threat to the Rule of Law

Turpin & Tomkins: British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials

Twining: Globalisation and Legal Theory

Twining: Rethinking Evidence

Twining: General Jurisprudence: Understanding Law from a Global Perspective

Twining: Human Rights, Southern Voices: Francis Deng, Abdullahi An-Na’im, Yash Ghai and Upendra Baxi

Twining & Miers: How to Do Things with Rules

Ward: A Critical Introduction to European Law

Ward: Law, Text, Terror

Ward: Shakespeare and Legal Imagination

Zander: Cases and Materials on the English Legal System

Zander: The Law-Making Process

Democracy Distorted

Wealth, Influence and Democratic Politics

Jacob Rowbottom

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Dubai, Tokyo

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:
© Jacob Rowbottom 2010

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2010
Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Rowbottom, Jacob.
Democracy distorted : wealth, influence and democratic politics / Jacob Rowbottom.
p. cm. – (Law in context)
ISBN 978-0-521-87665-0 (hardback)
1. Campaign funds–Great Britain. 2. Political parties–Great Britain. 3. Mass
media–Ownership–Geat Britain. 4. Political participation–Great Britain. 5. Great
Britain–Politics and government–2007– I. Title. II. Series.
JN1039.R69 2010

ISBN 978-0-521-87665-0 Hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-70017-7 Paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Preface and acknowledgements
1       Political equality, wealth and democracy
Wealth and democratic politics
Political equality
Democratic models and political equality
Stages of the democratic process
Wealth as a source of influence
Egalitarian politics and policies
2       Freedom to speak and freedom to spend
Engaging freedom of expression
Positive obligations
Justifications for freedom of expression
The speaker’s interest
Collective justifications for expression rights
Quantity, scarcity and competitive advantages
Listener autonomy
Electoral and political expression
3       Strategies and reforms
The risks of state intervention
Insulating the democratic processes
4       Access, influence and lobbying
Cash for favours, access and corruption
Lobbyists, Parliament and the executive
A participatory process
Strengthening transparency
5       Beyond equal votes: election campaigns and political parties
Spending limits
Political donations
State funding
Making subsidies responsive
Responsiveness and other democratic goals
Institutional donations
6       Public spaces, property and participation
Public spaces and a shrinking subsidy
Access to state-owned property
Private management of publicly owned spaces
Public spaces and private land
Rights of access
The rights of the owner
7       The mass media: democratic dreams and private propagandists
The mass media and democracy
Inequalities in wealth and the mass media
Media ownership and concentration
Safeguarding editorial and journalistic autonomy
Rights of access
Media sectors and freedom of expression
8       Participation in the digital era: a new distribution?
Party funding
Political debate in the new media
Possible solutions
9       Conclusion

Preface and acknowledgements

I first started thinking about money, politics and political equality a decade ago while working as a researcher in a senatorial campaign in the United States. It was a fascinating experience and I found much to admire about the US democratic system. Yet the vast amount of money spent in the election campaigns was striking. It is not much of an insight to say that money is important in US politics, but seeing the system in action brought the matter home to me. When I returned from the United States, there was similar talk about money and wealth being used to secure political influence in the UK, particularly in relation to some very large donations being made to political parties. Yet compared to the United States, UK politics is relatively inexpensive, and this is partly the product of the political system and its regulatory environment. The arguments advanced in this book seek to defend those features that have kept the costs of politics down, as well as propose some new strategies.

The way wealth can be used to secure political influence will depend on the particular features of the system in question. In the United States, many of the electoral battles are fought out through television advertisements. By contrast, in the UK the election campaigns and political debate tend to be conducted through the political coverage of the national media. As a result, particular attention will be given to the role of the mass media in later chapters. There are other broader trends that impact on people’s opportunities to engage in politics. One example discussed here is the privatisation of certain public spaces. The aim is to examine these different activities and areas to see how various separate trends can be connected when looking at the impact on political equality. The argument is not based on a conspiracy theory and does not suggest that any problems are the result of deliberate design. Instead it examines the ways certain features of the political system leave open the potential for inequalities in wealth to become political inequalities, and the possible solutions to those problems.

For the comments and feedback on draft chapters and the ideas in this book, I am very much indebted to Trevor Allan, Jocelyn Alexander, Nick Barber, Eric Barendt, Michael Birnhack, Alan Bogg, John Dunn, Mark Elliott, Keith Ewing, Thomas Gibbons, David Good, David Feldman, Dori Kimel, Anne Rowbottom, David Rowbottom, Tony Smith, Marc Stears and James Weinstein. Thanks are also due to Finola O’Sullivan, Sinead Moloney and Richard Woodham at Cambridge University Press. Finally, and not least, thanks to Lucia Perez for her patience and support.

© Cambridge University Press
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