Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

Category: Democracy (Page 1 of 6)

In Defence of Children’s Civil Disobedience

In this post, Nikolas Mattheis (University of Bayreuth) defends school strikes for climate against the objection that school attendance is mandatory. Children’s strikes should be viewed as civil disobedience (rather than truancy) and as a legitimate form of democratic participation.

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Universities and Democratic Legitimacy (Part 2)

In part 1 of this post I outlined an account of the mainstream liberal view about academic freedom, free speech, and their overlapping democratic purposes. According to this account the university should have an academic zone, protected by academic freedom, and aimed at furthering democratic competence, and it should also have a free speech zone, aimed at supporting democratic legitimation.

I think there’s a problem with this picture. Roughly, what goes on in the academic zone is compromised by what goes on in the free speech zone. The intellectual aims that the university is meant to serve, with a view to furthering our democratic competence, can be undermined by the kind of free speech culture that takes root in universities.

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Universities and Democratic Legitimacy (Part 1)

Free speech is vital to democracy. Alexander Meiklejohn offered a powerful defense of this idea in the mid-20th century, and since then it has gravitated towards centre stage in free speech discourse. The modern academic defenders of this view — people like Robert Post, Eric Heinze, and Ronald Dworkin — typically say that free speech isn’t just important for the health of a democracy, but that it’s also a necessary condition for democratic legitimacy. In a free society people are unafraid to broadcast their ethical convictions in public. There is a free press, an arts sector untouched by state censorship, and a cherished liberty for all to mock and criticise our leaders. The democratic government’s authority is legitimised partly through its upholding these freedoms.

But where does academic freedom fit into this picture? And what is the university’s role in ensuring the vitality and legitimacy of democratic society?

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Votes for children: going back to first principles

I’ve been planning to write something here on the arguments around lowering the voting age, for a few months now. Then Nicolas Brando beat me to it, in a very clearly argued post setting out the main positions last month. I highly recommend Nicolas’ post, which provides an excellent overview of the debate. I’m going to try to avoid covering the same ground by approaching the question from a slightly different angle.

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Should we obey immigration laws?

In many countries, governments impose legal duties on citizens regulating their interactions with unauthorized immigrants. It is for example forbidden to provide them with access to employment, housing or transportation, and even sometimes to merely assist them in some way. In France, for example, there has been a lasting debate about the so-called “délit de solidarité” (offense of solidarity) – a law forbidding citizens to bring assistance to illegal immigrants.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "délit de solidarité"

Are we, citizens of rich countries, under a moral duty to obey or disobey such laws?

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Why Should Children Have the Right to Vote?

Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. (C) www.kremlin.ru

 

The debate on lowering the age of enfranchisement has become a hot topic during the last couple of decades. Countries like Argentina, Austria, Brazil or Scotland, for example, have lowered their voting age to 16. Many others, such as Estonia, Malta or some German Landen, have lowered it for local elections. Arguing for the need to enfranchise 16- and 17-years old seems like a very reasonable claim. Recent research on adolescent brain development has shown that a 16-year-old has the same abilities for cold cognition as any adult. Thus, adolescents are equally equipped to make an informed choice when voting. Why, then, would it be justified to limit their rights as political citizens just because of their age?

I think few would disagree with the arguments in favour of a 16-year-old’s right to vote. But what if we go a bit further, and were to abolish age-thresholds for enfranchisement altogether? Is it such an absurd idea to claim that a 6-year-old should be allowed to vote, as David Runciman argues? What reasons do we have to justify her exclusion? And, what are the reasons for claiming that she should have this right ensured?

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What would it take to turn Facebook into a democracy?

by Severin Engelmann and Lisa Herzog*

When the relation between “Facebook” and “democracy” is discussed, the question usually is: what impact does Facebook – as it exists today – have on democratic processes? While this is an urgent and important question, one can also raise a different one: what would it mean to turn Facebook into a democracy, i.e. to govern it democratically? What challenges of institutional design would have to be met for developing meaningful democratic governance structures for Facebook?

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Multiculturalism’s weak pulse – still alive?

A few years ago, in a continent shaken by the effects of the global financial crisis and frightened by the nightmare of terrorism, several European leaders lamented the death of multiculturalism.

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American democracy is compromised. Its institutions must act to save it

Scott Chipolina offers the second in a series of Justice Everywhere posts on the US midterm elections and what they say about the state of American democracy. (For the first in the series, see Emilee Chapman’s ‘The United States Needs a Democracy Movement‘.)

person holding a white Error 155 signage

The November 6 midterms saw some 113 million Americans cast a ballot. This is the first time in American history that over 100 million voted in a midterm election. Prima facie, this record-setting voter turnout might indicate a thriving democracy. Yet other observations indicate just how far from secure American democracy is.

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The United States Needs a Democracy Movement

While most headlines have focused on the divergent successes of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, respectively, the 2018 midterm elections featured mixed results on another important dimension: electoral reform.  Ballot measures on various aspects of election law appeared on the ballots in 14 states, and most of them passed.  Voters in Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri (and possibly Utah) approved measures to establish more independent redistricting processes.  Michigan and Maryland voters passed laws to make registering to vote easier, and Florida voted to re-enfranchise approximately 1.4 million people who have completed sentences for prior felony convictions.  At the same time, though, voters in Arkansas and North Carolina approved requirements that voters to show a photo ID at the polls, making it more difficult for many people (disproportionately members of minority groups) to vote.

For nearly all activists involved in electoral reform, these outcomes will seem a mixed success.  But to most citizens, these results all look like a win for democracy.

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