The eighteenth-century ideal of self-government of the people was based on an assumption that renders it incoherent and unrealistic, namely, that interests and values are sufficiently harmonious that each individual needs to obey only himself while living under laws chosen by all. This conception collapses in the presence of heterogeneous preferences. Yet a weaker notion of self-government is logically coherent: A collectivity governs itself if decisions implemented on its behalf reflect the preferences of its members. I define this second-best self-government and analyze whether democratic institutions can satisfy even this definition.

Keyword(s): agencyequalitylibertyparticipation

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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