Political Studies 53:423-451 (2005)

Corey Brettschneider
Brown University
Democratic theorists often distinguish between two views of democratic procedures. ‘Outcomes theorists’ emphasize the instrumental nature of these procedures and argue that they are only valuable because they tend to produce good outcomes. In contrast, ‘proceduralists’ emphasize the intrinsic value of democratic procedures, for instance, on the grounds that they are fair. In this paper. I argue that we should reject pure versions of these two theories in favor of an understanding of the democratic ideal that recognizes a commitment to both intrinsically valuable democratic procedures and democratic outcomes. In instances in which there is a conflict between these two commitments, I suggest they must be balanced. This balancing approach offers a justification of judicial review on the grounds that it potentially limits outcomes that undermine democracy. But judicial review is not justifiable in any instance in which a bad democratic outcome results from democratic procedures. When the loss that would result from overturning a democratic procedure is greater than the gain to democracy that would result from ensuring against an undemocratic outcome; judicial review is not justifiable. Loss or gain to democracy is defined by the negative or positive impact of each action on the core democratic values of equality and autonomy, aspects of the democratic ideal. Even when judicial review is justified, the fact that it overturns intrinsically valuable procedures suggests that such review is never ideal from the standpoint of democracy.
Keywords judicial review  democracy  procedures  outcomes  liberalism  supreme court
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