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Discussion : Running Head

Based on Jonathan Wolff’s analysis of the ideas of Plato, Rousseau, and Mill in his (Wolff, 2016) Chapter 3, each thinker addressed some problems with democratic voting, understood as simple majority rule. (i) Explain what these problems are, and (ii) discuss whether you think that Fishkin’s ideas in (Simon, 2002:230-233) can help solve these problems.

Wolff’s (2016) analysis of the ideas of Plato, Rousseau, and Mill in his book has been a pointer to the problem of democracy in the context of voting. For many thinkers, democratic voting is a disguise under the veil of which the majority rule is simply implied. There are several problems of democratic voting, but it is also a truth that there is a chance that the problem can be addressed by resorting to some of the ideas that Fishkin (2011) has conveyed.

Plato, Rousseau and Mill even though supported the idea of democracy did find out a problem in the system of democratic voting. For the three stalwarts governance is needed and the establishment of a government is an imperative. But the thinkers have expressed their doubt about the process of establishing a government through the process of voting, i.e. mass voting. All the three concerned thinkers have expressed some doubts regarding the efficacy or legitimacy of democratic vote in which the majority voters’ vote decide the authority whereas the minority’s selection remains unanswered or undermined. But prior to getting deep into the discussion, it is an imperative to understand why the three concerned thinkers thought it right to have a state with a government for governing and regulating the citizenry. In this respect it should be said that, the approach of the concerned thinkers toward defining the nature of the human character seems to be more logical and rational. The trio have asserted that there is a tendency among human being to live in peace and that, no human being has the innate intention to do any harm to his or her fellow human being. Moreover, their views suggest that human beings are, by nature, sympathetic. Rousseau has again and again stated that peace will be a permanent characteristic of the human society if people begin to trust in cohesiveness and collective rationality in the form of public opinion or so, and this is also only possible when there is a government that can compel people to obey law of nature. But such a government should be established on the basis of popular election where the choice of the citizenry about their leader could be projected in a straight manner. Plato, Mill, and Rousseau have eventually come to the conclusion that there are certain aspects like misbelieve, disbelieve suspicion and fear that can eventually decay the said mode of cooperation and moreover, the process of establishing the government through the process of voting is also ingrained with some flaws. According to them these are the innate errors in the system of democratic voting that establishes rule of the majority undermining the desires and needs of the minority.

In his “Republic, Book VI”, Plato have rationally criticized the process of democratic voting that is the basis of the establishment of a democratic government. In this respect it must be said that just like Mill and Rousseau, Plato has also opined that in respect of the voting policy, democracy is inferior to various forms of government including, monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, etc (Christiano, 2006). In his view, Plato has directly suggested that in a democratic voting system the needs and demands of the minorities are gone unheard (Christiano, 2006). According to the concerned thinkers, in a democracy that is founded on the basis of election or popular voting, there are experts who win the election and starts dominating the form of governance that suits the majority not the minority (Christiano, 2006). In their view, in the form of election, the democratic form of government eventually tend to put much emphasis on the expertise that is needed to address the problems of the majority and not the minority, and this can actually bring about a wide gap between the treatment of the majority and the minority in a society (Christiano, 2006).

Fishkin’s (2011) ideas to some extent can introduced a strategy that can counter the problems of majority rule by mass voting during elections in a democracy. What Fishkin (2011) has suggested is that, there must be a structural voting pattern that would be considered as a mandatory process in which the interest of all the voters will first be considered and then categorized under sub categories according to importance, and after such determination, the right candidate would be elected as the leader of the state. Fishkin (2011) has conveyed his views under the lights of the controversies related to vote dilution, gerrymandering, illicit ballot access, and election campaign finance and funding by the interest groups and lobbyists to secure their own interests. But it must be noted that such structural strategy of voting is not possible in a true democracy where the voting rights of the individuals and its importance has to be upheld first before considering any structural change in the process of governance. Wherever there is democracy there will be popular voting system that would be embedded with some flaws, but owing to the utilitarian ethical principles, these flaws have to be overlooked for the sake of the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

References

Christiano, T. (2006). Democracy. Retrieved May 3, 2020, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democracy/

Fishkin, J. (2011). Equal Citizenship and the Individual Right to Vote. Indiana Law Journal, 86, 1289.

Wolff, J. (2006). An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Revised Edition). London: Oxford University Press.