A Paradox of Democracy

A Paradox of Democracy

 

A democratic state could decide democratically to abolish democracy. The people have come to the conclusion the democracy is dysfunctional, tyrannical (of the majority), and inefficient, so they vote to replace it with something better. According to democracy, they have a right to do that, and indeed a duty. Not to abolish democracy in the face of majority opinion, deferring to the opinion of a pro-democracy minority, goes against the entire meaning of democracy. They might even vote to abolish it forever, outlawing it in their new Constitution. Thus the correctness of democracy could undermine democracy. Not that the decision would be necessarily morally correct, but it would be what democratic principles dictate. If we interpreted democracy as constitutive of the right, then we would have the stronger paradox that according to democracy it would be right to reject democracy as a bad form of government. In fact, of course, majority opinion can never be constitutive of the right, just as God’s opinion cannot, but even granted that it could still be politically acceptable to abolish democracy according to democracy. This is a recipe for the instability of democracy.  

 

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2 replies
  1. jeffrey g kessen
    jeffrey g kessen says:

    Hell hath no fury like a Democracy gone wayward. Biden is but a temporizing stooge. Pinker might have it right that the world , over-all, at least in some important respects, is tending toward sanity. But America’s decline is almost a wretched certainty. On the other hand, tennis-wise, Andy Murray, seems on the come-back.

    Reply
    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      It was when I saw the intellectual and moral depths to which American philosophers were sinking that I knew we were in serious trouble. The political sewer we are now living in was just confirmation.

      Reply

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