Vision of a Possible Future
F WE BELIEVE that human beings are of equal intrinsic worth (though not, by virtue of that quality, necessarily also of equal competence) then we should aspire to a political system that is consistent with this assumption.In principle, both democracy and guardianship could be so. Democracy could make it possible for people to protect their own interests, or good, by means of the democratic process. Guardianship could make it possible for an elite of knowledge and virtue to know and protect the interests of all. In practice, however, because of defects in both the knowledge and virtue of the guardians, we have strong and sufficient grounds for doubting that they would in fact serve the interests of all, or the public good. But likewise we have good reasons for thinking that some complex issues of great importance cannot be decided wisely without instrumental knowledge that is, at present, well beyond the reach of most citizens.Moreover, citizens may not possess an understanding of their own goals, and how these bear on the issues, that is well developed enough to offer them much guidance in deciding among alternative policies.
The classical case for guardianship argues for a regime in which the guardians are sovereign and rule over all public matters, a re