Inundated from early childhood with government propaganda in public schools and educational institutions by legions of publicly certified intellectual, most people mindlessly accept and repeat nonsense such as that democracy is self-rule and government is of, by, and for the people.—Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy, The God That Failed
James Madison was not a democrat. He denounced popular rule as “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” Democracy, he observed, must be confined to a “small spot” (like
Madison and the other founders attempted to forestall democracy by devising a republic, the hallmark of which was the preservation of individual liberty. To that end, they restricted the federal government to a handful of enumerated powers. Decentralization, devolution of authority, and the restrictions on government imposed by a Bill of Rights were to ensure that few issues were left to the adjudication of a national majority.
The essence of democracy, instantiated so perfectly in Bush’s neoconservative administration, is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “general will,” a “national purpose” that ought to be implemented by an all-powerful state. Voltaire, a rather cleverer Frenchman, said that Rousseau is as to the philosopher as the ape is to man. Still, that ape’s idea animated the blood-drenched French and Russian revolutions. And sadly, it wafted over the
Over time, this foreign weed began to choke the Founder’s Republic. As Felix Morley observed in Freedom and Federalism, earlier Americans were undeniably influenced by Rousseau, harboring a considerable admiration for the manner in which the common democratic will found expression in revolutionary
It is these representatives who triumph in this or any election, certainly not that fictitious entity “The People.” While it seems obvious that the minority in a democracy is openly thwarted, the question is, do the elected representatives at least carry out the will of the majority?
The answer is No. The People’s representatives have carte blanche to do exactly as they please. As Benjamin Barber has written:
It is hard to find in all the daily activities of bureaucratic administration, judicial legislation, executive leadership, and paltry policy-making anything that resembles citizen engagement in the creation of civic communities and in the forging of public ends. Politics has become what politicians do; what citizens do (when they do anything) is to vote for politicians.
In Restoring the Lost Constitution, Randy E. Barnett further homes in on why the informed voter has little incentive to exercise his “democratic right”:
If we vote for a candidate and she wins, we have consented to the laws she votes for, but we have also consented to the laws she has voted against.
If we vote against the candidate and she wins, we have consented to the laws she votes for or against.
And if we do not vote at all,
we have consented to the outcome of the process whatever it may be.
This “rigged contest” Barnett describes as, “‘Heads’ you consent, ‘tails’ you consent, ‘didn’t flip the coin,’ guess what? You consent as well.'”
The Supreme Court-mediated election of 2000 has resulted in a close examination of the mechanics of voting (electronic machines vs. chads — hanging or pregnant). The democratic myth has remained undisturbed. Not so in
The NSPD’s brief was to trace the chain of command that supposedly ensures politicians enact the will of the people. To say that the study raises grave reservations about the rule of the many — the demos — would be an understatement. It concludes, “A structure of links between the people and their representatives is falling apart, and what remains is the people on one side of the field, their representatives on the other side, and a void between them.” Far from being free from the “grave defects and irrationalities” that characterized “earlier forms of government,” as Francis Fukuyama rhapsodized, the NSPD found that democracy is riddled with them.
These gloomy findings are surprising (to some, at least).
The parallels with democratic
Autonomy does not stop flowing upward once it has reached
As ethicist Tibor Machan reminds us, “The task of political theory is, in part, to identify those areas of public life that should be subject to democratic decision making and those that should be permanently and irremediably exempt from it.” Yet doctrinaire democrats don’t seem to give a tinker’s toss about placing limits on what a legislature (local or global) can divvy or decide. If Americans have confined their critique of democracy to the “Lucky-7 Lottery” flavor of the
arrel is purely with the unelected nature of their usurpers. Nowhere in the NSPD’s proposed solutions is the suggestion that assorted supranational structures be dismantled or their powers drastically curtailed. Loss of sovereignty per se is not what vexes, but rather the shortage of ballots. Clearly, Norwegian insights go only so far.
But the true mandate of democracy, openly affirmed by the NSPD, and in the promises made by the Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber of the American presidential race, is to enforce egalitarianism. Good democracy is said to be commensurate with class, wealth, and occupational convergence. The Norwegian scholars lament that less-than-perfect democracy has been achieved in Norwegian private life, where women and minorities have failed to achieve aggregate economic parity. Although when it comes to their presence in education, political life, and public-sector employment, politically imposed affirmative action and quotas have done the trick. In other words, democracy is optimized in spheres where the state is most active. Since natural inequalities are part of the human condition, egalitarianism requires concerted acts of government force. Democratic social structure is a product of the systematic use of political power. In as much as democracy’s aim is the achievement of equality, it is inimical to liberty.
So we see that the road to serfdom — in both
The Founding Fathers warned against this. But instead of
©By ILANA MERCER
Ludwig von Mises Institute
September 16, 2004