Principled Approaches to Displaying Public Monuments
The Charlottesville riots are the result of a poor decision process by the Charlottesville City Council. The right-wing protestors, the left-wing counter-protesters, and the statements by the Mayor, President Trump, and many news reporters were reactions to a decision that did not reflect the consent of the governed. It is not a mayor’s job, the media’s job, or a political party’s job, not the president’s job, to tell a people what they should believe, do, or say. The people living in a town or city should have a right to choose monuments for themselves. What does this statue mean to the citizens of Charlottesville? Slavery?—Maybe. Heroism?—Maybe. Group identity?—Maybe. Democracy?—Maybe. It means all of these things to some people and some of these things to others.
The purpose of this article is to offer a principled and non-violent approach to determining the display of public monuments. Consistent with the principles of “the will of the people,” and “consent of the governed” a large majority of the people of a territory should approve the erection or removal of public art. A 51% majority is insufficient to qualify as “the will of the people,” and a minimum of 2/3 and perhaps 80% more properly represents the will of the people. Failing to achieve that amount of support public land should remain empty or we can expect the possibility of violence. Continue reading →