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Arlington resident's reformist call for a unique populism

Lexington Books has launched Democratic Theory Naturalized: The Foundations of Distilled Populism, a book by Arlington resident Walter Horn.

Walter Horn
Walter Horn:

Theory of prudential value that he calls "Choice Voluntarism.”

The work is intended to promote a much broader form of democracy than is now practiced in the United States. For example, it calls for eliminating the Electoral College, reducing the voting age to 16, enfranchising felons and substituting approval voting for the current method of choosing winners via plurality elections.

Horn explains: “To some, the word 'populism' suggests the tyranny of the mob; to others, it seems to promote a xenophobic nativism.

“It is often even considered conducive to, if not simply identical to, fascism.”

In Democratic Theory Naturalized, Horn uses a fresh theory of prudential value that he calls "Choice Voluntarism,” to upend such characterizations, as well as to produce solutions to some of the most perplexing problems in democratic theory.

He calls for distilling populism to what he believes is its core premise: giving people the power to govern themselves without any constraints imposed by those on the left or the right. Beginning with explanations of what it means to vote and what makes one society better off than another, Horn analyzes what makes for fair aggregation and appropriate, deliberative representation.

Solutions suggested

Through his examination of the American government, Horn suggests solutions to such contemporary problems as gerrymandering, immigration control and campaign finance. He offers answers to these age-old questions – why dissenters should obey the majority and who should have the right to vote in particular elections.

Asked to explain approval voting, he wrote “One votes for all and only the candidates that one 'approves of' – that is, believes the election of any of them would make one's life the slightest bit better.

“Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins.” This method is used in Fargo, N.D., and St. Louis is considering it. It's not as well known as ranked-choice voting, but Horn calls it “much simpler.” Learn more about it at the Center for Election Science, a national group.

Horn serves on the town's Election Modernization Committee.

"Prudential value'

He explains that the theory of prudential value he outlines in his book is new, though it was inspired by some writings from the 1940s by American philosopher Everett Hall. He has edited a book on Hall, whose work he has championed for more than 40 years.

Horn has published articles in the areas of epistemology, metaphysics, value theory, public policy, psychology of religion and aesthetics.

Horn has provided policy research and expert testimony to both the legislative and executive branches of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and has been an occasional philosophy professor since 1978, when he received his doctorate in philosophy from Brown University. He lives with his wife, Carol Calliotte, and cat Dumbledore (and with one or another of his two adult daughters—and AHS grads—when they are visiting).

The book can be purchased from Rowman.com, Amazon or other online booksellers. More information about Horn and his new book can be found at luckorcunning.blogspot.com


June 27, 2018: Arlington writer to take his 'net wit to WBUR


 This news announcement was published Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.

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