affected by government policies beyond state borders. Indeed, there is a danger that gaps between rich and poor countries could be widened by relying on domestic democratic accountability, because, in general, rich countries are more democratic than poor ones. Different attempts at increased participation will have different advantages and disadvantages. It is well to remember also that there are alternative forms of accountability as well. The International Criminal Court, for example, is an accountability mechanism without any participatory element.
Proposals such as ours will not satisfy those who call for a radically transformed system of increased global participation or for global democracy. While frequently couched in the language of accountability, these appeals are often, at bottom, arguments against the legitimacy of contemporary global governance and calls for a different structure of global power. The more radical “anti-globalization” voices criticize the United States, transnational corporations and the World Bank not on account of their lack of accountability, but on account of their fundamental illegitimacy.
We acknowledge that the accountability mechanisms we discuss depend, for their ethical value, on being embedded in legitimate institutional arrangements. If the values and rules of the institutions are fundamentally inconsistent with shared norms of appropriate behavior, accountability will not remedy this basic illegitimacy. We do not dismiss such radical critiques -- there is much about contemporary structures of power to criticize. We do, however, seek to distinguish these critiques of the legitimacy of the system from arguments about accountability per se. Debates over accountability proper are debates over how to prevent abuses of power – through action or culpable inaction – by states and institutions that are not ipso facto fundamentally illegitimate.