Democracy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The relation of politicians to citizens inevitably

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Unformatted text preview: he relation of politicians to citizens inevitably gives rise to inequality, so it cannot be intrinsically fair or just (Dworkin 2000, ch. 4 [originally published in 1987]). In later work, Dworkin has pulled back from this originally thoroughgoing instrumentalism (Dworkin 2000, ch. 10 [originally published in 1999]). 2.2 Non-instrume ntal Value s Few theorists deny that political institutions must be at least in part evaluated in terms of the outcomes of having those institutions. Some argue in addition, that some forms of decision making are morally desirable independent of the consequences of having them. A variety of different approaches have been used to show that democracy has this kind of intrinsic value. The most common of these come broadly under the rubrics of liberty and equality. 2.2.1 Li berty Some argue that the basic principles of democracy are founded in the idea that each individual has a right to liberty. Democracy, it is said, extends the idea that each ought to be master of his or her life to the domain of collective decision making. First, each person's life is deeply affected by the larger social, legal and cultural environment in which he or she lives. Second, only when each person has an equal voice and vote in the process of collective decision-making will each have control over this larger environment. Thinkers such as Carol Gould (1988, pp.45-85) conclude that only when some kind of democracy is implemented, will individuals have a chance at selfgovernment. Since individuals have a right of self-government, they have a right to democratic participation. This right is established at least partly independently of the worth of the outcomes of democratic decision making. The idea is that the right of selfgovernment gives one a right, within limits, to do wrong. Just as an individual has a right to make some bad decisions for himself or herself, so a group of individuals have a right to make bad or unjust decisions for themselves regarding those activities they share. Here we can see the makings of an argument against instrumentalism. To the extent that an instrumentalist wishes to diminish a person's power to contribute to the democratic process for the sake of enhancing the quality of decisions, he is committed to thinking plato.stanfor d.edu/entr ies/democr acy/ 6/28 8/30/13 Democr acy ( Stanfor d Encyclopedia of Philosophy) that there is no moral loss in the fact that our power has been diminished. But if the liberty argument is correct our right to control our lives is violated by this. One major difficulty with this line of argument is that it appears to require that the basic rule of decision making be consensus or unanimity. If each person must freely choose the outcomes that bind him or her then those who oppose the decision are not selfgoverning. They live in an environment imposed on them by others. So only when all agree to a decision are they freely adopting the decision. The trouble is that there is rarely agreement on major issues in politics. Indeed, it appears that one of the main reasons for having political decision making procedures is that they can settle matters despite disagreement. And so it is hard to see how any political decision making method can respect everyone's liberty. 2.2.2 Democracy as P ubl i c Justi fi cati on One distant relative of the self-government approach is the account of democracy as a process of public justification defended by, among others, Joshua Cohen (2002, p. 21). The idea behind this approach is that laws and policies are legitimate to the extent that they are publicly justified to the citizens of the community. P ublic justification is justification to each citizen as a result of free and reasoned debate among equals. Citizens justify laws and policies to each other on the basis of mutually acceptable reasons. Democracy, properly understood, is the context in which individuals freely engage in a process of reasoned discussion and deliberation on an equal footing. The ideas of freedom and equality provide guidelines for structuring democratic institutions. The aim of democracy as public justification is reasoned consensus among citizens. But a serious problem arises when we ask about what happens when disagreement remains. Two possible replies have been suggested to this kind of worry. It has been urged that forms of consensus weaker than full consensus are sufficient for public justification and that the weaker varieties are achievable in many societies. For instance, there may be consensus on the list of reasons that are acceptable publicly but disagreement on the weight of the different reasons. Or there may be agreement on general reasons abstractly understood but disagreement about particular interpretations of those reasons. What would have to be shown here is that such weak consensus is achievable in many societies and that the disagreements that remain are not incompatible with the ideal of public justification. Another set of worries concerning this approach arises when we ask what reason there is for trying to ensure that political decisions are grounded in principles that everyone can reasonably accept. What i...
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