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Unformatted text preview: hese limits simply undermine the
right of the assembly to rule in these cases since they are not things to which citizens
can consent. This account provides an explanation of the idea behind the first internal
limit, that democracy may not be suspended by democratic means but it goes beyond
that limit to suggest that rights that are not essentially connected with the exercise of
the franchise may also not be violated because one may not consent to their violation.
plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 24/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) The conception of democratic authority that grounds it in public equality also provides
an account of the limits of that authority. Since democracy is founded in public
equality, it may not violate public equality in any of its decisions. The basic idea is that
overt violation of public equality by a democratic assembly undermines the claim that
the democratic assembly embodies public equality. Democracy's embodiment of public
equality is conditional on its protecting public equality. To the extent that liberal rights
are grounded in public equality and the provision of an economic minimum is also so
grounded, this suggests that democratic rights and liberal rights and rights to an
economic minimum create a limit to democratic authority. This account also provides a
deep grounding for the kinds of limits to democratic authority defended in the first
internal limit and it goes beyond these to the extent that protection of rights that are not
connected with the exercise of the franchise is also necessary to public equality.
5.3.2 P ersi stent Mi nori ti es
This account of the authority of democracy also provides some help with a vexing
problem of democratic theory. This problem is the difficulty of persistent minorities.
There is a persistent minority in a democratic society when that minority always loses
in the voting. This is always a possibility in democracies because of the use of majority
rule. If the society is divided into two or more highly unified voting blocks in which the
members of each group votes in the same ways as all the other members of that group,
then the group in the minority will find itself always on the losing end of the votes. This
problem has plagued some societies, particularly those with indigenous peoples who
live within developed societies. Though this problem is often connected with majority
tyranny it is distinct from the problem of majority tyranny because it may be the case
that the majority attempts to treat the minority well, in accordance with its conception
of good treatment. It is just that the minority never agrees with the majority on what
constitutes proper treatment. Being a persistent minority can be highly oppressive even
if the majority does not try to act oppressively. This can be understood with the help of
the very ideas that underpin democracy. P ersons have interests in being able to correct
for the cognitive biases of others and to be able to make the world in such a way that it
makes sense to them. These interests are set back for a persistent minority since they
never get their way.
The conception of democracy as grounded in public equality can shed light on this
problem. It can say that the existence of a persistent minority violates public equality. In
effect, a society in which there is a persistent minority is one in which that minority is
being treated publicly as an inferior because it is clear that its fundamental interests are
being set back. Hence to the extent that violations of public equality undercut the
authority of a democratic assembly, the existence of a persistent minority undermines
the authority of the democracy at least with respect to the minority. This suggests that
certain institutions ought to be constructed so that the minority is not persistent.
plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 25/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) 5.3.3 External Li mi ts to Democrati c Authori ty
One natural kind of limit to democratic authority is the external rebutting kind of limit.
Here the idea is that there are certain considerations that favor democratic decision
making and there are certain values that are independent of democracy that may be at
issue in democratic decisions. Some views may assert that there are only external limits
to democratic authority. But it is possible to think that there are both internal and
external limits. Such an issue may arise in decisions to go to war, for example. In such
decisions, one may have a duty to obey the decision of the democratic assembly on the
grounds that this is how one treats one's fellow citizens as equals but one may also have
a duty to oppose the war on the grounds that the war is an unjust aggression against
other people. To the extent that this consideration is sufficiently serious it may
outweigh the considerations of equality that underpin democratic authority. Thus one
may have an overall duty not to obey in this context. Issues of for...
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