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Unformatted text preview: ates of group representation, like Iris Marion Young (1990, chap. 6), have argued
that some historically disenfranchised groups may still not do very well under
proportional representation. They may not be able to organize and articulate their views
as easily as other groups. Also, minority groups can still be systematically defeated in
the legislature and their interests may be consistently set back even if they do have
some representation. For these groups, some have argued that the only way to protect
their interests is legally to ensure that they have adequate and even disproportionate
One worry about group representation is that it tends to frieze some aspects of the
agenda that might be better left to the choice of citizens. For instance, consider a
population that is divided into linguistic groups for a long time. And suppose that only
some citizens continue to think of linguistic conflict as important. In the circumstances
a group representation scheme may tend to be biased in an arbitrary way that favors the
views or interests of those who do think of linguistic conflict as important. 5. The Authority of Democracy
Since democracy is a collective decision process, the question naturally arises about
whether there is any obligation of citizens to obey the democratic decision. In
plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 18/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) particular, the question arises as to whether a citizen has an obligation to obey the
democratic decision when he or she disagrees with it.
There are three main concepts of the legitimate authority of the state. First, a state has
legitimate authority to the extent that it is morally justified in imposing its rule on the
members. Legitimate authority on this account has no direct implications concerning
the obligations or duties that citizens may hold toward that state. It simply says that if
the state is morally justified in doing what it does, then it has legitimate authority.
Second, a state has legitimate authority to the extent that its directives generate duties
in citizens to obey. The duties of the citizens need not be owed to the state but they are
real duties to obey. The third is that the state has a right to rule that is correlated with
the citizens’ duty to it to obey it. This is the strongest notion of authority and it seems
to be the core idea behind the legitimacy of the state. The idea is that when citizens
disagree about law and policy it is important to be able to answer the question, who has
the right to choose?
With respect to democracy we can imagine three main approaches to the question as to
whether democratic decisions have authority. First, we can appeal to perfectly general
conceptions of legitimate authority. Some have thought that the question of authority is
independent entirely of whether a state is democratic. Consent theories of political
authority and instrumentalist conceptions of political authority state general criteria of
political authority that can be met by non democratic as well as democratic states.
Second, some have thought that there is a conceptual link between democracy and
authority such that if a decision is made democratically then it must therefore have
authority. Third, some have thought that there are general principles of political
authority that are uniquely realized by a democratic state under certain well defined
Readers who are interested in more general conceptions of political authority may
consult the entry for political authority for a discussion of the issues. And the second
kind of view has been largely abandoned by democratic theorists. I do wish to discuss
the third kind of conception of the political authority of democracy. 5.1 Instrume ntalist Conce ptions of De mocratic Authority
In general, instrumentalist conceptions of authority make no special mention of
democracy. The instrumental arguments for democracy give some reason for why one
ought to respect the democracy when one disagrees with its decisions. But there may be
many other instrumental considerations that play a role in deciding on the question of
whether one ought to obey. And these instrumental considerations are pretty much the
same whether one is considering obedience to democracy or some other form of rule.
There is one instrumentalist approach which is quite unique to democracy and that
seems to ground a strong conception of democratic authority. That is the approach
plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 19/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) inspired by the Condorcet Jury Theorem (Goodin, 2003, chap. 5; Estlund, 2002, 7780). According to this theorem, on issues where there are two alternatives and there is a
correct answer as to which one is correct, if voters have on average a better than even
chance of getting the right answer, the majority is more likely to have the right answer
than anyone in the minority. And the likelihood that the majority is right increases as
the size of the voting population increases. In very large po...
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