Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If You Use a Screen Reader

This content is available through Read Online (Free) program, which relies on page scans. Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.

A Constitution of Democratic Experimentalism

Michael C. Dorf and Charles F. Sabel
Columbia Law Review
Vol. 98, No. 2 (Mar., 1998), pp. 267-473
DOI: 10.2307/1123411
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1123411
Page Count: 207
  • Read Online (Free)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Constitution of Democratic Experimentalism
Preview not available

Abstract

In this Article, Professors Dorf and Sabel identify a new form of government, "democratic experimentalism," in which power is decentralized to enable citizens and other actors to utilize their local knowledge to fit solutions to their individual circumstances, but in which regional and national coordinating bodies require actors to share their knowledge with others facing similar problems. This information pooling, informed by the example of novel kinds of coordination within and among private firms, both increases the efficiency of public administration by encouraging mutual learning among its parts and heightens its accountability through participation of citizens in the decisions that affect them. In democratic experimentalism, subnational units of government are broadly free to set goals and to choose the means to attain them. Regulatory agencies set and ensure compliance with national objectives by means of best-practice performance standards based on information that regulated entities provide in return for the freedom to experiment with solutions they prefer. The authors argue that this type of self-government is currently emerging in settings as diverse as the regulation of nuclear power plants, community policing, procurement of sophisticated military hardware, environmental regulation, and child-protective services. The Article claims further that a shift towards democratic experimentalism holds out the promise of reducing the distance between, on the one hand, the Madisonian ideal of a limited government assured by a complex division of powers and, on the other hand, the governmental reality characteristic of the New Deal synthesis, in which an all-powerful Congress delegates much of its authority to expert agencies that are checked by the courts when they infringe individual rights, but are otherwise assumed to act in the public interest. Professors Dorf and Sabel argue that the combination of decentralization and mutual monitoring intrinsic to democratic experimentalism better protects the constitutional ideal than do doctrines of federalism and the separation of powers, so at odds with current circumstances, that courts recognize the futility of applying them consistently in practice by limiting themselves to fitful declarations of their validity in principle. For example, conventional administrative law imposes external judicial checks on administrative agencies, obliging judges to choose between superficial scrutiny of formal proprieties and disruptive, indeed often paralyzing, inquiry into what an idealized agency might be expected to do. By contrast, democratic experimentalism requires the social actors, separately and in exchange with each other, to take constitutional considerations into account in their decisionmaking. The administrative agency assists the actors even while monitoring their performance by scrutinizing the reactions of each to relevant proposals by the others. The courts then determine whether the agency has met its obligations to foster and generalize the results of this information pooling. Agencies and courts alike use the rich record of the parties' intentions, as interpreted by their acts contained in the continuing, comparative evaluation of experimentation itself. In the administrative and related settings, the aim of democratic experimentalism is to democratize public decisionmaking from within, and so lessen the burdens on a judiciary that today awkwardly superintends the every-day workings of democracy from an external vantage point. Finally, the Article reconceptualizes constitutional rights. Relying in this and other regards on ideas associated with early-twentieth-century American pragmatism, the Article treats disagreements over rights as principally about how to implement widely shared general principles. Under the heading of "prophylactic rules" and related doctrines, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that there are often a variety of acceptable remedies for a violation of rights or a variety of acceptable means of achieving a constitutionally mandated end. The authors argue for a radical extension of these doctrines, in which judicial recognition of a general, core right, permits substantial experimentation about how to implement that right. They propose institutional mechanisms to facilitate such experimentation. The authors contend, however, that with rights, as with other constitutionally entrenched principles, means and ends cannot be neatly separated, so that experimentation at the periphery also redefines the core, ultimately challenging the very distinction between core and periphery.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
267
    267
  • Thumbnail: Page 
268
    268
  • Thumbnail: Page 
269
    269
  • Thumbnail: Page 
270
    270
  • Thumbnail: Page 
271
    271
  • Thumbnail: Page 
272
    272
  • Thumbnail: Page 
273
    273
  • Thumbnail: Page 
274
    274
  • Thumbnail: Page 
275
    275
  • Thumbnail: Page 
276
    276
  • Thumbnail: Page 
277
    277
  • Thumbnail: Page 
278
    278
  • Thumbnail: Page 
279
    279
  • Thumbnail: Page 
280
    280
  • Thumbnail: Page 
281
    281
  • Thumbnail: Page 
282
    282
  • Thumbnail: Page 
283
    283
  • Thumbnail: Page 
284
    284
  • Thumbnail: Page 
285
    285
  • Thumbnail: Page 
286
    286
  • Thumbnail: Page 
287
    287
  • Thumbnail: Page 
288
    288
  • Thumbnail: Page 
289
    289
  • Thumbnail: Page 
290
    290
  • Thumbnail: Page 
291
    291
  • Thumbnail: Page 
292
    292
  • Thumbnail: Page 
293
    293
  • Thumbnail: Page 
294
    294
  • Thumbnail: Page 
295
    295
  • Thumbnail: Page 
296
    296
  • Thumbnail: Page 
297
    297
  • Thumbnail: Page 
298
    298
  • Thumbnail: Page 
299
    299
  • Thumbnail: Page 
300
    300
  • Thumbnail: Page 
301
    301
  • Thumbnail: Page 
302
    302
  • Thumbnail: Page 
303
    303
  • Thumbnail: Page 
304
    304
  • Thumbnail: Page 
305
    305
  • Thumbnail: Page 
306
    306
  • Thumbnail: Page 
307
    307
  • Thumbnail: Page 
308
    308
  • Thumbnail: Page 
309
    309
  • Thumbnail: Page 
310
    310
  • Thumbnail: Page 
311
    311
  • Thumbnail: Page 
312
    312
  • Thumbnail: Page 
313
    313
  • Thumbnail: Page 
314
    314
  • Thumbnail: Page 
315
    315
  • Thumbnail: Page 
316
    316
  • Thumbnail: Page 
317
    317
  • Thumbnail: Page 
318
    318
  • Thumbnail: Page 
319
    319
  • Thumbnail: Page 
320
    320
  • Thumbnail: Page 
321
    321
  • Thumbnail: Page 
322
    322
  • Thumbnail: Page 
323
    323
  • Thumbnail: Page 
324
    324
  • Thumbnail: Page 
325
    325
  • Thumbnail: Page 
326
    326
  • Thumbnail: Page 
327
    327
  • Thumbnail: Page 
328
    328
  • Thumbnail: Page 
329
    329
  • Thumbnail: Page 
330
    330
  • Thumbnail: Page 
331
    331
  • Thumbnail: Page 
332
    332
  • Thumbnail: Page 
333
    333
  • Thumbnail: Page 
334
    334
  • Thumbnail: Page 
335
    335
  • Thumbnail: Page 
336
    336
  • Thumbnail: Page 
337
    337
  • Thumbnail: Page 
338
    338
  • Thumbnail: Page 
339
    339
  • Thumbnail: Page 
340
    340
  • Thumbnail: Page 
341
    341
  • Thumbnail: Page 
342
    342
  • Thumbnail: Page 
343
    343
  • Thumbnail: Page 
344
    344
  • Thumbnail: Page 
345
    345
  • Thumbnail: Page 
346
    346
  • Thumbnail: Page 
347
    347
  • Thumbnail: Page 
348
    348
  • Thumbnail: Page 
349
    349
  • Thumbnail: Page 
350
    350
  • Thumbnail: Page 
351
    351
  • Thumbnail: Page 
352
    352
  • Thumbnail: Page 
353
    353
  • Thumbnail: Page 
354
    354
  • Thumbnail: Page 
355
    355
  • Thumbnail: Page 
356
    356
  • Thumbnail: Page 
357
    357
  • Thumbnail: Page 
358
    358
  • Thumbnail: Page 
359
    359
  • Thumbnail: Page 
360
    360
  • Thumbnail: Page 
361
    361
  • Thumbnail: Page 
362
    362
  • Thumbnail: Page 
363
    363
  • Thumbnail: Page 
364
    364
  • Thumbnail: Page 
365
    365
  • Thumbnail: Page 
366
    366
  • Thumbnail: Page 
367
    367
  • Thumbnail: Page 
368
    368
  • Thumbnail: Page 
369
    369
  • Thumbnail: Page 
370
    370
  • Thumbnail: Page 
371
    371
  • Thumbnail: Page 
372
    372
  • Thumbnail: Page 
373
    373
  • Thumbnail: Page 
374
    374
  • Thumbnail: Page 
375
    375
  • Thumbnail: Page 
376
    376
  • Thumbnail: Page 
377
    377
  • Thumbnail: Page 
378
    378
  • Thumbnail: Page 
379
    379
  • Thumbnail: Page 
380
    380
  • Thumbnail: Page 
381
    381
  • Thumbnail: Page 
382
    382
  • Thumbnail: Page 
383
    383
  • Thumbnail: Page 
384
    384
  • Thumbnail: Page 
385
    385
  • Thumbnail: Page 
386
    386
  • Thumbnail: Page 
387
    387
  • Thumbnail: Page 
388
    388
  • Thumbnail: Page 
389
    389
  • Thumbnail: Page 
390
    390
  • Thumbnail: Page 
391
    391
  • Thumbnail: Page 
392
    392
  • Thumbnail: Page 
393
    393
  • Thumbnail: Page 
394
    394
  • Thumbnail: Page 
395
    395
  • Thumbnail: Page 
396
    396
  • Thumbnail: Page 
397
    397
  • Thumbnail: Page 
398
    398
  • Thumbnail: Page 
399
    399
  • Thumbnail: Page 
400
    400
  • Thumbnail: Page 
401
    401
  • Thumbnail: Page 
402
    402
  • Thumbnail: Page 
403
    403
  • Thumbnail: Page 
404
    404
  • Thumbnail: Page 
405
    405
  • Thumbnail: Page 
406
    406
  • Thumbnail: Page 
407
    407
  • Thumbnail: Page 
408
    408
  • Thumbnail: Page 
409
    409
  • Thumbnail: Page 
410
    410
  • Thumbnail: Page 
411
    411
  • Thumbnail: Page 
412
    412
  • Thumbnail: Page 
413
    413
  • Thumbnail: Page 
414
    414
  • Thumbnail: Page 
415
    415
  • Thumbnail: Page 
416
    416
  • Thumbnail: Page 
417
    417
  • Thumbnail: Page 
418
    418
  • Thumbnail: Page 
419
    419
  • Thumbnail: Page 
420
    420
  • Thumbnail: Page 
421
    421
  • Thumbnail: Page 
422
    422
  • Thumbnail: Page 
423
    423
  • Thumbnail: Page 
424
    424
  • Thumbnail: Page 
425
    425
  • Thumbnail: Page 
426
    426
  • Thumbnail: Page 
427
    427
  • Thumbnail: Page 
428
    428
  • Thumbnail: Page 
429
    429
  • Thumbnail: Page 
430
    430
  • Thumbnail: Page 
431
    431
  • Thumbnail: Page 
432
    432
  • Thumbnail: Page 
433
    433
  • Thumbnail: Page 
434
    434
  • Thumbnail: Page 
435
    435
  • Thumbnail: Page 
436
    436
  • Thumbnail: Page 
437
    437
  • Thumbnail: Page 
438
    438
  • Thumbnail: Page 
439
    439
  • Thumbnail: Page 
440
    440
  • Thumbnail: Page 
441
    441
  • Thumbnail: Page 
442
    442
  • Thumbnail: Page 
443
    443
  • Thumbnail: Page 
444
    444
  • Thumbnail: Page 
445
    445
  • Thumbnail: Page 
446
    446
  • Thumbnail: Page 
447
    447
  • Thumbnail: Page 
448
    448
  • Thumbnail: Page 
449
    449
  • Thumbnail: Page 
450
    450
  • Thumbnail: Page 
451
    451
  • Thumbnail: Page 
452
    452
  • Thumbnail: Page 
453
    453
  • Thumbnail: Page 
454
    454
  • Thumbnail: Page 
455
    455
  • Thumbnail: Page 
456
    456
  • Thumbnail: Page 
457
    457
  • Thumbnail: Page 
458
    458
  • Thumbnail: Page 
459
    459
  • Thumbnail: Page 
460
    460
  • Thumbnail: Page 
461
    461
  • Thumbnail: Page 
462
    462
  • Thumbnail: Page 
463
    463
  • Thumbnail: Page 
464
    464
  • Thumbnail: Page 
465
    465
  • Thumbnail: Page 
466
    466
  • Thumbnail: Page 
467
    467
  • Thumbnail: Page 
468
    468
  • Thumbnail: Page 
469
    469
  • Thumbnail: Page 
470
    470
  • Thumbnail: Page 
471
    471
  • Thumbnail: Page 
472
    472
  • Thumbnail: Page 
473
    473