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Ideas That MatterDemocracy, Justice, Rights$
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Debra Satz and Annabelle Lever

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190904951

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190904951.001.0001

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Saving Democracy from Ourselves

Saving Democracy from Ourselves

Democracy as a Tragedy of the Commons

(p.9) 1 Saving Democracy from Ourselves
Ideas That Matter

Archon Fung

Oxford University Press

Though we all depend upon democracy, each of us in our public and civic roles is motivated to act in ways that deplete its sustaining conditions. In this chapter, Archon Fung proposes that one part of the solution to this problem is a thicker professional and civic ethics. The argument has three components. The first is a basic account of democratic governance that advances procedural and output legitimacy. In order to produce legitimacy, however, democracy has five sociopolitical “underwriting” conditions: commitment to process over outcome, social coherence, a spirit of compromise, responsive government, and epistemic integrity. Finally, different kinds of actors—politicians, media professionals, and citizens—have powerful self-interested motives to pollute “the commons” of democracy. Each of these role-specific discussions develops a set of ethical commitments that actors should adopt to sustain democracy instead of undermining it.

Keywords:   civic responsibility, democracy, democratic procedure, political legitimacy, tragedy of the commons

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