Screening before sanctioning: elections and the republican tradition

Mayo 2005
Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos (IPP) CSIC, Working Paper 2005-04

Francisco Herreros

In modern political science, repeated elections are considered as the main mechanism of electoral accountability in democracies. More rarely, elections are considered as ways to select “good types” of politicians. In this article it is argued that historical republican authors interpreted elections in this last sense. They view elections as a means to select what they often called the “natural aristocracy”, virtuous political leaders that would pursue the common good. This argument is presented in three steps. First, it is claimed that republican authors did not considered retrospective accountability as one of the goals of electoral processes. Second, I present some evidence concerning the distinction in republican authors between two types of politicians, “good” and “bad”. And, finally, I present some republican arguments about how elections could serve as a device for selecting the “good” politicians.