Democracy, Part One
Fairness and Political Obligation
The Principle of Fairness
Where I receive benefits from the state, fairness requires that I take on my share of the burden
This burden includes restrictions on my freedom, including obeying the law
o Everyone does their bit, so I need to do my bit as well
Benefits and Burdens
Benefits: Peace, order, security provided by a functioning legal system
Burdens: obeying the law
It would be unfair to disregard the burdens, so don’t ‘free ride’
Don’t accept the benefits without doing your bit to make these benefits possible
Receiving and Accepting Benefits
If others force benefits on me, am I obligated to reciprocate?
Gwyneth Paltrow’s Demand
o She secretly makes a 50 000 dollar contribution in his bank account every week, but he
doesn’t know where it is coming from, but he is wealthy and happy
o After a year she contacts and says it was her giving the money
o She expects him to do something back for her
I have a duty of fairness to do my part only if I accept the benefits
Problem: how can we NOT accept the benefits the state provides? (traffic lights, electricity,
sewage, bridges, health care)
So, fairness principle flawed
The power to issue and enforce binding commands
How should this power be distributed? Who gets to decide?
Who Should Rule?
What sort of government is best?
Rule by whom?
Aristotle’s group of six:
o Monarchy/Tyranny (the one)
o Aristocracy/ Oligarchy (The few)
o Polity/ Democracy (The many)
Who should rule?
Everyone should have the capacity to decide
Political power should be distributed equally- every citizen has the right to equal say in some
way of the political procedure- democratic ideal
Includes capacity to express yourself What is Democracy?
Rule (Kratos) by the many (Demos)
Collective Self- Rule (Wolff)- democracy would be all of us ruling ourselves somehow
Government of, for, and by the people- Abraham Lincoln- by is keyword in democracy
People are governing the people
Origins of Democracy
Ancient Athens 508-322 BC
Decisions made by majority vote in an assembly of all citizens
o Council of 500 selected by lottery set the agenda
o They bring all the men of Athens to one place to discuss politics in the assembly
Open debate and subsidized participation
Freedom of speech
Features of Athenian Democracy
Direct- each male directly participated in all political meetings
Exclusionary- no women or slaves were entitled to citizenship, most of work was done by people
lacking political rights, non- citizen residents could not participate either
Intolerant- orthodoxy (correct beliefs), people without the right beliefs (like Socrates who
challenged many views) were threatened to death
Culturally Homogeneous- relatively small, 50 000 people ruling over a huge amount of people
How Democratic was Athenian Democracy
More democratic than ours
o Ours is indirect because we get a single say (vote) but in Athens each citizen had a
crucial sense during political assembly
o Exclusion of many people (women, slaves, immigrants)
o We still exclude some people, but include more people in the class of citizens than them
o More tolerant to differences (religion, beliefs)
Key Features of Modern Representative Democracy
Universal Rights to vote and stand for office
Elected representatives make decisions
Elections are free, frequent, and fair
Freedom of speech; independent media
Freedom of association- can consent to things outside the state (intermediate associations)
Participation in Representative Democracies
Is more participation desirable?
o In our modern democracy, there is not much participation
Is direct democracy possible in large nation-states? Plato Against Democracy
Democracy ruled by the many
The many are selfish, ignorant, and unpredictable
Therefore, the many are unqualified to rule
The Craft Analogy
Consider jobs requiring lots of skill
Pilots, Architects, medical doctors
Health of the body and the state
Philosophers Should Rule
Philosophy= love of wisdom
Plato thinks philosophers are political decision makers, should have judgement, skill, and
Ruling is a skill attainable only by the few
o So if you want competent rulers it will end up being a small group of people
Philosophical Training: acquiring knowledge of the human good
Philosophers don’t want power- would rather be contemplating abstract objects (like the form
of the good)
But they realize that the alternative is unacceptable (because everyone else lacks judgement
Are There Political Experts?
Is there expert knowledge applicable to ruling?
Even so, how does a ruler know what is in the people’s interests?
Ask the people what they want
Should any group be given absolute power?
Problem of trust (why should we trust someone who claims to have knowledge of what is good
for the people)
Plato Against Corruption
Educate rulers to be concerned for the common good
Rulers possess no private property (they won’t be selfish)
Rulers are denied family ties (so they can’t use their power to benefit their children, parents ect)
Are there likely to be many volunteers?
Plato’s Ship Analogy:
1. The art of navigation
Skill in navigating (avoiding the rocks)
The problem is the crew does not know it
The mob on the ship is driving this thing but they don’t know navigatio