Question you’re not supposed to ask: What is it about democracy that guarantees or is even conducive to just governance?

This is an important question because people throw around claims and accusations of someone or some regime being “democratic” or “un-democratic” as if these terms have some clear meaning we are all supposed to recognize. (Just look at all the Turkey coup bickering.) And I know that all Educated People know that democracy = good, non-democracy = bad and only sophomoric imbeciles and unserious simpletons would question that.

But logically, I never saw the connection between the notion of justice and the giving of people an opportunity to choose. If people are to choose justly, wouldn’t we have to assume that people know what is or is not justice? We would also have to assume that, given that knowledge, these people would vote according to justice as opposed to self-interest or something else. But then, if justice is known and the majority of people would choose it anyway, why is a vote even necessary? In other words, why would we want injustice to have a chance at winning an election? (And of course, there are many electoral matters that have nothing to do with justice and are simply a matter of preference, but those matters are at best secondary once the issues pertaining to justice have been resolved.)

Of course, there are those who don’t think there is something like justice or they think that it is hopelessly subjective such that each person has his own definition of justice, which is why democracy and the opportunity to vote is so important, or so it is claimed. But if that is the case and there is no real, objective justice, then there would be no basis to say that democracy is a more just system of governance than despotism or anything else. After all, all despots view their reign as just regardless. If justice is subjective, there would be no basis to disagree with those despots.

Well, if democracy is not logically tied to justice, maybe we can draw conclusions from empirical results. Is it the case that (ostensible) democracies in the world exhibit more justice than their non-democratic counterparts? It’s not clear to me at all that this is the case. For every example you can cite, there is a counterexample. And even in the purported examples of the just democracies, it is always a question whether the justice those societies enjoy is a result of the democratic process or in spite of it.

Even when you consider the US, the parts of the Constitution most associated with justice and protecting the weak are found in the Bill of Rights and the Constitutional Amendments. And the nature of those provisions are inherently undemocratic — meaning they serve as limits on what legislation can be passed and enforced by the other branches of government, i.e., those branches that consist of elected representatives, e.g., congressman, the president, etc.

These are questions we should be asking and finding ways to answer instead of regurgitating the received notions we’ve been force-fed our entire lives.

Question you're not supposed to ask: What is it about democracy that guarantees or is even conducive to just…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Sunday, July 17, 2016

Daniel Haqiqatjou

View all posts

1 comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *