This introductory chapter presents the book's argument about the normative significance of democracy. Democracy is a set of institutions. It has an important priority among the available institutional alternatives. The priority of democracy derives from its fundamental features. Three such features include voting, argument, and reflexivity—each of which relates to the positive effects of democratic processes on collective decision making. These effects distinguish democracy from other ways of coordinating ongoing social interaction. These qualities lend democratic arrangements presumptive priority of a particular sort. In any effort to negotiate unavoidable social disagreement over institutional arrangements, democracy enjoys a second-order priority precisely because it operates in ways that potentially meet a heavy burden of justification.
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