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The Ideal of Pro-Democracy

The Apology of Ignoring the Will of the People

What is the purpose of the state? A seemingly simple question with an infinitely complex answer. An important question, yet with an answer so unclear. If we accept the contractual theory of the origin of the state, to which the author of this essay leans, seeing it as the only relevant theory today for legitimizing state power in the present rather than merely illuminating a historical fact, this purpose can primarily be seen in ensuring the general welfare of its citizens. This includes aiding development, supporting those in need, preventing crises, and solving them. In other words, the state exists for the people, to serve them, protect their interests, and advocate for them - the state as a pragmatic community.

However, history has shown significant difficulties in achieving this ideal of governing for the people. The powerful, empirical evidence suggests, tend to rule more for themselves. Faced with the futility of this teaching across almost all regimes, we have turned to representative democracy, which realistically ensures governance for the people the best, or more precisely, the least poorly.

Yet, I see a fundamental contradiction between governance by the people and governance for the people, between democracy and pro-democracy. It is pro-democracy that strikes me as our truly supreme ideal, albeit latent. Do we believe that the people are capable of recognizing their interests? It's clearly naive to claim so unequivocally. After all, this is partly why we have a representative democracy - we already, as it were, implicitly recognise the need for a delegation of opinion-making on specific issues, and even in this delegation we recognise the need for specialisation (e.g. committees in legislative bodies). I believe it is essential to constantly remember that of all available regimes, democracy is the least bad choice for us because it least approaches the ideal of pro-democracy, which I perceive as absolute, final - not because democracy is a real ideal. After all, if the will of the people conflicts with their interest, what should prevail? What should prevail? Isn't it the duty of any governing regime to oppose the will of the people in such a case?

It seems perhaps a little tempting to say no. However, I cannot agree with such a stance. Let us recall that every decision, every law, even if adopted democratically, is adopted against the will of a certain minority. But how could it be legitimate to "overrule" this minority with something that would be bad for society? Even if a majority desires such action, how could we justify de facto oppression of the minority with something harmful not only to them but to society as a whole?

But this contradiction is also fascinating from the other side, because these two ideas are to some extent conditional, both in terms of stability, which is best reflected by democracy, and in terms of the functionality of democracy, for which it is necessary to maximize the number of citizens capable of recognizing and representing pro-democracy. It is perhaps worth explaining in a little more detail what I mean by the stability of democracy. For its grasp, one must realize the inherently unequal power relationship inherent in the idea of governance, which creates pressure on the part of the governed - pressure driven by the disapproval of the governed towards governance itself. Democracy most effectively mitigates this, given that κράτος is not an isolated layer, but to some extent self-rule, with governance depending on the support of that δήμου, i.e., the people, the relevant population. It thus (at least in its theoretical ideal) makes the governed also the governors. (Then the question arises: If without the voice of the people, destabilization would not threaten, would democracy actually be necessary?)

The discord between democracy and pro-democracy leads us to complex questions - when is it legitimate to "override" the people? In which matters, and in which not? In this regard, I always keep in mind the aspect of stability. We examine proportionality - is that "overriding" worth the destabilizing consequences? Generally, however, in my opinion, it is the ideal of pro-democracy that is the ultimate ideal, to which democracy is always subordinate.

Of course, the word subordinate expresses the relationship between pro-democracy and democracy only very imprecisely. Not only is democracy subordinate to it, but it also competes with and cooperates with it, conditions it, and is dependent on it. However,  most controversial is probably the notion of her subordination. I justify this by the fact that, as already mentioned, the task of the state is the welfare of the people. Not governance by the people, as regime adjustment is actually only a procedural matter; therefore, teleological arguments are necessarily superior to it. Moreover, if we can understand the welfare of the people as a legitimizing argument for the entire idea of the state, it must necessarily be superior to everything.

However, I do not intend to diminish democracy in any way with this, I do not lower it in the value hierarchy by a step, I leave it in its place and only supplement it with another ideal. The argumentation of this text focuses only on a certain part of the issue, on very specific cases; the issue of democracy is much more complex, its apology is comprehensive and valid even in light of all that has been said.

It is necessary to realize the framework of the consideration taking place in this text - it is primarily the necessity of some form of governance. It is, on the contrary, beyond the scope of this consideration to think about the ideal of anarchy and its limits; let us only note the negative approach we implicitly ask about to any conception of governance - asking about its necessity, about its meaning from the original ideal perspective of its non-necessity. We therefore only give it legitimacy to the extent to which we legitimize it, which is also manifested in the principle of legality. Democracy, as a de facto procedural institution, is thus dependent on this necessity. However, if it is dependent on it, the satisfaction of this necessity stands ideologically above it. Satisfaction of this necessity is in other words pro-democracy.

Ultimately, I do not intend to imply specific conclusions with this text. Such an effort would be naïve and mistaken not only because the consideration carried out offers specific conclusions only for specific cases. I merely draw attention to the possibility of an ideal somewhat parallel and somewhat discordant with democracy. Perhaps I also slightly advocate the ability to oppose the will of the people in certain situations. Therefore, I do not mean anything else than to understand an amended pro-democrat.

The Ideal of Pro-Democracy - Lukáš Děkanovský
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Suggested citation: Děkanovský, Lukáš, The Ideal of Pro-Democracy, CHR - Student Blog, 16/10/2023,


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