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.