What requirements fall upon the state to distinguish legitimate democratic process from mob rule?


This paper examines what constitutes legitimate democratic process by considering attempts to justify democracy on purely intrinsic or purely instrumental grounds. These conceptions of democracy are then challenged by the conception of mob rule as tyranny of the masses, the problems associated with democracies by their very nature of being democratic. I shall examine which conception of democratic legitimacy better withstands these conceptions. I will show that the necessity of democracy to flatter the electorate is insurmountable for the proponent of an instrumental democracy, whereas the problem of the exclusion of the minority can be avoided by democracy as intrinsically justified. Therefore, I will argue that in order to distinguish legitimate democratic process from mob rule, democracy ought to be intrinsically justified in order to be considered legitimate.

Section 1 – Legitimate Democratic Process

To begin, we must expand on the terms in question. I will be considering contemporary democracies, which share a common core; being a form of government in which citizens have equal rights in decision making. Thus, democracy is a system in which citizens have equal opportunity to express their votes in public, to vote in frequent and fair elections, and to run for elected office. While there are non-democratic regimes and emerging democracies, this essay is (predominantly) interested in the analysis of how democratic processes are susceptible to the concerns of mob rule.

Democratic legitimacy is defined by fulfilling the normative duties of democracy, and the normative duties are derived from the conception of democracy you apply. The justification of democratic decisions comes from fulfilling the requirements that make it legitimate. In order to discuss the way to prevent legitimate democratic process from descending into mob rule, we must first establish the competing concepts of legitimate democratic decisions. This section will set out two contrasting concepts of legitimate democracy; democracy as intrinsically good and democracy as instrumentally good.

For democracy to be instrumentally legitimate, it must be the procedure by which the best results are reached. Alternatively, a democratic decision can be intrinsically legitimate, if the correct procedure is upheld (for some specified correct procedure). I will outline Pure Epistemic Proceduralism as an intrinsically justified democracy, and the Best Results Approach as an instrumentally justified democracy.

There is considerable crossover in the purpose of democracy when considered in either intrinsic or instrumental terms; intrinsic democracy still seeks the best results, and instrumental democracy still seeks a fair procedure, however it is the focus on the requirements of legitimacy that differs between the two. A fair procedure that produces bad results is not sufficient justification for democracy on instrumental grounds, and an unfair procedure that leads to good results is neither sufficient justification for democracy as intrinsically legitimate.

Intrinsic Democracy

Normative authority, the moral right to claim obedience to the laws made through that decision, is required for any democratic decision. Thus, despite intrinsic democracy being concerned with upholding the correct democratic procedure, as opposed to the specific outcomes reached, it must rest on the assumption that democracy does at least make good decisions. If this were not the case, then the claim to normative authority would be arbitrary. However, for democracy to be intrinsically justified, the tendency for democracy to make good decisions is irrelevant until the democratic process is justified in itself.

However, justifying a democracy because of its procedure is rational in so far as that procedure is likely to result in good outcomes. Thus, democracy may be intrinsically justified and still concerned with decisions. For example, Landermore (2012) claims increasing “cognitive diversity” (a collective with a greater level of diversity of perspectives, interpretations, and predictive models) increases the collective IQ of a group above what any individual member would have. Thus, by promoting a democratic procedure that promotes deliberation amongst citizens and a model that is democratic over epistocratic, better results are more likely to be reached.

There are several ways to approach the procedural elements of democratic decision making to ensure it remains likely that democracies make good decisions. Thus, intrinsic democracies may claim to be concerned with the procedure as a way of maintaining good results, and so claim normative authority, while still emphasising that the key principle underpinning democracy is that of egalitarianism. Once a suitable, fair procedure has been outlined, that procedure therefore must be followed for the procedure’s sake, rather than for the sake of good results.

In a minimally egalitarian democracy, this egalitarian basis is constituted by all persons having formally equal votes that aggregate to the result of a political decision, all persons having equal opportunities to run for office (leading to competition amongst parties due to the variety of those available), persons having freedom of expression regarding political matters (and are able to freely influence the process of deliberation), and there being an independent judiciary system, which ensures such a society acts in accordance with the rule of law.

For the sake of discussion, this paper will use Pure Epistemic Proceduralism (PEP) as a form of intrinsically justified democracy, as put forward by Peter (2007). As with all intrinsically justified concepts of democracy, PEP requires that decisions are legitimate before anything else, such that the legitimacy of the decision rests entirely on the procedure.

PEP has two components, epistemic democracy and pure proceduralist democracy. Democratic decisions may be epistemically valuable in two ways; democracy as knowledge producing, and democracy as knowledge aggregating (features of both intrinsic and instrumental theories of democracy). The pure proceduralism aspect entails that the conditions for democratic legitimacy are attained only on account of certain conditions being met. Thus, Pure Epistemic Proceduralism is an account of democracy that focuses on the epistemic dimension of a decision for its justification.

The focus for Peter (2007) is on deliberation as a tool for procedural and epistemic fairness. This is seen as a constructive element to democratic procedures, that without an appeal to a procedure-independent standard of correctness, the process of deliberation allows for the sharing and generating of knowledge, values and needs. Sen (1999) highlights this constructive element of deliberation, that this ability to engage in the political realm enriches the lives of citizens. Landermore (2011) also emphasises the importance of deliberation as democratic decision making, building on Aristotle’s claim that many heads are better than one.

It seems reasonable to suppose that PEP may be considered an ideal of intrinsic democracy – that equality of votes is represented in equality of participation within formal, constructive deliberation, in order to reach results that correspond with the common good without being consequentially tied to them, based entirely on the fairness of the procedure alone. That there is any democracy currently achieving such an ideal is unlikely. However, in order to discuss the potential for the exploitation of democracy by so-called mob rule, I will take this version of democracy as the ideal, intrinsically justifiable, concept of democracy.

Instrumental democracy

For democracy to be instrumentally legitimate there is a consequentialist consideration of its purpose; that as a process it has the ability to make the “right” decisions more often than not. It is possible to define “rightness” in terms of a context and a set of fundamental values. Instrumentally justified democracy is made legitimate by the claim that democracy is able to make the “right” choices more often than not, and thus better than alternative decision making procedures. There would be no normative authority if democracy were not an intelligent way to make decisions.

The most fundamental instrumental justification of democratic decision making procedures is the ability to hold decision makers accountable; the need to win majority vote and the existence of rivals will encourage candidates to seek decisions that appeal to a majority, that force the policy makers to consider the consequences on the population, as well as requiring leaders to abide by their promises.

Consider the Best Results Account of political legitimacy, in which a decision is legitimate just in case it gives rise to results that are morally superior in the long term to the results that would be produced by any feasible alternative sources of political power, such as an autocracy, monarchy or aristocracy. This is in comparison to an instrumental justification that rests on individual, short term decisions alone; an autocratic regime may well produce a more just decision than a democracy on any given decision, but the operation of democracy also renders citizens more virtuous than they would be, on average, under an autocracy. Thus, more virtuous citizens as members of democracies are able to, on the balance of multiple occasions of decision making, produce better results than alternative sources of political power, as well as increasing the tendency to just acts due to their increase in virtue, leading to better results over the long term.

Again, this may be seen as an ideal of an instrumentally justified democracy. Democracies create the best results on account of democracies producing more virtuous, just people, due to their role within democratic decision making, deliberation, expression of views and role in holding decision makers to account. Thus, democracy is made legitimate by these best results.

While each of these concepts of democracy (Pure Epistemic Proceduralism and Best Results Account) have objections within themselves, as representative conceptions of democracy as well as functional objections, this paper’s primary focus will be on which of these conceptions of democracy can best withstand the objections of mob rule.

Section 2 – Mob Rule

This section will set out the conception of mob rule that will be considered as the alternative to legitimate democratic rule. Rather than mob rule qua mob rule, invoking images of violence, intimidation and other unlawful methods of controlling power, I will consider a lawful and more prevalent conception of mob rule as tyranny of the masses. In essence, the dangers posed by democracies by their very nature as democracies. I will consider two problems of mob rule, the Minority Problem, and the Flattery Problem.

The Minority Problem is the result of two component parts; that of herd mentality and the exclusion of the minority. Herd mentality entails that democratic process promotes, and entails, herd-being. This herd-being, where the dominant social group’s life interests are all served by similar values, leads to democratic practice enabling the preservation of those values, and over time, those values becoming the norm. Thus, constrained by these norms, people behave as masses, whose thought is similarly shaped by shared historical context, whose beliefs are naturalized, and deviations from those norms violate the natural order. The institution of marriage creates a clear example; marriage is between two people, anything else is against the natural order. As laws legislating in favour of gay marriage are enacted in several democratic states, the nature of marriage as between two remains so enshrined it is not up for discussion.

Furthermore, the democratic force of majority rule can lead to the exclusion of the minority, where majority rule is suited to the preservation of the most widely held beliefs. Minority exclusion is a clear pitfall of majority rule; a majority may seek to tyrannise a minority to its own benefit, using the aggregative power of democracy, such as the oppression of minority religions. These two problems, taken together, lead to the tyranny of a majority; democratic rule promotes, and entails, herd-being, and democratic rule also allows for the exclusion of the minority, whose views do not align with the views of the predominant social group.

The Flattery Problem entails the need for democratic governments to make decisions that pander to the people, as opposed to decisions that truly are in the best interest of the people. The lack of autonomy that is a necessary element of democratic government can undermine the decisions it ought to make. The Flattery Problem arises when decisions are made not in the best interest of the people as a whole, but are the interests of the social group of current voters. Reliefs and freedoms are given to the voters as a necessary requirement of retaining power, while the needs of those too young to vote, not on the electoral register, in other countries or as yet unborn, are disregarded. The implication of this is that it leads to careless living, at the cost of the future of our species. By respecting the equal moral worth of all individuals in a democratic government, it allows one human type to flourish at the expense of others.

It is clear to see the prevalence of the Flattery Problem in the discussions of the justice requirements of climate change. It seems undoubtedly true that the decision that is right with respects to climate change is to reduce carbon emissions by any means necessary in order to preserve the environment, and yet the need for political decision makers to be given power through majority vote entails it is unlikely that the policy makers will sufficiently limit the freedom of the voters in order to make that necessary reduction. While all people today are treated equally, the disastrous consequences for all of humankind are clear to see through models predicting the scale of global climate disaster over the next 100 years.

The tyranny of the people creates a herd-like mass of the dominant social group, which must be pandered to, at the detriment of the vast majority of humanity (even the largest democratic decisions will only contain small percentages of living humans, let alone those not yet born). Where government is at the mercy of this dominant social group, reliant on them in order to rule at all, it is the people who are sovereign.

The following section will consider whether it is possible for democracies to withstand the tyranny of the masses, and whether an intrinsic or instrumental defence best allows it to do so. DELETE/FIX THIS?

Section 3 – Responding to Mob Rule

Both the problems of mob rule are applicable to intrinsic and instrumental accounts of democracy. Consider first two problems. The proponent of the instrumental account of democracy must give an account for how it is possible that democracy can reach the best results, while still accepting that it is possible to oppress minorities in doing so. Similarly, the proponent of the intrinsic account of democracy must explain how a procedure can remain fair while accepting the existence of the Flattery Problem. However, these problems do not pose the greatest threats to democracy. Consider a second two problems. The exclusion of the minority does not necessarily prevent the right decision being made, however it is a flaw of democracy as an egalitarian principle of governance, and so is a greater problem for the proponents of intrinsically justified democracy. Conversely, that democratic decisions must be made to flatter the “people” at the detriment of humankind is a stark objection to the claim that democracy can be justified on instrumental grounds; that it makes the right decisions. These second concerns pose greater threats to each conception of democracy set out, and so this essay will focus on responding to these questions. Despite this, there is certainly room for further debate on the solutions to the first two problems.

The Minority Problem in Intrinsic Democracy

The principle behind a procedurally just, intrinsically justified democratic process such as Pure Epistemic Procedrualism is that of egalitarianism. Where no vote counts for more than any others, no voice ought to carry more weight than any others. While in principle this may seem fair and just, it is liable to being overcome by the tyranny of the majority, prioritising the needs of the dominant social group over those of minorities.

The principle of egalitarianism in democracy is undermined by the existence of dominant social groups, whose life interests are served by similar values. Even in cases in which the sum of minorities may make up a large proportion of the population, they will be groups of disparate minorities with contrasting values and interests which cannot be served by the same political decisions. Thus, the needs of any given minority group can be undermined and overlooked by democratic processes that favour, by necessity, the views of the dominant social group. This can create a tension between the procedure, and the basis it rests on. This act of self-rule, underpinned by equality, conflicts with the results of the majoritarian procedure.

Thus, intrinsically justified democracy may equate the equality of votes with the likelihood of fair results for a majority of voters, but fails to eliminate the possibility that this fair procedure can lead to distinctly unfair results. The tyranny of the majority entails that a decision chosen by a majority may only suit that majority, while excluding the counter that any given majority may be constituted by a dominant social group, and thus permitting the exclusion of minorities on grounds of fair, equal procedure.

The question for the proponent of intrinsically justified democracy is how a procedure can sufficiently ensure that the choice of the majority does not oppress a minority. I argue that it is possible to include those minorities at risk from inclusion in an account of a fair procedure in an intrinsically justified democracy. In a democracy where the emphasis of correct procedure is on deliberation, as in Pure Epistemic Proceduralism, minority opinions are a crucial element of the increase of cognitive diversity, essential for the higher epistemic value placed on subsequent decisions.

Consider an argument for deliberation. Jurors are presented with evidence and arguments in any given legal case, and their decision is upheld as the rule of law. However, their decision is not the result of a pure aggregation of their subsequent beliefs given evidence; deliberation over the available evidence is a crucial element within the process. Furthermore, the expectation is not that that jurors’ decisions will be unchanged by the process of deliberation. On the contrary, deliberation allows them to reach a decision that is agreed to be correct. This is possible due to their diversity of perspectives, interpretations and predictive models, combined, their cognitive diversity.

By adopting a procedure that places the burden of the decision making process on the process of deliberation, in which sheer majority aggregation is not the measure of outcome, it is possible to include minorities within the procedurally fair process, to lead to a decision that aligns with a procedurally independent standard of goodness. It is the equality of the procedure which is ensuring the equality, and quality, of the outcome.

It is possible to question whether this debate somewhat misses the point. If the purpose of intrinsically justified democracy is to promote egalitarian values in the process of decision making, regardless of the results reached, then surely it is of little import that there is potential for the oppression of minorities in the outcome of those fair procedures. A proponent of instrumentally justified democracy would argue that it seems the argument from cognitive diversity is focused on the attempt to reach the best result, rather than any inherent equality.

This objection leads to problematic conclusions. It misses the purpose of an intrinsic justification of democracy; justification is required for legitimacy, and legitimacy is required for normative authority, by which it is permissible that in an equal society, law-makers have dominion over populations. If it is sufficient for intrinsically justified democracy to be legitimate is that all citizens are treated equally, that could be achieved by a coin toss. Instead, it is necessary, but not sufficient.

However, a coin toss is not sufficient for normative authority. If it is not the equality of the citizens within the procedure which justifies democracy from a proceduralist perspective, then it must be the relations between those citizens, those in power and those who are not. Rather than the equality of votes being the driving egalitarian force behind intrinsic democracy, it is the freedom for any to partake in democratic matters; deliberation, judgement, ability to partake in voting, all of which combine to lead to collective self-legislation. Thus, all persons are agents in relation to law-making.

Therefore, where deliberation is a key element of collective self-legislation, and required for justification of proceduralist democracy on account of the equality of citizens and requirement for normative authority, and deliberation also is a tool for improving the quality of decisions in democratic processes by cognitive diversity, then it is possible to intrinsically justify Pure Epistemic Proceduralism on the grounds of egalitarianism, while also promoting an account of proceduralism that seeks the best results.

Does this sufficiently solve the Minority Problem of intrinsically justified democracy? Nietzsche’s concern for the autonomous herd came from those whose life interests are aligned, and thus when you aggregate their preferences, this will result in majoritarian rule that is akin to the tyranny of the masses, and at risk of excluding minorities. However, should a procedure take seriously the deliberation requirement, and thus diversify the preferences of the majority, it therefore rests again on egalitarian principles required in an intrinsically justified democracy.

Thus, there is nothing inherent in adopting an intrinsically justified democracy which undermines the rights of minorities. While there is no way to ensure that minorities are not oppressed, the egalitarianism of Pure Epistemic Proceduralism, and the focus on deliberation that underscores it, does nothing to exclude minorities. The aggregation of the views of the autonomous herd comes after cognitive diversity and deliberation such that, in an ideal, that autonomous herd is made up of the collective interests of the diverse population within it. Intrinsically justified democracy is not at odds with egalitarian values; it is built upon them.

The Flattery Problem in Instrumental Democracy

Consider the argument that democracies are instrumentally justifiable on account of the fact that ‘no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press.’ This argument appears a fairly convincing argument on an instrumental account. It seems more than apparent that a government whose right to rule relies on the democratic decision of a population would not let that same population undergo a large scale famine. Thus, the legitimacy of a democracy and the ensuing normative authority may be seen as a result of the fact that controllable disasters, such as famines, are more likely to be avoided. A famine harms the fundamental rights of people, such as the right to live, the right to an adequate standard of living, and so if a democratic decision averts this, then that is the right decision.

However, by considering the problem of climate change, objections arise which call into question the vulnerability of an instrumentally justified democracy on account of the widespread devastation which, on current models, is set to occur. If democracies do not tend towards action which will reduce the consequences of climate change, and climate change will cause widespread famine, then democracies cannot be said to be instrumentally justifiable using Sen’s argument. The argument can be seen as follows:

P1. Democracy can be instrumentally justified because it prevents famines.
P2. Climate change will result in widespread famine.
P3. Democracy does not encourage action which reduces the consequences of climate change
P4. If democracy does not encourage action which reduces the consequences of climate change, then democracies do not prevent widespread famine.
C. Democracy is not instrumentally justified.

I will consider each premise of this argument against Sen’s claim in order to show that the Flattery Problem undermines the legitimacy of an instrumentally justified democracy on a Best Results Account.

Consider P1. Sen’s argument, as shown above, is a convincing claim in favour of the way democracy brings about the best results. Democracy is able to do this on account of the accountability of politicians in democracies with a free press and a multi-party system, and thus are forced to listen to the concerns of the poor. Actions that are brought about because of this accountability that prevent famines are therefore consequentially good on a procedure-independent standard of goodness.

However, the argument I am proposing in response to the claims of legitimate instrumentally justified democracy is that if the prevention of famines is seen as a benchmark for the justification of democratic institutions, then the looming climate change crisis undermines this justification, as the Flattery Problem is too effective at undermining the potential of climate change mitigation.

P2 is an empirical claim, based on the evidence of predictive models concerning the way that climate change will cause soil erosion, freak weather changes, sea level rises and huge population displacement. Furthermore, it is possible already to see the effects of climate change now. The combined effects on sea level, population displacement, soil erosion and changes in temperate will cause widespread famine.

The brunt of the argument against a Best Results Account of instrumental democracy is in P3, which holds democracies accountable for failing to reduce the dangers of climate change. First, we must consider what constitutes actions that could be taken to prevent the dangerous consequences of climate change. A state could offer financial support to those countries who are most susceptible to the harms of climate change (those who cannot afford to adequately protect themselves, those whose infrastructure is most unsuited to withstand rising sea levels). Alternatively, a state could invest heavily into climate change research. These are actions that would help mitigate the consequences of climate change that is already happening. However, a state could also impose limits on the carbon emissions of its citizens, a move that would lead to the prevention of worsening climate change. While I believe that my argument also applies to the mitigation methods, I will for now consider only the possibility of democratic government imposing prevention methods.

In order to effect the prevention of climate change, a state would have to impose limits on the carbon emissions that it produces, which would require limiting the freedoms of citizens and companies on the non-essential use of carbon emissions. For example, limiting the freedom of citizens to use cars, to travel by plane, to use electricity for things such as television (without powering it from a renewable energy source, such as solar). Companies would need to switch to renewable sources of energy to continue production, at great cost, which would lead to greater unemployment. The use of imported materials generates a huge carbon footprint from the use of cargo ships, so states would have to opt out of international trade agreements, raising prices for consumers.

The combined effect of these climate change prevention measures would lead to a significantly worse quality of life for the citizens of that state. However, in order for those changes to be enacted, or maintained, by the state, it would require the vote of those same citizens. It seems at the very least unlikely that the citizens of a democratic state would vote to reduce their own freedoms in such a way, despite growing knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate change.

Burnell (2011) summarizes the available evidence thus far (as of 2011) on democratic approaches to the changing climate and has found this to be the case. Thus, when combined with the Flattery Problem, a democratic government is unlikely to get elected without pandering to the voters, allowing them to continue to exercise freedom over their emissions choices. If the prevention of climate change requires a loss of freedom, and a democratic government will not attempt to reduce the freedom of its citizens, then democratic states will not promote the prevention of climate change.

Of course, it should be noted that some states, democratic and otherwise, do employ measures that promote renewable energy sources, and in an age of growing environmental concern it has become increasingly popular to take an environmental stance against further damage to the planet through CO2 emissions, such that the Flattery Problem is somewhat nullified in this case, however in order to prevent widespread famine, steps must be taken that are considerably more drastic, effecting corporations and citizens alike. It is these greater measures, as mentioned above, that are both required and unlikely.

Thus, accepting P3 leads to the affirmation of the antecedent in the conditional of P4. If P3 is true, then P4 is also true. Thus, democracies do not prevent widespread famine. While it may be the case that they have done so in the past, if it cannot be shown that democracy is actively attempting to prevent further famines, which would be the best result, then democracy cannot be said to be instrumentally justifiable.

Therefore, the conclusion holds that if a democracy can be claimed instrumentally justifiable because it reaches the best results, including the prevention of widespread famine, but that democracy cannot be shown to prevent widespread famine, then it cannot be instrumentally justifiable.

A proponent of the Best Results Account could respond in several ways, which I will discuss, but find unconvincing. The first objection is from a statist perspective. The harms of climate change are unique in that they are globally caused but the effects may only be felt in certain states and territories. Poorer countries, island states, and low lying states are most at risk from the harms of climate change, including famine, however it may be the case that the population of states such as America are unharmed. Thus, from an American perspective, the Best Result for the citizens of America would be to maintain their freedom to emit fossil fuels, and democracy promotes this. That this causally harms citizens of other countries is not a valid concern.

However, this is a near-sighted objection. A statist objection fails to take into account the globalised world. While wealth and policies may be constrained by state borders, the effects of climate change cannot be approached on a state by state basis. Changing temperatures, sea levels, and population changes will affect global food production chains. The movements of populations from no longer inhabitable areas will increase the strain of provision within states that are not directly affected by climate change to the same degree. It is impossible to claim that any given country will be exempt from the harms of climate change.

A second objection could be levelled at the nature of climate change as overdetermined; no individual country is responsible, and as such, the problem cannot be solved by any individual country’s actions. Thus, even if any given democracy were to severely limit its emissions, it would not do enough to stop widespread famine. Thus, it is not the fault of democracy when widespread famine occurs.

However, that no democratic country may single-handedly solve the problem of climate change does not counter the objection that it is not like to get the best results, and thus be justified. In fact, it could be claimed that it further compounds the problem. That same overdetermination is another reason that works against democratic governments legislating considerable reductions in the climate budgets of its citizens; when no other country is doing the same, and when your actions alone will not solve the problem, there is even less incentive to take attempt an unpopular freedom limitation of your citizens, whose votes you require to enact that legislation. Rather than an excuse for the proponent of instrumentally justified democracies to fall upon to show why it is not down to democracies to prevent the effects of climate change, it is a further example of why democracy is unsuited to solving the problem, and thus not likely to achieve the best results, a requirement for its instrumental justification.

LINK TO P3. Combining instrumental democracies with the overdetermination of climate change leads to a game theoretic situation, encompassing democracies, emerging democracies and non-democracies. This is often modelled in terms of the Tragedy of the Commons, a Prisoner’s Dilemma for climate change, in which a common resource is being depleted. It is in the best interest of all parties that there is universal cooperation over usage of the shared resource, so that it is not unusable, and yet individually rational to continue full usage, regardless of what the others do. In the case of climate change, the shared resource is the atmosphere, and the depletion is caused by the emission of CO2 into that atmosphere.

The proponent of instrumental democracy may counter that empirical evidence shows that democracies are more likely to observe treaties with one another, and that when searching for a way to enforce universal cooperation, an international treaty is undoubtedly required. If the only way to prevent states from (rationally) depleting the shared resource is to enforce cooperation, and democracies are more likely to comply with enforced cooperation than non-democracies or emerging democracies, then it cannot be the fault of democracies that serious climate change action has not been taken. MAYBE SWITCH ORDER OF PARAGRAPHS

The case of climate change does not entirely match up with the Prisoner’s Dilemma, or indeed the Tragedy of the Commons, on account of democratic states being more likely to cooperate, and on the lack of a possibility of an independent enforcement agency. So, to consider the moves that a democratic state may make, consider the following. Not cooperating, as discussed, leads to the worst results, the continued overuse of the universal commons. So, say that all democratic states did cooperate under an international treaty in order to completely slash their emissions. This would lead to one of two possible scenarios. In Scenario One, this act is not enough to sufficiently counteract existing damage (and the continued damage caused by non-democratic and emerging democratic states) to the shared commons, the atmosphere, and many of the harmful effects of climate change (such as widespread famine) happen anyway. In Scenario Two, the collective emissions reduction of democratic states is enough to counteract the harmful effects of climate change, but at considerable cost to the welfare of the citizens of those democratic states. Thus, in neither case is it rational for democratic states to cooperate. If it cannot be rational for the combined democracies to act in accordance with international treaties, and there is no international enforcement agency to appeal to, it is not rational for individual democracies to cooperate. Thus, the empirical data suggesting that democracies are more likely to cooperate with one another than with non-democratic states or emerging democracies does not sufficiently show that that would continue to be the case in the game theoretic situation of climate change. MENTION CHINA SOMEWHERE IN THIS BETTER THAN I DID IN THAT FOOTNOTE


The Flattery Problem, at its core, seems to be somewhat intrinsic to human nature. We want to be told what we want to hear, within the scope of any decision making, regardless of the views we hold. Regardless of the decisions made, democracy works as a system of generating decisions, thanks in part to that desire amongst individuals for their views to be taken into account in decision making processes. Democracy is intrinsically reliant on the flattery problem, in so far as decisions are made which pander to the people, as it is those people making the decision. Given this is a bedrock of democratic decisions, can there be any difference between legitimate democracy and mob rule? Either, we must accept that every democratic decision is a form of mob rule, or we allow that democracy is capable of generating the best decisions, as per the Best Results Account, which is precisely why it is a problem when that capability is undermined, or exploited. CLEAN UP PARAGRAPH

Consider: the flattery problem can be used in line with democracy in order to generate the best results. For a given decision, where the best result is law X, and a majority of people believe that law X is the best decision, if those people are pandered to by a promise of enacting law X, then the flattery problem has been used within its role as a positive element of democratic decision making. If we accept that this is the ideal of the democratic process, as opposed to mob rule, how, is one then to determine between flattery as a democratic institution, and flattery as a form of mob rule?

Consider the following example, again within the scope of climate change. As knowledge of the harms of climate change increases (due to increased reporting, further studies being published, more visible effects), then follows that the popularity of climate concern will increase. People will become more concerned with the use of fossil fuels and high emitting lifestyles. So, as democratic decision makers flatter the electorate, action which reduces the harms of climate change ought to also increase. The results of this can already be seen; carbon taxes, funding the development of renewable energy sources, and complying with international treaties on future emissions targets.

However, these sorts of political actions appear vacuous. Pledges to cut down over time, taxation as a deterrent, and seeking alternative sources of energy, all facilitate deferral, rather than making the large scale cutbacks actually required. The promise to act while making no significant changes is facilitated, as the significant harms will disproportionately fall on future generations, while the current generation will continue to reap the benefits (cheap energy, no significant changes to lifestyle).

It is here that the flattery problem becomes a problem of mob rule, where the flattery of the electorate prevents the best decision being made. Pledging future policy makers to meet the targets set by those in power panders to the vote of the concerned, while maintaining popularity through no significant negative changes. And that is what is at the core of the flattery problem – not merely that decisions are made which align with the preferences of the public, for that is the heart of democracy itself, but that decisions are made which align with the preferences of this public, at the detriment to the lives of future generations, risking the future of the species. The same reasoning which finds it irrational to cease using the shared commons on account of the continued usage of other agents, spatially distant from ourselves, finds it irrational to cease using that shared commons on behalf of other generations, temporally distant from ourselves. This innate bias towards the present (voting) generation of agents is a constant feature of democracy.


SEP Christiano http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democracy/#Ins
Peter, F. 2007
Sen, A. 1999
Landermore, H. (2012) Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and Why It Matters

HW Siemens (2009)
Richard J. Arneson (2003). Defending the Purely Instrumental Account of Democratic Legitimacy. Journal of Political Philosophy11 (1):122–132. REMEMBER – pdf version I looked at had pg numbers 1-19
From Demonization of the Masses to Democratic Practice in the Work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Foucault – Jill Hargis (2011)


Christiano T 2011 An Instrumental Argument for a Human Right to Democracy

Rostbøll, Christian F. (2015). The Non‐instrumental Value of Democracy: The Freedom Argument. Constellations 22 (2):267-278.

Peter Burnell
To cite this article: Peter Burnell (2012) Democracy, democratization and climate change:
complex relationships, Democratization, 19:5, 813-842, DOI: 10.1080/13510347.2012.709684


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