Plattner Electoral systems and democracy p. Johns Hopkins University Press, Oxford English Dictionary Online ed. Oxford University Press.
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November The Blackwell dictionary of political science: a user's guide to its terms. Mitchell and P. Democracy at Wikipedia's sister projects. Wikipedia Outlines. General reference Culture and the arts Geography and places Health and fitness History and events Mathematics and logic Natural and physical sciences People and self Philosophy and thinking Religion and belief systems Society and social sciences Technology and applied sciences.
Categories : Outlines of philosophy topics Wikipedia outlines Democracy. Hidden categories: Articles with short description Articles to be expanded from September All articles to be expanded Articles with empty sections from September All articles with empty sections Articles using small message boxes. Namespaces Article Talk. A philosopher crossing the street might wonder if there really are such things as buses, but this sort of reasoning is counterproductive and out of place in politics, because in politics we are concerned first and foremost with not getting run over by a bus.
Philosophical skepticism also ought not be considered to provide any support for anti-rationalism. Philosophers, after all, are concerned precisely with employing Reason! Philosophical explorations of the nature and limitations of Reason should not be taken as evidence for the rejection of Reason. The second, more germane issue is the practical issue that somebody must be the arbiter of truth for the purposes of government.
Given the huge power vested in this authority, it seems hugely important to address the potential for conflicts of interest. It is compelling to think that this authority must be representative of the citizenry, since otherwise it would create the appearance of a potential conflict of interest, and anywhere there is the appearance of a potential conflict of interest, there is also the real potential for a conflict of interest, subconscious or conscious.
At the same time, though, fact must not be decided by simple majority rule, or even more sophisticated derivatives of this method, because Fact must be an avenue by which even a lone individual can compel the state, and by extension society, to change. By pointing to evidence and by illustrating contradictions of reasoning. These are the ways we distinguish between true and false in general.
The court of law is specifically engineered to create an impartial and objective venue for determining facts and ordering legal redress on that basis. To be sure every legal system has its flaws, some of them major, but it cannot be denied that on the whole the court system is an effective means of determining truth in a democracy. The point is that the court system in principle is an effective and just arbiter of Fact in a democracy. It must be stressed here that legal truth is not supposed to be the same as philosophical truth.
Just as policy thinkers are concerned with developing the best possible laws, while government is concerned with passing laws through a just method, though individual laws may not be ideal, similarly, philosophers are concerned with finding out what is really true, while courts of law are concerned with finding out what is true through a just method, though individual findings may be incorrect. So far, we have established that laws based upon false premises are a problem for democracy, and that courts are both the traditional and a successful means of determining the truth in a democracy.
The essence of the solution, then, is that any citizen ought to be able to sue her government on the grounds that one of its laws is based upon a false premise. Since most laws nowadays do not conveniently express their aims and factual premises, this type of lawsuit would be most difficult in the systems of today. In order to make this type of lawsuit possible, laws would need to contain statements of intent, factual assumptions, and measurable criteria for attainment of policy aims within a specified time window.
Taken together, these constitutional reforms would go a long way towards insulating any democracy from the dangers of policy based on denial. The suggestions just given could be made to fit most existing democracies. Let us now go further, though, and imagine a hypothetical government that embodies institutional checks and balances against the passage of laws based upon false premises: a rationalist democracy.
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Observe that questions of ends, of aims, are properly answered by appeal to values, principles, or priorities, while questions of means, of how, are properly answered by appeal to facts. Under traditional democracy, however, both sorts of questions are decided by opinion. The reforms suggested in the previous paragraph would alleviate the worst cases of laws built on false premises by providing redress for them, but, since they would not address the legislative process itself, they would do little to promote the writing of better laws in the first place.
If we believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a modified legislative process that embodies the distinction between questions of means and questions of ends is to be most desired.
Since in a just government no laws may be passed without the consent of the governed, final say on legislation must belong to a representative elected body. Since the setting of legislative aims is a question of ends and therefore of values, it must also belong to the Parliament. We are discussing an improvement on an already refined form of government, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Since how best to achieve legislative aims is a question of means, and therefore of fact, the drafting of legislation ought not to belong to the Parliament, but rather to a body of experts.
Imagine the House of Experts as being composed of leading experts representing the most significant fields for law making: it would probably include some lawyers of different sorts, some economists, some scientists, some engineers, some doctors, perhaps some religious leaders from different groups, some community organizers, some artists, etc.
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So the legislative process starts when the Parliament passes a Bill of Aims directing the House of Experts to draft legislation to solve a particular problem. The House of Experts sends the Bill of Aims to a committee composed of the expert representatives from the most relevant fields, probably mostly economists in this example, who then write some legislation to lower unemployment. In writing this legislation, the committee makes note of specific factual assumptions and gives measurable criteria for judging the success of the legislation at achieving its aims in a specific time frame.
The proposed legislation, which we can call the Bill of Means, then needs to pass a vote by the entire House of Experts, which gives experts from other fields a chance to object and give input.
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The Parliament then gets a chance to vote on the Bill of Means. If Parliament rejects the legislation, the original Bill of Aims gets sent back to the House of Experts and the legislation writing process starts again. Only once the Parliament passes the Bill of Means does it become law.
Since rewriting legislation from scratch is so painful, there is a strong incentive for Parliament and the House of Experts to negotiate ahead of time to assure agreement on the form of the Bill of Means. After the time window given in the legislation elapses, any citizen may sue the government to change the law on the grounds that a particular law has failed at its stated aims by its own stated measurements. The big question for such a system, of course, is how the members of the House of Experts are picked.
This is likely the single most difficult practical issue involved in setting up this type of government. Let us as a first approximation imagine that the Parliament decides on a set of professional organizations to be represented in the House of Experts, and that these organizations choose for themselves their representatives.
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So, using the United States as an example, the Parliament might decide that the National Bar Association should get four seats, the American Medical Association three, etc. There would need to be very strict conflict of interest rules for members of the House of Experts. There should also be strict conflict of interest rules for other government officials, but the rules for the House of Experts should be especially strict because the same things that qualify someone as an expert might also constitute a conflict of interest.
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For example, an economist might become an expert by working in business, but her business ties might disqualify her from legislating on business issues. By contrast, conflicts of interest for members of Parliament, executives, and jurists usually have little to do with their professional qualifications. The rules for a bill to pass the House of Experts ought to be stricter than simple rule by majority, since the House of Experts addresses questions that can be settled by Reason. At minimum the House of Experts ought to require a supermajority to close debate, which would allow filibusters as in the United States Senate.
This would keep the concerns of any particular discipline from being ignored. The separation of aims from means embodied by this hypothetical government enables the institution of an effective form of direct democracy.