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The Best Results Argument for Democracy

  • Author(s): Byrnes, Nanhee
  • Advisor(s): Arneson, Richard
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation examines the foundations of democratic legitimacy. That is, what should be the reason for us to believe that democracy is legitimate? The traditional answer, held from Aristotle to Mill, is that democracy produces the best results. Many modern theorists object to this consequentialist reason for democratic legitimacy. They argue that democracy cannot produce the best outcome. More importantly, according to them, a polity justified consequentially cannot be legitimate. To follow the consequentialist logic, objectors maintain, even slavery should be legitimate if it benefits slaves. Democracy, when justified consequentially, then would be a morally ambiguous polity. To the objectors, democracy is unique since its procedure is fair and this should be the reason for democratic legitimacy. Objectors disagree among themselves how fair procedure founds democratic legitimacy. This dissertation aims to show that all the objectors are wrong. It argues that procedural fairness

can legitimatize a morally wrong coin-toss government. When two people are dying, one for the reason of hunger and the other for the reason of boredom, tossing a coin to decide who should be saved is morally wrong. The morally correct procedure must be the one that produces fair outcome. In light of the reason for the good governance, the dissertation argues that the consequentialist government is the most morally justifiable form. Once justified consequentially, the government commands the right to obeisance from its citizens since its distribution of benefits and burdens is the most fair. Thus must true be the statement that consequentialism is the source for legitimacy. The dissertation also shows that the democratic procedure is the most likely to produce the best outcome. Thus follows the conclusion that democracy is the most legitimate for the reason of its outcome. This is the best results argument for democracy.

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