Including the Unaffected

Journal of Political Philosophy 22 (4):377-395 (2013)
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One of the most basic questions facing democratic theory is who ought to be included in political participation. Most recent discussions of this question have focused on the wrongful exclusion of those who ought to be included. Less attention has been paid to the question of whether political participation can be objectionably over-inclusive. Robert Dahl insists that it can; a claim to inclusion, he writes, “cannot be justified if it is advanced by persons whose interests are not significantly affected by the decisions of that unit.” This essay is a moral defense of what Dahl would consider political over-inclusion, of empowering those entirely unaffected by a given political decision to participate in the making of that decision. My argument is not that the unaffected have a right to participate or that they are somehow wronged by political exclusion in a manner analogous to how the affected may be wronged when excluded. What matters morally is not what a proper resolution to a specific political conflict will do for the unaffected—by definition, it can do nothing for them. What matters is what the inclusion of the unaffected can do to improve the quality of the decision being made, and hence to benefit those affected by this decision. My focus will be on one particular manner in which the inclusion of the unaffected can improve political decision-making: namely, by increasing impartiality. As I argue in the first section of this essay, whereas the affected can only possess what I call “artificial impartiality,” the unaffected possess what I call “natural impartiality.”

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Michael L. Frazer
University of East Anglia


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