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Does public reason require super-majoritarian democracy? Liberty, equality, and history in the justification of political institutions

  • The project of public-reason liberalism faces a basic problem: publicly justified principles are typically too abstract and vague to be directly applied to practical political disputes, whereas applicable specifications of these principles are not uniquely publicly justified. One solution could be a legislative procedure that selects one member from the eligible set of inconclusively justified proposals. Yet if liberal principles are too vague to select sufficiently specific legislative proposals, can they, nevertheless, select specific legislative procedures? Based on the work of Gerald Gaus, this article argues that the only candidate for a conclusively justified decision procedure is a majoritarian or otherwise 'neutral' democracy. If the justification of democracy requires an equality baseline in the design of political regimes and if justifications for departure from this baseline are subject to reasonable disagreement, a majoritarian design is justified by default. Gaus's own preference for super-majoritarian procedures is basedThe project of public-reason liberalism faces a basic problem: publicly justified principles are typically too abstract and vague to be directly applied to practical political disputes, whereas applicable specifications of these principles are not uniquely publicly justified. One solution could be a legislative procedure that selects one member from the eligible set of inconclusively justified proposals. Yet if liberal principles are too vague to select sufficiently specific legislative proposals, can they, nevertheless, select specific legislative procedures? Based on the work of Gerald Gaus, this article argues that the only candidate for a conclusively justified decision procedure is a majoritarian or otherwise 'neutral' democracy. If the justification of democracy requires an equality baseline in the design of political regimes and if justifications for departure from this baseline are subject to reasonable disagreement, a majoritarian design is justified by default. Gaus's own preference for super-majoritarian procedures is based on disputable specifications of justified liberal principles. These procedures can only be defended as a sectarian preference if the equality baseline is rejected, but then it is not clear how the set of justifiable political regimes can be restricted to full democracies.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Steffen GanghofORCiDGND
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/1470594X12447786
ISSN:1470-594X (print)
Parent Title (English):Politics, philosophy & economics
Publisher:Sage Publ.
Place of publication:Thousand Oaks
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2013
Year of Completion:2013
Release Date:2017/03/26
Tag:Gerald Gaus; coercion; democracy; majority rule; political equality; public-reason liberalism
Volume:12
Issue:2
Pagenumber:18
First Page:179
Last Page:196
Organizational units:Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Sozialwissenschaften
Peer Review:Referiert
Notes extern:Zweitveröffentlichung in der Schriftenreihe Postprints der Universität Potsdam : Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Reihe ; 86