Monday, November 24, 2014

Liberty Vs Democracy

Here are variations on a hypothetical question I've been asking myself for the last few months.... 

Would you rather live under a benevolent dictatorship that respected property rights, human rights, and economic liberty?  Or would you prefer to live and work in a democracy, where the avid readers of People, Vogue, Duck Dynasty Monthly and The New York Times can vote themselves a chunk of your income and effort? 

Here's Richard Rahn at The Washington Times:

Would you prefer to live in a country that has:
(1) The rule of law with an honest civil service, strong protection of private property and minority rights, free trade, free markets, very low taxes, and full freedom of the speech, press and religion, but not a democracy?

(2) Democracy and a corrupt court and civil service, many restrictions on economic freedom, including very high taxes, with limited rights for minority religions, peoples and speech?

The first example describes Hong Kong under the British, which had full civil liberties, little corruption and the world’s freest economy. The Chinese took over Hong Kong in 1997 and have allowed it to continue as the freest economy in the world. As a result of the British being benevolent dictators and the Chinese largely continuing economic noninterference, with a number of restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, Hong Kong has achieved a per capita income close to that of the United States and higher than almost all democracies.

Many mistakenly believe democracy means liberty, but a quick review of world democracies show that is not true. Almost all democracies restrict economic liberties more than necessary. Many have corrupt court and civil service systems, inhibit women’s rights, constrain press freedom and do not protect minority rights and views. Iran, though a very restrictive theocracy, calls itself a democracy and holds elections.

That second example is a good description of what Bush and Obama killed and maimed several thousand U.S. troops to achieve in Iraq, BTW....

Liberty and Freedom are worth a significant sacrifice.  Democracy ain't worth a bucket of warm spit.  Hell, Hitler came into power through a democracy.  (A democracy with loopholes that made him Chancellor with just 37% of the vote, but a democracy nonetheless.) 

Here's Steve Hanke at Cato:

Most people, including most Americans, would be surprised to learn that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence (1776) or the Constitution of the United States of America (1789). They would also be shocked to learn the reason for the absence of the word democracy in the founding documents of the U.S.A. Contrary to what propaganda has led the public to believe, America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical and anxious about democracy. They were aware of the evils that accompany a tyranny of the majority. The Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that the federal government was not based on the will of the majority and was not, therefore, democratic.

The Constitution divided the federal government into legislative, executive and judicial branches. Each branch was designed to check the power of the other branches. The Founders did not want to rely only on the voters to check government power. As a result, citizens were given very little power to select federal officials.

Neither the President, members of the judiciary nor the Senate were elected by direct popular vote. Only the members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by popular vote. Even in this case, the franchise was quite restricted.

If the Framers of the Constitution did not embrace democracy, what did they adhere to? To a man, the Framers agreed that the purpose of government was to secure citizens in John Locke’s trilogy of the rights to life, liberty and property. The Framers wrote extensively and eloquently. On property, for example, John Adams wrote that “the moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”

Perfesser Hanke goes on to describe the disaster that was Woodrow Wilson, who took a federal government that consumed around 1% of GDP and turned it into the ravenous beast we know and despise today.   I hope you'll hit the link up top and read the whole thing.  Here's his closer:

Almost 80 years later, the farmers are still sucking money from the rest of society and agricultural policy has been enlarged to satisfy a variety of other interest groups, including conservationists, nutritionists and friends of the Third World. Then, during World War II, when government accounted for nearly half the U.S. GDP, virtually every interest group tried to tap into the vastly enlarged government budget. Even bureaus seemingly remote from the war effort, such as the Department of the Interior (which is in charge of government lands and natural resources), claimed to be performing “essential war work” and to be entitled to bigger budgets and more personnel.

Within the U.S. government, the war on terrorism has given cover to a multitude of parochial opportunists, whose proposals range from bailing out the airlines to nationalizing vaccine production. As a result, former President George W. Bush — a so-called conservative — ushered in a record-setting expansion of government. This trend continues with the interventionist President Barack Obama.

What lessons can we learn? First, “democracy” and “freedom” are not interchangeable words. Second, only the first century of the American experience represents a standard for freedom. Expanding democracy is a slogan which requires great caution. It can easily result in elected tyranny. Freedom is the concept. Our challenge is to persuade every citizen that benefits flow from freedom’s practical applications. Freedom might then flourish in very diverse and unexpected forms in different parts of the world.

There are millions of Tea Partiers, Right-Wingers, and Gung-Ho Militaristic extremists who are willing to have our troops killed and maimed in the name of "Democracy".  Millions of these same people are equally opposed to letting immigrants into the USA. 


Because they fear (justifiably, perhaps) how these immigrants would vote.  They no more trust Democracy than they trust a used car salesman. 

I've got no solution to suggest for this.  If somebody has to intervene in disputes, protect the borders, and provide a courts system, Democracy does ok.  But wouldn't it be nice if someone invented a religion, a mythology, or at least some really good propaganda, all based on freedom and liberty? 

If you've got time to read more on the subject, go here and here

Also, I bet Ben Franklin never said this or anything like it, but it's a cool quote:


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