Every Vote Counts: Equality, Autonomy, and the Moral Value of Democratic Decision-Making
Daniel Jacob – 2015
What is the moral value of formal democratic decision-making? Egalitarian accounts of democracy provide a powerful answer to this question. They present formal democratic procedures as a way for a society of equals to arrive at collective decisions in a transparent and mutually acceptable manner. More specifically, such procedures ensure and publicly affirm that all members of a political community, in their capacity as autonomous actors, are treated as equals who are able and have a right to participate in collective decision-making. Recently, a number of authors have raised what I describe as the ‘no impact’ objection. This objection focuses on the egalitarian emphasis on autonomy to cast doubt on the moral value of formal democratic procedures. It holds that individual participation in formal democratic decision-making has no impact on the eventual result, and therefore cannot be understood as an exercise in autonomy. Consequently, the ‘no impact’ objection claims that the moral value of formal democracy cannot be explained with reference to an egalitarian ideal of ‘rule by the people’. In this article, I refute this objection by complementing an egalitarian account of democracy with an account of basic autonomy.