AuthorGriffin, Christopher George
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractDemocratic procedures allow us to decide as a society what to do. We intuitively embrace the ideal of a democratic state. But do we need democracy? Some argue that the social institutions we need to live well legitimately evolve through the spontaneous and decentralized activity of free individuals, thereby making democratic decisions unnecessary. But because unjust inequalities in power inevitably develop through the evolution of property regimes and market systems, there are strong moral reasons for the community to establish democratic procedures to monitor and rehabilitate these historically entrenched institutions. Executing this corrective function is a central reason why we do in fact need democracy. Yet there is considerable disagreement about democracy's precise justification beyond this functional rationale. John Stuart Mill and Richard Arneson both argue for the claim that the justification of popular rule is solely a matter of democracy's ability to generate morally correct outcomes. I reject these views. Democracy is valuable beyond being a means to some other morally desirable ends. Democracy is justified, I argue, because it is an intrinsically just procedure. The challenge is to understand what this means. Joshua Cohen suggests that democracy is intrinsically just because in the process of democratic deliberation reasonable citizens are given reasons to accept exercises of state power. I reject Cohen's deliberative model because it does not adequately appreciate the range of moral disagreement in contemporary democracies. Further, the standard of reasonableness at the heart of his justification for democracy is not consistent with the use of majority rule, an essential element of the democratic process. Instead, I argue that democracy is an intrinsically just procedure because it distributes political power over the decisions regarding the basic rules of social life equally, and thereby satisfies each individual's interest in the public affirmation of his or her basic social standing. Democracy matters because the public declaration of equal moral standing matters.
Degree ProgramGraduate College