Accessibility, pluralism, and honesty: a defense of the accessibility requirement in public justification

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 25 (2):235-259 (2022)
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Abstract

Political liberals assume an accessibility requirement, which means that, for ensuring civic respect and non-manipulation, public officials should offer accessible reasons during political advocacy. Recently, critics have offered two arguments to show that the accessibility requirement is unnecessary. The first is the pluralism argument: Given the pluralism in evaluative standards, when officials offer non-accessible reasons, they are not disrespectful because they may merely try to reveal their strongest reason. The second is the honesty argument: As long as officials honestly confess their beliefs after offering non-accessible reasons, disrespect and non-manipulation do not occur. This paper defends the accessibility requirement and asserts that these two arguments overlook a unique feature of the political domain. While all citizens collectively own political power as a corporate body, an official does not privately own her political power. Instead, she is a trustee who has a duty to act on behalf of the corporate body, that is, she has to make decisions on grounds that are accessible to others. This duty explains why, despite pluralism, the accessibility requirement is necessary. Moreover, given that political decisions are profoundly influential to each person, requiring people to be honest is ineffective in discouraging disrespectful and manipulative acts.

Author's Profile

Baldwin Wong
Hong Kong Baptist University

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