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'Liberal democracy is a contradiction in terms.'

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Fatima Sharif

on 15 March 2015

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Transcript of 'Liberal democracy is a contradiction in terms.'

'Liberal democracy is a contradiction in terms.'
John Stuart Mill
Jeremy Bentham
John Locke
What is liberal democracy?

Liberal democracy refers to a governmental arrangement that fuses a liberal belief in
limited government
with a democratic commitment to
popular rule.

Outline argument:
Many would argue it is a contradiction as liberals fear democracy. (R
Others would argue that liberals endorse developmental democracy.
2. Also, democratic participation promotes personal self-development and social betterment (developmental democracy)

Educative process which allows individuals to make rational choices and develop intellectually.

Associated with ideas of Rosseau and Mill. Liberal belief in rationalism.
3. Furthermore, democracy is the best way of ensuring balance and harmony in a society of competing interests (pluralist democracy)

It achieves consensus in society, which is needed especially as modern industrial societies are increasingly complex.

Pluralist theorists have recognised democracy is the only way of maintaining equilibrium.

Democracy gives all these groups a political voice, thus binding them to the political systems, maintaining stability.

Charles Lindblom and Robert Dahl termed modern democratic systems 'polyarchies'- rule by the many as it maintains popular response and accountability.
2. Democracy leads to the tyranny of the majority, thereby threatening minority rights and creating enslavement to conventional wisdom.

Tocqueville 'tyranny of the majority'

The rule of the 51% can result in the oppression of minorities.
Liberal democracy is not a contradiction in terms...

1. Liberals endorse democracy in most circumstances. It has a number of advantages. Firstly, it helps to prevent over-mighty government by establishing a system of public accountability (protective democracy)

Individuals protect themselves from encroachment of government. e.g. Locke- developed limited theory of protective democracy- argued that voting rights should be extended to the propertied who could then defend their natural rights against government.

Bentham and Mill developed the notion of democracy as a form of protection for the individual into a cause of universal suffrage.
It is a contradiction in terms ......
1. Liberalism is inconsistent with democratic rule.

Democracy can be viewed as a form of collectivism, in that it upholds the will of 'the people', rather than the views of private individuals.

Democracy can become the enemy of individual liberty, which contrasts with the liberal belief in egoistical individualism, methodological individualism.
3. Democracy endangers wise and sensible governments because it ignores the fact that knowledge and understanding are unequally distributed in society.

J.S. Mill - educated politicians should speak for themselves- they can use their wisdom.

Liberals, however, believe in rationalism.
Liberal democracy may initially seem contradictory, but upon further evaluation it is not. It merely allows limits to be enforced on government, thus promoting core liberal values.
It also endorses majority rule to ensure that government has legitimate authority- which liberals view as necessary due to fears of corruptibility.
Franchise should be extended to all but the illiterate. The uneducated would act for class interests.
Argued that voting rights should be extended to the propertied who could defend their natural rights against government.
'Utilitarianism': individuals seek pleasure so they will vote to defend their interests. Universal suffrage is the only way of promoting 'the greatest happiness for the greatest number'.
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