The Democratic Duty to Educate Oneself

Steinar Bøyum
2018 Etikk i Praksis: Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics  
I argue that democratic citizens have a duty to educate themselves politically. My argument proceeds in two stages. First, I establish a case for the moral importance of individual competence for voting, but also maintain that the substantial content of the required competence must remain open. I do this by way of an assessment of Jason Brennan's provocative defense of epistocracy. I try to show that there is no notion of political competence that can meet with reasonable agreement among
more » ... eement among citizens and that voter qualification exams are therefore illegitimate. Second, I maintain that the basic premise of Brennan's argument, the right to a competent electorate, is valid and that it corresponds to an individual duty to educate oneself politically. This duty is, in Kant's terminology, a wide and imperfect duty that we owe to our fellow democratic citizens. Yet since the content of competence must be left open, this moral duty cannot be transformed into a legal obligation.
doi:10.5324/eip.v12i2.2515 fatcat:s3t5eiiqjzh4hmnzrz6yu2xb6e