Do the 'Unelected' Control Policy in Democracies?



Book Review: The Rise of the Unelected: Democracy and the New Separation of Powers
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Summary of book review:

The review examines Frank Vibert's Rise of the Unelected whose main argument is that the delegation of authority to unelected technical experts, private consultants and independent authorities appointed to decide on a wide range of policy issues has accelerated in liberal democracies over the past two decades.

Vibert argues that such is the pervasiveness of authority held by the ‘unelected’, it no longer can be contained by conventional liberal democratic definitions of the ‘executive’.

Instead it should be seen, he argues, as a new and separate branch of liberal democracy, rivalling the judicatory, legislature and executive in direct authority as well as influence.

He states: ‘The rise of the unelected is spread across the democratic world ... there appear, at particular points of time, to be good reasons why a problem area in public policy should be entrusted to an unelected body; but when this is repeated again and again over many of the practical issues that people face in their lives, the combined effect is a cumulative transfer of public power from elected politicians to unelected officials’.
Despite the growth in the 'unelected's' authority and influence over policy-making in liberal democracies, Vibert does not see the trend as a threat to democracy as, in his view, elected representatives still have authority over key political and moral judgments.
Thumbnail image: Federal Reserve Building, Washington D.C. Source: AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia

Published Date
November 1, 2008