What's Wrong with Partisan Deference?

In Tamar Szabó Gendler, John Hawthorne, Julianne Chung & Alex Worsnip (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Vol. 8. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Deference in politics is often necessary. To answer questions like, “Should the government increase the federal minimum wage?” and “Should the state introduce a vaccine mandate?”, we need to know relevant scientific and economic facts, make complex value judgments, and answer questions about incentives and implementation. Lay citizens typically lack the time, resources, and competence to answer these questions on their own. Hence, they must defer to others. But to whom should they defer? A common answer is that they should—or are at least permitted to—defer to co-partisans. This view initially seems attractive on both normative and empirical grounds. Against this, I argue that deference to co-partisans has overlooked moral and epistemic problems. In light of them, I propose several new ways to revise our expectations of citizens in a democracy both individually and institutionally.

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Elise Woodard
King's College London


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