a1 Philosophy and Law, University of Arizona
The basic question I want to ask is: can the exercise of private property rights abridge fundamental norms of democratic decision-making? And, under what conditions can it do so? To the extent that we view democratic decision making as required by justice, the issue is whether there is a deep tension between certain ways of exercising the rights of private property and that part of social justice that is characterized by democracy. To the extent that this tension holds, I will argue that commitment to democratic norms implies that private capitalist firms must cooperate with a democratic assembly and government in the pursuit of the aims of a democratic assembly even when this implies some diminution of the profits of the firms. The cooperation I have in mind goes beyond the norm of faithful compliance with the law. To be sure, there are limits to this requirement as we will see in the later part of the paper. To the extent that private capitalist firms fail to do this and partially undermine the pursuit of the aims of a democratic assembly, they act in a way that is incompatible with fundamental norms of democratic governance.
Thomas Christiano is Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Arizona and co-director of the Rogers Program in Law and Society. He has been a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of the Social Sciences of the Australian National University, and a Fellow of the National Humanities Center. He is the author of The Rule of the Many (1996) and The Constitution of Equality: Democratic Authority and Its Limits (2008), and the coeditor of the journal Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. He has edited Modern Moral and Political Philosophy (with Robert Cummins, 1998), Philosophy and Democracy (2003), and Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy (with John Christman, 2009). He has written widely in the areas of democratic theory, distributive justice, and moral and political philosophy. His current projects are a book on the foundations of egalitarian distributive justice and research on issues in global justice.
I thank Richard Arneson, Ellen Frankel Paul, Eric Mack, Jan Narveson, David Schmidtz, and the other contributors to this volume, for useful discussion of the ideas of this essay.