Source: Richard A. Posner, How Judges Think (2008), p. 351 Bottom.

Furthermore, foreign decisions emerge from a complex social, political, historical, and institutional background of which most of our judges and Justices are ignorant. To know how much weight to give to the decision of the German Constitutional Court in an abortion case, you would want to know how the judges of that court are appointed and how they conceive of their role, and especially how German attitudes toward abortion have been shaped by peculiarities of German history, notably the abortion jurisprudence of the Weimar Republic, thought by some to have set the stage for some of Nazi Germany's legal atrocities, such as involuntary euthanasia. The European rejection of the death penalty, which advocates of abolishing the death penalty in the United States cite as evidence of an emerging international consensus that ought to influence our Supreme Court, is related both to the past overuse of it by European nations (think of the executions for petty larceny in eighteenth-century England, the Reign of Terror in France, and the rampant employment of the death penalty by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union) and to the less democratic cast of European politics, which makes elite opinion more likely to override public opinion there than in the United States [emboldening mine].

I already know, and ask not about, the Democratic deficit in the European Union. So let's imagine 'Europe' in the emboldened quote to refer to countries in Europe, not the EU. Then how's it true?

Countries in Northwestern Europe are democratic, and Southeastern Europe less so..

closed as primarily opinion-based by Bregalad, Glorfindel, grovkin, Philipp Apr 19 '18 at 8:52

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 11
    I would greatly disagree. European politics are more democratic than the U.S. – ohwilleke Apr 19 '18 at 3:58
  • 8
    There is a huge variety in European countries. Probably no one would say that Switzerland and Belarus are of the same “democraticity”. – chirlu Apr 19 '18 at 8:46

In order to assess if some country is more/less democratic than another, their "democracy" must be quantified, so that a comparison can be made.

There is an attempt to measure the state of the democracy - Democracy index.

State of democracy is assumed to include the following:

  • Effective participation: all members of the state should have the ability to make known their views of a policy to all other members of the state.
  • Equality of voting: all members of a state possess the ability to vote freely and without fear of any consequence. Furthermore, all votes which are cast must hold the same weight.
  • Enlightened understanding: all members of a state must have the ability to learn about any policy, and its potential consequences.
  • Control of the agenda: all members of a state must possess the opportunity to direct the policies which are implemented by the state.
  • Inclusion of adults: all adults who are permanent residents of a state must have full rights as citizens of the state.1

As you can see in the Democracy Index from 2017, there are quite some European countries (14 countries, if I counted them correctly) that are evaluated to be more "democratic" than US, which has a fairly good place (21).

According to this article, there are 50 countries in Europe, so one could say that, on average (by number, not population) Europe might be considered less democratic than US.

On the other hand, if you consider that Germany, UK and Spain alone have a population of about 200 million (a quarter of total population) things might be more balanced between US and Europe.

So, I would say there is not clear answer to your question.

  • 5
    Nice answer, but I would like to add that any such rating is based on giving numerical values to very complex realities, and such evaluations are always opinable and may be very sensible to observator bias ("If in my country we do things this way then any country that does it differently is less democratic"). I always found these index more useful to evaluate trends (if a country values improves or not) than to stablish a ranking between different countries with different cultures and political systems. – SJuan76 Apr 19 '18 at 8:08
  • 5
    @SJuan76 - yes, it is a highly reductionist approach. Basically you reduce lots of aspects (cultural, economical etc.) to a real number. And I agree that these indexes are more useful to see trends rather than a particular year snapshot. – Alexei Apr 19 '18 at 8:24
  • Quite honestly, that part about real numbers is laughable. (And I say this as a professional mathematician.) Real numbers aren't "real", and I don't see any number in the rankings you quote that isn't rational anyway. Including this kind of thing is a cheap attempt at gaining some scientific credibility, like someone using big but non-relevant words in a speech. More to the point, choosing five arbitrary criteria, attributing each country a numerical note for each criteria, and claiming you've "measured" democracy is naive at best. You call this "reductionist", I call this pseudoscience. – user5097 Apr 19 '18 at 9:02
  • @NajibIdrissi - I am not good with mathematics, so I am thinking that for most of us, in order to unambiguously compare two things, you have to put them on a line that has a direction (thus, the real numbers analogy). Of course, how "real" these numbers are is for mathematicians, linguists etc. to figure out. – Alexei Apr 19 '18 at 9:07
  • You're starting with the (flawed) assumption that attributing a numerical note is possible or meaningful. Moreover, and I don't say this to be mean, if you don't understand something, don't talk about it as if you did. Name-dropping to acquire some unearned scientific credibility is dishonest. – user5097 Apr 19 '18 at 9:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.