Democracy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Another consent based argument for the claim that

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Unformatted text preview: r consent-based argument for the claim that democracy is necessary for legitimate authority asserts that when people participate in the democratic process, by their act of participation they consent to the outcome, even if it goes against them. Their participation thereby lends legitimacy to the outcome and perhaps even to the democratic assembly that is elected by citizens. On this account, the acts of voting, for example, are also acts of consent to the outcome of the voting. So participants are thereby obligated to comply with the decision made by the majority. The problem with all these variations on consent theory is that they face a worrisome dilemma. On the one hand, they seem to involve highly suspect interpretations of behaviors that may or may not imply the kinds of consent that these theorists have in mind. Hume's worries about consent theorists’ interpreting residence in a territory as consent to its government have close analogs in this kind of context (Hume, 1748, p. 263). Why suppose that a person's vote is understood by that person to be consent to the outcome of the vote. Why not suppose that the person is merely trying to have an plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 21/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) impact on the outcome? Or why suppose that a person's membership in society—the “consent” signaled by remaining in the society—really commits him to agreeing that decisions must be made by majority rule? On the other hand, if we eschew the interpretative route the only way to think of the person's vote as constituting consent is if we think that the person ought to consent to the outcome or ought to know that he is consenting to the outcome. The fact that they ought to consent to the outcome because they have participated is sufficient, on some views, to produce an obligation. And the thesis that they ought to know that they consent is usually grounded in the idea that it they ought to be consenting when they vote. But this kind of view seems to get far away from the basic idea of consent theorists, which is that whether persons consent or not should be up to them and should not be determined by the correct moral view. Consent theory is grounded in the need a way to think of government has legitimacy when people disagree about whether it is just or right. 5.2.1 Li berty and Authori ty The liberty approaches to the justification of democracy provide alternative approaches to the idea of the authority of democracy. The idea here is that democracy has authority to the extent that people freely bring about the democratic decision. The reason for this is that democracy merely extends their activity of self-determination to the political realm. To the extent that self-determination is an preeminent value and democracy extends it to the political realm, allegiance to democratic decisions is necessary to self-determination and therefore is required by virtue of the pre eminent importance of self-determination. But here is a worry about this kind of approach. It seems either to presuppose that decisions will have unanimous support or it requires a number of substantive conditions on self-determination, which conditions do a lot of the work of generating obligations to democracy. For instance, if a decision must be made by majority rule, one strategy for reconciling this with self-determination is to say that a self-determining person must accept the legitimacy of majority rule when there is disagreement. This may be because the self-determining person must accept the fundamental importance of equality and majority rule is essential to equality under circumstances of disagreement. So if one argues that one cannot be self-determining unless one accepts equality then one might be able to argue that the self-determining person must accept the results of majority rule. But this argument seems to make the authority of democracy depend primarily on the importance of equality. And one must wonder about the importance of the idea of self-determination to the account. 5.2.2 Equal i ty and Authori ty plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 22/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Another approach to the question of the authority of democracy asserts that failing to obey the decisions of a democratic assembly amounts to treating one's fellow citizens as inferiors (Christiano 2004, 284-287). And this approach establishes the authority of democracy by claiming that the inequality involved in failing to obey the democratic assembly is the most important form of inequality. It is more important to treat persons as equals in political decision making on this account than it is to treat them as equals in the economic sphere. The idea is that citizens will disagree on how to treat each other as equals in the areas of substantive law and policy. It is the purpose of democracy to make decisions when these disagreements arise. Democracy realizes a kind of equality among persons that all can share allegiance to even when they disagree about many matters relating to substantive law and policy....
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This document was uploaded on 01/16/2014.

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