These two basic models of accountability, and the two major variants of each, are ideal types. In practice, they are often fused. In liberal democracies, such fusion does not necessarily lead to confusion. For instance, democratic elections are examples of both accountability through participation and accountability through judging the performance of one’s delegates. Thus the process of democratic elections can be endorsed readily as an effective mechanism for accountability by anyone holding any one of the four views articulated here. This convergence, however convenient in the context of liberal democracies, does not apply in contemporary world politics, since democratic elections are not viable mechanisms for accountability at the global level. Failure to distinguish the theoretical principles involved in these models has therefore become a source of confusion for the analysis of accountability in world politics. Maintaining the analytical distinctions among them should help to determine the extent to which domestic democratic accountability mechanisms are applicable to the problems of accountability in global politics.
Conventional discussions of accountability have relied heavily on the nation-state analogy. But it is a poor analogy, which breaks down in three distinct ways. First, the problem of abuse of power is particularly serious in world politics, because even the minimal types of constraints found in domestic governments are absent on the global level. Not only is there no global democracy, there is not even an effective constitutional system that constrains power in an institutionalized way, through mechanisms such as checks and balances. An institutional system of checks and balances is an attempt to limit the power of any one actor by making cooperation