Checking the Republic

Philip Pettit

in Republicanism

Published in print September 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296423
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600081 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Political Theory

 Checking the Republic

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What steps can be taken to place checks on those who run the republic, given the imperfections of human nature? The institutional resources available for guarding against corruptibility boil down to possibilities of sanctioning and screening: possibilities of punishing or rewarding what people do and possibilities of screening for the presence of suitable agents and options. One strategy in institutional design is to start from the need to cope with the worst agents around—the so‐called knaves—and to introduce sanctions that will serve even to control such anti‐social types, but this is subject to well‐known difficulties, all of which derive from the fact that most people are not knaves: they may be corruptible but they are not corrupt. A better strategy starts from the assumption that many people are not knaves and tries to build to that strength; it would support a screening for suitable agents; then a form of sanctioning designed to work with such non‐knavish agents; and, finally, a structure of fall‐back sanctioning that can cope with occasional knaves. The most important element required under this complier‐centred strategy is associated with the way in which people reward one another with their esteem, punish one another with their disesteem. Such a regard‐based form of sanctioning, which operates in an essentially non‐intentional way—as if by an intangible hand—can discipline agents while communicating a positive image of their virtue.

Keywords: corruption; esteem; knaves; regard; regulation; sanctions; screening; virtue

Chapter.  15834 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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