Dec 1 - Freedom Center Colloquium Series: Michael Zenz


Thu, 12/01/2016 - 12:30 to 13:45

On Dec 1, the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom will host PPEL Postdoctoral Fellow, Michael Zenz.  His talk is entitled "The Use And Abuse Of Power By Democratic Leaders."  (Abstract below.) 

Thursday, Dec 1, 12:30-1:45pm, in the Kendrick Room at the Freedom Center, Marshall 280 (right above Paradise Bakery).  Feel free to bring lunch.

For further information, please visit the Arizona Freedom Center at

Major policy reforms -- whether the market liberalizations in the U.S. and U.K. during the 1980s, or the healthcare reforms in the U.S. during 2010 -- are often brought about by political leaders who have a particular vision for how society should be restructured and the power to bring it about. Such opportunistic uses of power to further ideological policy goals, especially when those goals are not consistent with public opinion, are seen by many as undemocratic.  They seem to block the ability of the public to govern itself. I argue that this sort of "entrepreneurial" leadership can be appropriately considered democratic leadership if it is constrained in certain respects. Additionally, it is sometimes crucial for bringing about dramatic and beneficial policy reforms that may not arise from traditional "adaptive" forms policy creation. One of the important tasks of democratic leaders is to convince the public of the benefits of the policies they institute. In this way, most democratic leaders are also opinion leaders. This may be done directly through deliberation or policy "marketing," but also often must be done through demonstration. The people must sometimes be shown how policies actually function before they can be expected to understand their benefits. The hope of an entrepreneurial leader is that once a policy is put in place, an indifferent or reluctant public will be convinced of its merits.  However, entrepreneurial leadership and opinion leadership are dangerous when conjoined, because they risk the public being dominated by its leaders. Therefore, a democratic leader is constrained in the ways she may lead opinion and institute policy. Democratic leadership cannot primarilty function as indoctrination or manipulation. Similarly, entrepreneurial democratic leaders must design their policies such that they could be feasibly repealed or reformed after a suitable period of demonstration. As long as this is the case then policy "experiments," even when they are initially unpopular, do not subvert the ability of the public to govern itself. The public can be thought of as governing itself, though in a slower and clumsier way than public officials govern it.


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