Iraqi and American democracy
msellers at ubalt.edu
Wed Jul 20 12:58:15 PDT 2005
Sandy raises the question of what we mean by democracy and suggests that it may be an "essentially contested" concept.
Democracy does not strike me as a particularly difficult concept to grasp. It means majority rule. The problem arises from overvaluing democracy. Democracy is an important element in any just constitutional order, but not the only value. Human rights, the rule of law and constitutional checks and balances (including the separation of powers) are also extremely important. By using lazily "democracy" as a shorthand for this broader set of values we make it easier for governments to establish illiberal (and therefore unjust) democracies. All legitimate governments are democracies. Not all democracies are just. Being a democracy is not enough, on its own, to legitimate the constitutional order in Iraq (or the United States).
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu [mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu]On Behalf Of Sanford Levinson
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 12:20 AM
To: Hamilton02 at aol.com; conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: RE: Iraqi and American democracy
. I suppose the U.S. is going to have to decide what it means by a democratic Iraq. Do we mean a democracy patterned after our values, or one that they choose?
This, of course, raises the deepest question of what we mean by democracy. I.e., is it enough that a newly empowered majority of Shiite Moslems will use their voting power to "put women in their place," or does "democracy" require some (but how much?) linkage to "liberal" values such as genderk, religious, or ethnic equality? Do we expect our own political leaders (including our undemocratrically selected president (in 2000), at least if majority rule is a sine qua non of democracy) to have a coherent theory of "democracy," or is it sufficient for them to babble about "democracy" or "freedom" without recognizing that these are, to put it mildly, "essentially contested concepts"?
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