Republicanism

The value for today’s round is justice. Philip Pettit of Princeton University 2003 writes

Think of how you feel when your welfare depends on the decision of others and you have no come-back against that decision. You are in a position where you will sink or swim, depending on their say-so. And you have no physical or legal recourse, no recourse even in a network of mutual friends, against them. You are in their hands. In any case of this kind you will be dominated by others, being in a position where those others have the power of interfering in your life in a certain way: and this, more or less arbitrarily; more or less at will and with impunity. If you do escape ill treatment, then, that will be by the grace or favour or the powerful, or by your own good fortune in being able to stay out of their way or keep them sweet. And even if you are lucky enough to escape such treatment, you will still live under the mastery of those others: they will occupy the position of a dominus — the Latin word for master — in your life (Pettit 1997). If you understand the experience of exposure and vulnerability to another — the experience of domination — and if you can see what is awful about it, then you are well on your way to understanding republicanism. This is republicanism, of course, as that doctrine has been understood in the long tradition, though not necessarily as it is understood in the manifestoes of contemporary political parties that go by that name. For the central theme in republican concerns throughout the ages — the theme that explains all their other commitments — has been a desire to arrange things so that citizens are not exposed to domination of this kind. They do not live, as the Romans used to say, in potestate domini: in the power of a master.

Thus because it is wrong when your welfare depends on the decision of others, the value criterion for today’s round is republicanism. Frank Lovett of Columbia University 2014 further explains republicanism

The republican conception of political liberty aims to capture this insight as directly as possible. It defines freedom as a sort of structural independence—as the condition of not being subject to the arbitrary or uncontrolled power of a master. Pettit, who has done more than anyone else to develop this republican conception of freedom philosophically, puts it thus: a person or group enjoys freedom to the extent that no other person or group has “the capacity to interfere in their affairs on an arbitrary basis” (1999, 165; cf. Pettit 1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2012). On a plausible rendering of the term ‘domination’ as, roughly speaking, arbitrary or uncontrolled power (see Wartenberg 1990; Pettit 1996, 1997, 2012; Lovett 2001, 2010a), we might equivalently say that freedom in the republican sense consists in the secure enjoyment of non-domination. This view has since been widely embraced by republican-minded authors such as Skinner (1998, 2008), Viroli (2002), Maynor (2003), Laborde (2008, 2010), and Costa (2009, 2013).

Simply put, republicanism requires a system of freedom based around non-domination. We must avoiding giving people or groups the capacity to arbitrarily interfere in the affairs of others, or in other words dominate them.

Finally the government is still allowed to interfere in the affairs of citizens, so long as the interference is non arbitrary. Pettit explains

Republicanism is socially radical in indicting various forms of dependency, even dependency that does not give rise to actual interference. And equally, it is politically radical in suggesting that so far as the state is non-arbitrary, its coercive presence in people’s lives will not deprive them of freedom proper — freedom as non-domination; it will restrict their choices, but only in the manner of natural obstacles. This radicalism holds out a challenge in institutional design: to explore how far the state can guard people against domination in their lives — on its own initiative, or in collaboration with elements of civil society — and, in particular, how far it can do this without itself becoming a source of arbitary, dominating power (Richardson 2002; Brennan and Pettit 2003). If taken up seriously, that challenge could transform the direction of political theorizing.

This means the government has an obligation to avoid arbitrary interference in citizens lives.

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