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Democracy Lecture

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Charles Jones

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 Democracy Political Power  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  Historically unpopular 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  Less democratic 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)  Independent judges 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 knowledge  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 Philosopher Rulers  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 and wisdom) 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 Benevolent Dictatorship  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
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