Is democracy a bad idea?

By Nathan Barton

Too many people laud and honor the formerly United States of America and its Federal Government as being a “democracy.” This error goes back generations.  Those politically-minded may recall that the Founding Fathers pretty much despised the entire concept of “democracy.” They considered it a devolution of a republic eventually ending in tyranny and dictatorship.  If, indeed, a democracy was not already a tyranny of the majority.

Let us explore this idea for a moment, with the help of a couple of recent news stories. As we near the 2018 elections, both for officeholders and for ballot issues, it is worth some discussion. Is democracy really what we want? Or is it yet another bad idea for government?

Look at a story a couple of months back, from Missouri. KCTV-5 tells us, “Missouri voters delivered a resounding victory to unions, rejecting a right-to-work [sic] law against compulsory union fees that had been passed by Republican state officials but placed on hold for more than a year after organized labor petitioned for a referendum. National and local labor unions spent millions of dollars to defeat Proposition A, hoping to reverse the momentum against them from a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the adoption of similar laws limiting labor powers in other historically strong union states.”

Tom Knapp (in Freedom News Daily) noted the vote was nearly 2/3 against it – one of the first defeats for “right to work” in years.

That same week, the San Juan (New Mexico) County Commissioners voted for “right to work” in their county, where the oil and gas and coal mining industry, as well as the Navajo Nation, had strong union support. The electorate has gone along with it.

This commentary is not about “right to work” – though I want to point out that forcing people to pay for a service that they do not want is in no way liberty.  Nor is forcing someone to associate with those that they do not want to (such as union leadership, etc.). But like government-run “free trade” agreements, laws about “right to work” often are nothing more than more government control. I don’t know enough about either Missouri or the New Mexico County to evaluate whether these “democratic” votes were in favor of liberty or not.

Over the past few years, we have seen both sensible and truly insane initiatives and referendums passed by popular vote in places like California and Oregon, Massachusetts and elsewhere. Many (if not most) take away the rights of people to do various things which are NOT active coercion or aggression against others. Even though those rights seem to be protected by the US and State Constitutions. Often these new dictates are couched in terms of “protecting” people from perceived threats.

One example is on the ballot in Colorado next month: it would prohibit drilling for oil and gas within 2,500 feet of homes, businesses, and certain “green spaces” (according to the Wall Street Journal).  Opponents say (with some justification) that it would prohibit further oil and gas production from 85% of private land in Colorado, and destroy the industry.

It is one of many such measures across the Fifty States.  It is interesting (as the Atlantic magazine points out) that many measures are being supported by at least 34 billionaires contributing more than $78 million – 90% to measures in states in which they do not live.  And most of which are deemed to be progressive in nature.

Supposedly, democratic theory is that a majority (usually a simple one) can force everyone to do what the majority wants.  Or NOT do what the majority does not want to be done. Whether it is buying or selling, using your private property, or being forced to associate with, or say/not say, something you disagree with.

Most of these ballot measures deal with some specific liberty. They are all based on the assumption that government can tell people what we can/can’t do. So we often find ourselves forced to stop something which we have done for years – even generations.  Or forced to do something that we don’t want to do.  Because under democracy “the majority rules.”

We take this for granted, now.

At the same time, American Nazgul (courts) have often set aside democratic votes in States which the Nazgul have stated violate rights which are protected by the US Constitution.  Colorado is again one example, where a constitutional amendment prohibiting preferential treatment for homosexuals was ruled null and void.  And of course, in recent years the mandatory acceptance of homosexual “marriage” has seen democratic votes time and again. So, even democracy has its limits, according to the powers that be. Usually when the majority want (or don’t want) something and disagree with the people running government (and perhaps, the economy).

But those limits are subjective – and subject to change.  Frequently and without warning. Of course, the mob – the electorate – can be swayed by emotions.  Emotions which include both greed and fear. The politicians know and use this, almost always to steal some liberty away from us.

So democracy is, in reality, against liberty and freedom.  Even believers in “legitimate government” must (and sometimes do) admit that there are serious problems with democracy. From a libertarian point of view, it may be better (slightly) than some other forms of government. But it is not acceptable to we who love liberty.

Democracy is bad.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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9 Responses to Is democracy a bad idea?

  1. Sam Boes says:

    Here are some quotes about this subject:
    “Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”
    — Robert A. Heinlein Source: The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

    “I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must,
    sooner or later, destroy liberty, or civilization, or both.”
    — Thomas Babington Macaulay 1st Baron Macaulay, British historian

    “Did I say “republic?” By God, yes, I said “republic!”
    Long live the glorious republic of the United States of America.
    Damn democracy. It is a fraudulent term used, often by ignorant persons but no less often by intellectual fakers, to describe an infamous mixture of socialism, graft, confiscation of property and denial of personal rights to individuals whose virtuous principles make them offensive.”
    — Westbrook Pegler (1894-1969) American journalist, writer
    Source: New York Journal American of January 25th and 26th, 1951,


  2. Slave Larry says:

    In a democracy your “natural human rights” don’t exist. As long as government schools teach that a democratic majority is always right, a simple majority can decide who will be the main course for dinner. It doesn’t matter if the issue is none of the majority’s business.


    • TPOL Nathan says:

      I agree: rights (and according to some, basic physical laws) can be changed on a majority whim of “the people.” It isn’t just government schools that teach that, either.


  3. beau says:

    ‘democracy’ as a form of govt would mean 51% of the populace could ‘determine’ the other 49% are objectionable and get rid of them. yes, democracy is bad.

    as an aside, is this the reason our elected ‘leaders’ seem to always refer to ‘our democracy’ when speaking? or, are they just ignorant? both?? after all, if we had a ‘democracy’ they could simply get rid of those of us who disagreed with them. that’s power that every despot that has ever lived would love and most attempted to achieve. we know our ‘leaders’ are ‘different’, now don’t we? THEY would never act in such a manner if they had such power, would they? (excuse me a moment while i put my firmly placed tongue-in-cheek back to their proper relationships).

    while on a different subject, but still related to all having a say in how we are governed, the ‘let’s get rid of the electoral college’ bovine scat is getting some attention by the losers of the last election. IF this notion is ever accepted and put into practice, there are some 10, maybe 12 (remember reading the article, but not where) major metropolitan areas that would elect the POTUS. this would disenfranchise virtually the entire nation (not that such has not happened already, in deed, if not in word, anyway). how’s that for breathtaking ignorance, or breathtaking megalomania, depending on whose uttering that particular line??!! that such an idea is even WORSE than a simple democracy cannot be overstated and precisely why those whose only life force is power over others keep going back to such a tyrannical notion.

    the actions governmentally and in the streets cannot escalate continuously against those of us who simply want to be left alone to live our lives as we see fit, guided by the principles expressed religiously as ‘love thy neighbor as thy self’ and secularly as ‘hurt no person, or their property’. the story of the straw and the camel’s back, an historical cliche, says much in a very few words. the camel’s back is loaded quite heavily in this nation at this juncture and it is obvious, daily, this is not breeding caution, only increasing the insanity that got us to this point.


    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Beau, I could write a couple of thousand words discussing your points, and I think you are generally on the right track.
      I don’t think that you would be able to get even the most callous and immoral of voters to be willing to whack off the heads of 49 of every 100 people in all but the most fractured of societies and states, if then. But you only need to whittle away 5 or 10% at a time.
      I think the false idea that the American union was or is a “democracy” is why the urge to get rid of the Electoral College is constantly able to be renewed. A key part of “democracy” is “one human, one vote” (to remove any sexist claims, and thus the Electoral College is “undemocratic.” (As is the Senate, to these same simple-minded people and conniving politicians.) The key is, of course, that such a plan is that of a unitary state, where ALL governments are just subdivisions of THE government: no longer even pretended to be federal, but national.
      The idea of a straw breaking the camel’s back is probably a forlorn hope at this point: the collapse and slide into that “worse” seems all but inevitable, at least on a nationwide scope.


  4. Rocketman says:

    If you can locate a soldier’s handbook from pre-WW1 you will see that rather than laud “Democracy” they back then considered it nothing more than mob rule without the Constitutional safeguards that a “Constitutional Republic” supplies. The founding fathers like Jefferson and Madison were exactly right.


  5. Bear says:

    “Democracy” is generic term that covers several related types of government. Our “constitutional republic” is one form of democracy.

    The confusion comes from folks who think ALL democracy is supposed to be everyone-votes-on-everything mob-rule _pure_ democracy.


    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Bear, whether it is “direct democracy” or “representative democracy,” I argue that it is a bad idea. It is hard to slice up neatly, though. Yes, a constitutional republic can have some elements of democratic decision making, but so can a monarchy or an oligarchy. That does not make them a “democracy” as a form of government. A “democracy” which has enforceable limits on WHAT can (and cannot) be decided by a majority vote is not, in my mind, a real democracy. Whether it is “everyone votes” or “my representative votes” or “the people appointed by our representatives votes,” I think it is a democracy, as long as there is no limit on what can be decided by vote. (And of course, undergirded by the belief that everything can be controlled by government – that everything is part of and the business of the state. A democracy makes no exception for what can be decided by majority rule: a person’s rights, an agency’s or person’s powers, or anything related to economic and “personal” freedoms.


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