More on Democracy in Egypt

Ilya Somin wrote a response to my post on democracy in Egypt.   As Ilya notes, we largely agree on the issues, including my additional points that democracy requires both compromise and periodic elections rather than one election, and that constitutions ought to be enacted by supermajority rules. In turn, I agree with Ilya that there may be tragic choices as to whether to violently displace a majority elected government that is repressive.

But I did want to clarify one point about terminology.  I agree with Ilya that some people use democracy to mean government chosen by majority vote and some people use it to mean something like liberal democracy.  My main point (which I should have been clearer about) was to say that even the narrower form of democracy — with government chosen by majority vote — requires (1) periodic elections, not just one election, and (2) compromise, in order to work effectively.  Thus, one can criticize the Morsi regime for not merely being illiberal, but also for not really following the narrower form of democracy.

Mike Rappaport

Professor Rappaport is Darling Foundation Professor of Law at the University of San Diego, where he also serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism. Professor Rappaport is the author of numerous law review articles in journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Virginia Law Review, the Georgetown Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. His book, Originalism and the Good Constitution, which is co-authored with John McGinnis, was published by the Harvard University Press in 2013.  Professor Rappaport is a graduate of the Yale Law School, where he received a JD and a DCL (Law and Political Theory).

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  1. Ron Johnson says

    We Americans are terribly flippant about these process issues, which I find very odd since they go to the heart of the legal issues leading up to our civil war. Holdiong elections, even more than once does not lead to a functioning democracy, which was why Lincoln was adament about the need for a common political faith in natural law. Laws are insufficient absent the agreement of the people that they are sufficently legitimate to require following. Legitimacy requires some basic level of common accord on the primary questions of the nature of politics and man. Theocracy and western secular attitudes are incompatible. Sorry to say that at this point there is not hope for Egypt to have a functioning democracy so that should not be considered at least a short-term option.

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