Chapter

Democracy and Rights

Rex Martin

in A System of Rights

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780198292937
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599811 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198292937.003.0008
 Democracy and Rights

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Arguments are developed here that allow us to rank the relevant disparate options. This ranking involves two main steps: (1) putting option (a) ahead of option (b) – that is, putting (a) policies and laws that are in the interests of each and all ahead of (b) policies and laws concerned with things that are in the corporate or collective interest, such as GDP, though these things are not necessarily in the interests of each person there; and then (2) putting options (a) and (b) ahead of option (c), putting them ahead of policies and laws that help mere majority interests or even hurt minority interests (with the proviso added that allowed instances of (c) must be compatible with the first two options—otherwise they are simply excluded).

Thus, where democratic institutions stay in line with that which justifies them, they will in fact tend to produce civil rights laws and they will not act so as to supersede such rights. There is a deep affinity between the idea of civil rights as justified and that of justified democratic institutions; the two are mutually supportive; accordingly, they can form a coherent system. In this system, democratic institutions must, where they stay true to their own justifying rationale, be constrained so as to observe the established priorities; taking such an approach has implications for institutional design (it can, for example, provide for a justification of judicial review that is compatible with democratic ideals).

The chapter concludes by considering certain troubling problems that arise for democratic theory: problems such as cyclical majorities and strategic voting; these problems are not negligible but they can be dealt with given the resources of a democratic system of rights.

Keywords: collective interest; cyclical majorities; democratic theory; institutional design; interests; judicial review; majority interests; ranking; strategic voting; system of rights

Chapter.  16474 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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