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Government Responsiveness: A Democratic Value with Negative Externalities?

Conference contribution
Authors Marcia Grimes
Peter Esaiasson
Published in Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 11-14 April 2013
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Political Science
Language en
Subject categories Political Science


Democratic government must balance the mandate to make decisions on behalf of the entire electorate, and also exercise responsiveness to demands articulated via other channels in off-election periods. These two values may be at odds as the use of participatory democratic arrangements expands. Citizens with comparatively greater social and political resources can impress their preferences more effectively upon decision makers, which may result in government that systematically disadvantages citizens already at a disadvantage. This paper finds evidence of such a negative externality of responsive government in Sweden, where ample opportunities for citizen participation exist. Building on a unique dataset covering approximately 120 facilities in 300 census tracts in the Sweden’s second and third largest metropolitan areas, we explore whether residents’ resources (e.g. income, education, voter participation) correlate with the number of unwanted facilities sited in the neighborhood. The paper considers the normative implications, and suggests that while blindness is often seen as an asset in the administration of justice, perhaps a measure of deafness is needed in order to ensure long term fairness in the distribution of societal goods and bads.

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