Ethics & International Affairs


The Inconveniences of Transnational Democracy

Luis Cabrera*


Despite some limited moves toward openness and accountability, suprastate policy formation in such bodies as the World Trade Organization remains fundamentally exclusive of individuals within states. This article critiques the “don't kill the goose” arguments commonly offered in defense of such exclusions. It highlights similarities between those arguments and past arguments for elitist forms of democracy, where strict limitations are advocated on the participation of nonelites in the name of allowing leaders to act most effectively in the broad public interest. Advocated here is movement toward a strongly empowered WTO parliamentary body that would be guided in practice by a principle of democratic symmetry, attempting to match input to the increasing impacts of WTO governance. A parliament with codecision powers broadly similar to those of the European Parliament is offered as a long-term institutional ideal.

(Accepted May 14 2007)

(Received March 31 2007)


* I would like to thank for their helpful comments Andrew Sabl, Christina Beltran, Loren King, Jamie Mayerfeld, Thom Brooks, Christian Barry, Matt Peterson, Zornitsa Stoyanova-Yerburgh, and the anonymous reviewers for this journal. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2005 meeting of the American Political Science Association.