Thursday, November 24, 2016

Democracy versus Freedom

Richard Ebeling emails:

Dear Bob,

I participated in the November 23, 2016 “Libertarian Angle,” podcast sponsored by the Future of Freedom Foundation, with the Foundation’s president, Jacob G. Hornberger, on the topic: “Democracy versus Freedom.”

In the wake of the presidential election, many who voted for Hillary Clinton insist that she should be president due her having won a majority of the “popular” vote. Freedom is threatened in America, it is said, partly due to a failure to respect the democratic “will of the people.”

The theme of this week’s podcast is that democracy is, in itself, not freedom. In the American political tradition arising from the founding fathers, freedom does mean self-government. But political self-government through elected representation was only one element, and not the crucial one.

The real self-government, as captured in the Declaration of Independence, is the right of the individual to be self-governing over the affairs of his own life by restricting government to the protection of his liberty and leaving all else to each person’s judgment and decision as to how manage and guide his own life as he thinks best in peaceful and voluntary association with all others.

The purpose of a constitution, such as the American one, is to specify and enumerate the limited and minimally essential functions of government precisely to secure each individual’s liberty while restraining political power from overreaching and threatening the freedom it is meant to preserve.

Democracy as “freedom” emerged from the French revolutionary alternative conception that freedom means political expression of the “general will,” which all members of the society should accept and to which it should be subservient. Yet, this version of the meaning of freedom has opened the door to every form of modern political tyranny experienced over the last one hundred years, since “freedom” as the democratically expressed “will of the people” has been used and abused to permit everything from totalitarianism to welfare statism to the intrusive national security state.

We need to recapture liberty’s true meaning as the freedom of the individual and not the collective will of real and imaginary democratic majorities.


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