Democracy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The assumptions that lead neo liberals to be

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Unformatted text preview: he assumptions that lead neo-liberals to be skeptical about the large modern state imply equally disturbing problems for the large private concentrations of wealth in a neo-liberal society. 3.2 The Se lf-Inte re st Assumption A considerable amount of the literature in political science and the economic theory of the state are grounded in the assumption that individuals act primarily and perhaps even exclusively in their self-interest narrowly construed. The problem of participation and the accounts of the democratic process described above are in large part dependent on this assumption. While these ideas have generated interesting results and have become ever more sophisticated, there has been a growing chorus of opponents. Against the self-interest axiom, defenders of deliberative democracy and others claim that citizens are capable of being motivated by a concern for the common good and justice. And they claim, with Mill and Rousseau, that such concerns are not merely given prior to politics but that they can evolve and improve through the process of discussion and debate in politics. They assert that much debate and discussion in politics would not be intelligible were it not for the fact that citizens are willing to engage in open minded discussion with those who have distinct morally informed points of view. Empirical evidence suggests that individuals are motivated by moral considerations in politics in addition to their interests. Accordingly, many propose that democratic institutions be designed to support the inclination to engage in moral and open-minded discussion with others (see the essays in Mansbridge 1990). plato.stanfor ies/democr acy/ 15/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) 3.3 The Role of Citiz e nship as Choose rs of Aims Once we approach the idea of citizenship from a moral point of view and we recognize the importance of a division of labor, the question arises, what is the appropriate role for a citizen in a democracy? If we think that citizens are too often uninformed we should ask two questions. What ought citizens have knowledge about in order to fulfill their role? What standards ought citizens’ beliefs live up to in order to be adequately supported? Some, such as Dahl in the above quote, have proposed that citizens know about their particular sectors of society and not others. We have seen that this view has a number of difficulties. Christiano proposes, along with others, that citizens must think about what ends the society ought to aim at and leave the question of how to achieve those aims to experts (Christiano 1996, chap. 5). This kind of view needs to answer to the problem of how to ensure that politicians, administrators and experts actually do attempt to realize the aims set by citizens. And it must show how institutions can be designed so as to establish the division of labor while preserving equality among citizens. But if citizens genuinely do choose the aims and others faithfully pursue the means to achieving those aims, then citizens are in the driver's seat in society. It is hard to see how citizens can satisfy any even moderate standards for beliefs about out how best to achieve their political aims. Knowledge of means requires an immense amount of social science and knowledge of particular facts. For citizens to have this kind of knowledge generally would require that we abandon the division of labor in society. On the other hand, citizens do have first hand and daily experience with thinking about the values and aims they pursue. This gives them a chance to satisfy standards of belief regarding what the best aims are. Still the view is not defensible without a compelling institutional answer to the question of how to ensure that others are genuinely pursuing the means to achieve the aims specified by citizens. On the proposed view, legislative representatives and bureaucrats as well as judges must subordinate their activities to the task of figuring out how to pursue the aims of citizens. There is a huge principal/agent problem here. Furthermore, we must ask, how must institutions be designed in order to reconcile the demand for equality among citizens with the need for a division of labor? We will discuss one dimension of this issue in the question of legislative representation. 4. Legislative Representation A number of debates have centered on the question of what kinds of legislative institution are best for a democratic society. What choice we make here will depend heavily on our underlying ethical justification of democracy, our conception of citizenship as well as on our empirical understanding of political institutions and how they function. The most basic types of formal political representation available are single member district representation, proportional representation and group plato.stanfor ies/democr acy/ 16/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) representation. In addition, many societies have opted for multicameral legislative institutions. In some...
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This document was uploaded on 01/16/2014.

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