Rights Theory, Book/Article Reviews

Democracy and Freedom

I have a paper in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Freedom called “Democracy and Freedom”. It’s available online first here.


There seems to be an intimate connection between democracy and freedom. But the nature of this connection is disputed. This chapter outlines possible connections between democracy and freedom. First, I show that there is indeed a robust positive correlation between democracy and various forms of liberal freedom. Second, the chapter examines and critiques an argument purporting to show that exercising equal political power in a democracy directly enhances citizens’ autonomy by making them authors of the laws. Third, it examines and critiques the argument that republican democracy is essential to enhancing freedom because it prevents citizens from being dominated. It is argued that we should be skeptical of these latter two positions. Empirically, democratic countries tend to be more free. But there is probably no essential connection between democracy and freedom.


In other words, as a matter of fact, democracies typically do a better job respecting personal and economic liberty than other extant forms of government. (I discuss some hypotheses about just why that’s so.) But democracy does not in itself supply any interesting forms of freedom.

According to the website, I’ve been demoted to assistant professor, which I take as evidence the IT people disagree.

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Author: Jason Brennan


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