On the legitiimacy of democratic government
Watson, Whitten Sullivan
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The present work considers and evaluates philosophical resources for establishing thelegitimacy of democratic government. Inasmuch as there is no point in searching forphilosophical reasons for democracy if that form of government is fundamentally unjust, theinvestigation begins by assessing the indictment famously brought against democracy byadvocates of rule by guardians. Defenders of guardian rule maintain that just those persons withknowledge of valid political aims, the skill needed to use government to achieve those aims, andthe disposition to do so should govern. Proponents of rule by guardians reject democracy on thegrounds that democracy does not guarantee that guardians, and only guardians, will govern.Because the arguments for guardian rule are not compelling, the search for philosophical toolsfor justifying democracy need not be quixotic. Accordingly, the investigation considers effortsby utilitarianism, liberalism, latter day social contract theory, and communitarianism to justifydemocracy. Each of these efforts argues not that government is intrinsically valuable, but thatgovernment possesses instrumental value, that political activity is legitimate because governmentrepresents an effective means of attaining some further end. Insofar as these efforts fail to makea persuasive case for the validity of democratic government, and due to inherent difficulties ininstrumental justifications of democracy, the investigation turns to the alternative that must be addressed, an argument that democracy is legitimate because it possesses intrinsic value. Theinvestigation concludes that a plausible defense of the preeminent validity of democraticgovernment requires arguing that democracy, and only democracy, possesses intrinsic value onthe foundation of a conception of right that regards freedom as having supreme ethical worth.