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Julia Cagé

Julia Cagé is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Sciences Po and the author of The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to Do About It (Harvard UP). 


Julia Cagé is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Sciences Po in Paris, the co-director of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Evaluation of Public Policies (LIEPP)'s "Evaluation of Democracy" research group, and a Research Affiliate of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). Her third book, Le prix de la démocratie (Paris, Fayard, 2018), was awarded a “Prix Ethique” by Anticor, an association that combats corruption and helps restore ethics in politics, and the 8th edition of the “Prix Pétrarque de l’Essai France Culture-Le Monde. It will be coming to an anglophone audience this spring as The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to Do About It (Harvard UP, March 2020, translation by Patrick Camiller).

 

About the Book: The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to Do About It

(Harvard UP, 2020, tr. by Patrick Camiller)

This book is about why and how systems of political financing and representation in Europe and North America undermine democracy by giving disproportionate influence to the wealthy, and what we can do about it.

One person, one vote. In theory, everyone in a democracy has equal power to decide elections. But it’s hardly news that, in reality, political outcomes are heavily determined by the logic of one dollar, one vote. We take the political power of money for granted. But does it have to be this way? In The Price of Democracy, Julia Cagé combines economic and historical analysis with political theory to show how profoundly our systems in North America and Europe, from think tanks and the media to election campaigns, are shaped by money. She proposes fundamental reforms to bring democracy back into line with its egalitarian promise.

Cagé shows how different countries have tried to develop legislation to curb the power of private money and to develop public systems to fund campaigns and parties. But these attempts have been incoherent and unsystematic. She demonstrates that it is possible to learn from these experiments in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere to design a better system that would increase political participation and trust. This would involve setting a strict cap on private donations and creating a public voucher system to give each voter an equal amount to spend in support of political parties. More radically, Cagé argues that a significant fraction of seats in parliamentary assemblies should be set aside for representatives from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups.

At a time of widespread political disenchantment, The Price of Democracy is a bracing reminder of the problems we face and an inspirational guide to the potential for reform.

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Suggested talk

"The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to Do about it".

Electoral democracies are in crisis. Turnout is at its lowest point in the history of universal suffrage, particularly among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups. In this lecture, Professor Julia Cagé will argue that the solution involves a radical rethinking of our system of political finance, participation and representation. First, she will show that the central issue of political finance is the great absent of democratic theory and practice. Different countries have tried to develop various legislations to curb the power of private money in politics and to develop systems to fund campaigns and parties. But these attempts have been incoherent and unsystematic. As a consequence, electoral democracies are often closer to the “one dollar one vote” logic than to the “one person one vote” ideal. Next, she will show that it is possible to learn from these historical experiments in order to design a better system that would increase popular participation and trust into the electoral process. This involves the creation of  “Democratic Equality Vouchers” (DEVs), whereby each voter would have an equal amount to spend to finance political parties.


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