Volume 18

Ten Questions about Democracy

by John Hasnas

A symposium on the ethics of democracy has the potential to be absolutely fascinating but carries the risk of being utterly confusing. The former is because the moral legitimacy of democracy is so regularly taken for granted. Having thirteen distinguished scholars pierce that veil to explore democracy’s virtues and vices and to seek its moral justification promises to be wonderfully enlightening. The latter is because the term ‘democracy’ is used to refer to such a diverse array of political arrangements that discussants regularly talk past one another. It is difficult to come to an understanding about normative quality of a system of governance if the interlocutors are talking about different things.

The purpose of this introductory essay is to nudge the symposium toward the fascinating end of the spectrum and away from the confusing end. To do this, I pose ten questions designed to focus attention on the essential nature of democracy and several of the key normative issues surrounding it. I also suggest some tentative and perhaps controversial answers to these questions, which, if they are misguided, may be corrected by our main authors.

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