Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thomas Christiano on Human Right to Democracy

Free online article from "Philosophy and Public Affairs" (Spring 2011, vol. 39 no. 2):

"An Instrumental Argument for a Human Right to Democracy" [pdf]

by Thomas Christiano

"I argue here that there are good grounds for thinking that there is a moral human right to democracy and that this does not impinge at all on the right of collective self-determination. The argument given here is fully instrumental, relying heavily on empirical studies that support the theses that (1) democracies are normally reliable protectors of certain very urgent and widely accepted human rights and (2) nondemocracies and partial democracies reliably fail to protect these rights. The moral human right to democracy is grounded in the central role democracy plays protecting other fundamental moral rights in political societies and in international society. There is, I think, also an argument for the human right to democracy that makes democratic rights fundamental, but it must proceed from more controversial premises. It is worthwhile to make out a separate strong instrumental argument for the right to democracy based on the minimal premise that democracy is essential to the protection of very urgent and widely accepted human rights."

Thomas Christiano is Professor of Philosophy and Law at the Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona. He is the author of "The Constitution of Equality. Democratic Authority and its Limits" (Oxford University Press, 2008).

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