Democracy is not naturally plausible. Why turn such important matters over to masses of people who have no expertise? Many theories of democracy answer by appealing to the intrinsic value of democratic procedure, leaving aside whether it makes good decisions. In Democratic Authority, David Estlund offers a groundbreaking alternative based on the idea that democratic authority and legitimacy must depend partly on democracy's tendency to make good decisions.Just as with verdicts in jury trials, Estlund argues, the authority and legitimacy of (...) a political decision does not depend on the particular decision being good or correct. But the "epistemic value" of the procedure--the degree to which it can generally be accepted as tending toward a good decision--is nevertheless crucial. Yet if good decisions were all that mattered, one might wonder why those who know best shouldn't simply rule.Estlund's theory--which he calls "epistemic proceduralism"--avoids epistocracy, or the rule of those who know. He argues that while some few people probably do know best, this can be used in political justification only if their expertise is acceptable from all reasonable points of view. If we seek the best epistemic arrangement in this respect, it will be recognizably democratic--with laws and policies actually authorized by the people subject to them. (shrink)
Democracy brings together some of the most sophisticated thinking on democratic theory in one concise volume. Written by experts in the field, these contemporary readings are distinctively philosophical, but will appeal to students in historical, empirical, legal, or policy- oriented disciplines which deal with democratic theory.
The present thesis is intended as a contribution toward a Rousseauean theory of democracy. The central problem discussed is how the act of voting must be interpreted in democratic theory. The notion of a theoretical interpretation of voting is discussed in Chapter One. A theory of democracy must include an interpretation of the act of voting if any praise or criticism of democracy is to be possible. The theoretical interpretation is distinct from an empirical account of voting behavior, and also (...) distinct from a moral or prudential imperative. It is left as an open question whether one ought, morally or prudentially, to vote in the way that democratic theory interprets voting, or indeed whether one ought to vote at all. ;Social choice theory typically assumes that votes are expressions of individual preferences--that each individual expresses his or her narrowly self-interested preferences, and a proper aggregation of these will yield a utility maximizing result. In Chapter Two it is argued that, for reasons stemming from analysis of the concept of democratic voting, no understanding of "preference" is acceptable as a theoretical interpretation of voting. Six such understandings are disqualified, and the interpretation of votes as statements on the common interest is argued to succeed where these fail. In Chapter Three Richard Wollheim's puzzle of the minority democrat is discussed in relation to several closely related puzzles which apply to both democracy and utilitarianism. All three puzzles are argued to be dissolved if votes are interpreted as statements on the common interest. The solution to Wollheim's paradox, called the Correction Solution, gives rise to the disturbing possibility that the minority is interpreted as simply deferring to the majority. This danger is discussed in detail in Chapter Four, and again the interpretation of votes as statements on the common interest is argued to be uniquely qualified to avoid it. (shrink)