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Joshua Mirth PARADE, Wisconsin

Affirmative Constructive
Aristotle writes in his Politics that “If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be
found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the
utmost.” This is the principle that underlies my resolution: a government’s legitimacy is determined
more by its respect for popular sovereignty than individual rights.
Definitions:
Let me begin by explaining what, precisely, I wish to prove. First, definitions:
“Government's legitimacy”, according to Dr. John Simmons, “is the complex moral right it possesses to
be the exclusive imposer of binding duties on its subjects, to have its subjects comply with these duties,
and to use coercion to enforce the duties.” In short, a legitimate government is one that has a moral
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right to govern.
Popular sovereignty “means that the ultimate political authority is deposited in the people ”, according
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to political scientist John F. Knutsen.


And individual rights are best described in the words of philosopher John Stuart Mill, “ To have a
right.. is... to have something which society ought to defend me in the possession of”. Common
manifestations of this are the rights to life, liberty, property, freedom of speech, etc.
So when we put this all together, we see that my burden of proof is as follows: to show that the moral
obligation to obey the government is stronger when it respects the will of the people than if it simply
protects rights.
Value: Equality
My Value is equality, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “The condition of having equal
dignity, rank, or privileges with others;” The principle of equality is best understood as meaning that
no group of people, regardless of race, gender, social status, etc, deserve preferential treatment.
Instead, all people must be given equal opportunity to exercise their abilities, and equal treatment
before the law.
Criterion: Democratic Process
My Criterion is the democratic process, the process of making important government decisions through
popular votes. This is exercised in varying degrees by different forms of government, including
republics, democracies, and others.
I have three contentions to support my side of the resolution.
Contention 1) Equality is fundamentally important.
Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, writes, “We hold these truths, to be self-evident:
that all men are created equal, [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable
Rights.” The principle of equality is an undeniable truth, and whenever the fundamental axiom of
human equality is violated, the results are abominable. Apartheid in South Africa, genocide in Rwanda
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in 1994, slavery in the United States, and virtually every racial conflict in the 20 century were the
result of a denial of this principle. When people are not recognized as equal, atrocities ensue.

Simmon's definition of legitimacy 1{4} Simmon's definition of legitimacy


Joshua Mirth PARADE, Wisconsin

But if equality is of fundamental importance, a challenge is raised to government. The very basis of
government is that a few people exercise authority over the many. This is the question posed by the
resolution. According to Dr. Allen Buchanan, “A theory of political legitimacy must… explain why it
is, if we are all fundamentally equal, that some of us should have the power to make, apply, and enforce
laws on the rest of us.” Democratic process answers this question.
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Contention 2) The democratic process is necessary for equality.


I have three sub-points:
A) It treats people equally in regard to distribution of power
Government cannot make people equal without democracy. In any other form, some people will have
more power to determine how laws are made and enforced than others will. Some forms (tyranny,
monarchy, oligarchy) are more extreme, but all share in common the problem of an unequal
distribution of power. But the democratic principle is “one person, one vote.” No one individual has
more authority than any other.
B) Is the best way to ensure that people are treated equally.
Philosopher JS Mill argues in his book Representative Government, that “the rights and interests of
every person are only secure from being disregarded when the person is himself able to stand up for
them.”iv The democratic process gives everyone this ability to stand up for themselves. In fact, no
government which does not respect the people's input gives them the ability to defend themselves, and
their rights.
C) It is a moral reason to comply with government
Dr. Buchanan, in his article “Political Legitimacy and Democracy” explains that “when an agent has
been authorized to wield political power over us by democratic processes… we have a moral reason to
comply with the rules this agent imposes… not just because it is capable of effectively protecting our
rights… but because to fail to comply with the rules this agent imposes… would show a disrespect for
our fellow citizens as being entitled to equal moral regard.” The moral compulsion of democracy goes
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above and beyond that of individual rights because of its support for equality.
Contention 3) Democracy is the best manifestation of popular sovereignty.
Finally, let us tie this down into the resolution. Democracy is the real-world implementation of the
principle of popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty requires that the ultimate political authority
resides in the people, and democracy gives people this authority by giving them the vote. While people
may attempt to change the government through revolutions and protests, ultimately, the best way to
implement popular sovereignty in real government is democracy.
Conclusion
Let me close, by again citing the words of Dr. Buchanan, “if the wielding of political power is morally
justifiable only if it is wielded in such a way as to recognize the fundamental equality of persons, and if
democracy is necessary for satisfying this condition, then political legitimacy requires democracy.”

Simmon's definition of legitimacy 2{4} Simmon's definition of legitimacy


iSimmon's definition of legitimacy
A. John Simmons, (Ph.D., Cornell, is Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of
Law; Editor, Philosophy and Public Affairs; Editorial Board member, Social Theory and Practice. He
specializes in political philosophy, ethics, history of moral and political theory, and philosophy of law)
“Justification and Legitimacy”, Source: Ethics, Vol. 109, No. 4 (Jul., 1999), pp. 739-771, Published
by: The University of Chicago Press, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2989532 , Accessed:
20/06/2010 12:58
This Lockean account utilizes one standard moral conception of state legitimacy,19 and it is this conception of
"legitimacy" that I will hereafter have in mind when I use that term. A state's (or government's) legitimacy is
the complex moral right it possesses to be the exclusive imposer of binding duties on its
subjects, to have its subjects comply with these duties, and to use coercion to enforce the duties.
Accordingly, state legitimacy is the logical correlate of various obligations, including subjects' political
obligations.20 A state's "legitimacy right" is in part a right held specifically against the subjects bound by any state-
imposed duties, arising from morally significant relations-in Locke's case, consensual relations-between state and
subject. It follows that "on balance" state legitimacy may be complete or partial, depending on whether such
relations hold with all or only with some of those against whom the state enforces the duties it imposes (though the
state is, of course, either fully legitimate or fully illegitimate with respect to each individual under its rule).

ii Ultimate political authority in people


John F. Knutsen, “Popular Sovereignty”, 2004-07-02,
http://www.basiclaw.net/Principles/Popular%20sovereignty.htm
Direct democracy means that the people directly decides all issues, instead of delegating decisions to
representative bodies like national legislatures; while popular sovereignty means that the ultimate
political authority is deposited in the people. It follows that popular sovereignty and direct democracy are
closely related, but they are not exactly the same. Crudely simplified we may say that popular sovereignty is
political theory at a more basic level, while direct or semi-direct democracy is its practical and pragmatic
manifestation. Much of the discussion in the following chapters will therefore focus on (semi) direct democracy, its
implementation and effects.

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Buchanan: A theory of legitimacy must explain why some people should have power over
others
Allen Buchanan, (PhD, Professor of philosophy at Duke University, has written six books
covering such topics as Marx, applied ethics (especially bio-medical ethics), social justice, and
international justice, including the foundations of international law, served as staff philosopher for the
President's Commission on Medical Ethics, served on the Advisory Council for the National Human
Genome Research Institute, serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Council's journal, Ethics &
International Affairs. Ares of expertise and research include Political Philosophy, Philosophy of
International Law, Social Moral Epistemology, and Bioethics)“Political Legitimacy and Democracy”,
Source: Ethics, Vol. 112, No. 4 (Jul., 2002), pp. 689-719, Published by: The University of Chicago
Press, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/779670, Accessed: 20/06/2010 12:57
I observed earlier that a theory of political legitimacy must answer the egalitarian challenge to political
power-it must explain why it is, if we are all fundamentally equal, that some of us should have the
power to make, apply, and enforce laws on the rest of us. From the standpoint of a justice-based theory
of political legitimacy that takes equal consideration of persons as fundamental, no justification for the wielding of
political power-no conception of political legitimacy-can be complete unless it provides a convincing answer to
this question.

ivRights secured only when people can stand up for them


John Stuart Mill (influential 19th century British political philosopher), “Representative
Government”, 1861, http://www.constitution.org/jsm/rep_gov.htm
Its superiority in reference to present well-being rests upon two principles, of as universal truth and
applicability as any general propositions which can be laid down respecting human affairs. The first is,
that the
rights and interests of every or any person are only secure from being disregarded when the
person interested is himself able, and habitually disposed, to stand up for them. The second is, that
the general prosperity attains a greater height, and is more widely diffused, in proportion to the amount and variety
of the personal energies enlisted in promoting it.

v Not obeying democratic government shows disrespect for our fellow citizens
Allen Buchanan, (PhD, Professor of philosophy at Duke University, has written six books
covering such topics as Marx, applied ethics (especially bio-medical ethics), social justice, and
international justice, including the foundations of international law, served as staff philosopher for the
President's Commission on Medical Ethics, served on the Advisory Council for the National Human
Genome Research Institute, serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Council's journal, Ethics &
International Affairs. Ares of expertise and research include Political Philosophy, Philosophy of
International Law, Social Moral Epistemology, and Bioethics) “Political Legitimacy and Democracy”,
Source: Ethics, Vol. 112, No. 4 (Jul., 2002), pp. 689-719, Published by: The University of Chicago
Press, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/779670, Accessed: 20/06/2010 12:57
Second, when an agent has been authorized to wield political power over us by democratic
processes in which we can participate, we have a weighty moral reason to comply with the rules this agent
imposes on us, not just because it is capable of effectively protecting our rights (others may be equally
capable), but because to fail to comply with the rules this agent imposes, in the absence of some weighty
moral reason for doing so, would show a disregard for our fellow citizens as beings entitled to equal moral
regard. The same act of democratic authorization that makes it justifiable for this particular agent to wield political power
over us gives us a weighty reason to comply with its rules, rather than the rules that some other coercive agent might supply.