The Rule of the Many: Fundamental Issues in Democratic Theory

By Thomas Christiano | Go to book overview

about a candidate or alternative, why would one vote only for the one that stood a chance of winning?

Another problem is that the expressivist view does not explain why individuals would choose to express their attitudes in a polling booth. This cannot be explained by reference to the effects of the vote since by hypothesis the expressive voter is not interested in this. So although the expressive view may explain how a person votes, it fails to explain how the person actually arrives in the polling booth. The polling booth seems to be an odd and anonymous place to be trying to express one's attitude about some policy. In fact it appears that citizens are trying to perform some role when they vote. A final difficulty with this view is that it does not explain the many other kinds of participation individual citizens engage in. Though these activities may have expressive value, they also take time, energy, and money. I conclude from these observations that the facts that campaigning and voting often have strongly moral features cannot be reconciled with the self-interest view of citizenship by invoking the expressive view of voting.


Conclusion

The self-interest axiom and the conceptions of citizenship that are founded on it are problematic and cannot serve as a basis for normative political theory. These conceptions of citizenship seem to leave little room for the ideals of democratic citizenship, equality, or rational deliberation, or even for the more austere political ideals economic theorists defend. Thus, the conceptions of citizenship grounded in self-interest alone are self-defeating. Furthermore, the idea that individuals act primarily in their self-interest is not a welldefended view. Much empirical evidence suggests that it is false. In the next chapter, we shall consider a different approach to normative political theory and its relationship to citizenship.


Notes
1.
See James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1965); James Buchanan and Geoffrey Brennan, The Rea

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