The Reasonable Person Standard and the Critique of Leading Figures in the Making of Public Policy: The Case of Internet Voting
William J. Kelleher, Ph.D., INTERNET VOTING NOW!, Chapter 5, 2011
46 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2010 Last revised: 18 May 2014
Date Written: February 3, 2010
Few serious scholars of intellectual history would disagree that the expanded articulation of the reasonable person standard in the practice of the common law is one of the great cultural achievements of the 20th Century. It has proven to be a highly adaptive and widely accepted means for criticizing human behavior by assessing the relative responsibility of actors. At the same time that this standard was being articulated in the courts, American political science was striving in a different direction. That is, towards the elusive goal of "value neutrality."
A large body of literature exists which discredits that aim, especially for, among other things, applying a mistaken conception of natural science methods to the subject matter of the social sciences. Michael Polanyi, a preeminent philosopher of the sciences, both natural and social, has contributed not only a thoroughgoing criticism of the positivistic project, but the methodological principles necessary to replace that project. His writings show, inter alia, that after a century of groping for coherence with a needlessly bifurcated philosophy of political inquiry, political science can learn from law how to make sense of human behavior. The method he prescribes entails the application of that which most distinguishes humans from other forms of life – our superior capacities for empathic understanding and for critical reasoning. These capacities underlie the reasonable person standard, and make it possible.
As Polanyi’s methodological tenets were presented in a previous essay, this paper will demonstrate their application to a current issue of public policy; viz., whether or not to adopt Internet voting as the means for conducting elections in the United States.
Keywords: Political Science Methodology, Social Science Methodology, Public Policy, Internet Voting, Michael Polanyi, Philosophy of Social Science
JEL Classification: na
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation