Like many people today, I have been in a process of questioning the very fabric of our society and the indoctrination I received as an American in our narrow educational system. I have been reading many books, articles and listening to speeches and conversation regarding democracy, its storied history, and its limitations as a long-term form of governance. The New York Times is also thinking about these issues and a new piece they published speaks to the inherent weaknesses of liberal democracy. Although the article highlights some important points to consider, I think there is more to the story.
To begin, most Americans get the foundation wrong. They think of America as a democracy. Where does the word democracy sit in our coveted, unique documents of freedom, the Declaration of Independence, and the American Constitution? Nowhere. It doesn’t exist in those documents. The Founding Fathers were insuring freedom, not democracy. Democracy (representative, like ours, not direct democracy which is another form altogether) is antithetical to freedom, yet most Americans think they are synonymous. We are educated that way (or better, schooled that way; indoctrinated learning is not education). America pledges allegiance “to the republic for which it stands”, not to any democracy. For many thinkers, democracy is simply best understood as mob rule, and tyrannical mob rule at that. If fifty-one percent of the people want one thing and vote it in, where is the freedom for the other forty-nine percent to do as they wish? They, as the minority, have no freedom to do as they wish; they must conform to other’s desires no matter how unreasonable it seems. Freedom includes an inherent opportunity to do what one wishes (so long as it does not infringe on other people’s rights, and that is another conversation altogether).
Secondly, it is ironic to me that most Americans still feel we live in a free country. Often this is justified by comparing freedom in the U.S. to other countries. While it is true that America is often more free than other countries, that in and of itself is no evidence for real freedom. The freedoms America used to share are gone, but they have been eliminated so imperceptibly slow, step by step, in incremental ways, that few see the larger picture where it becomes obvious that those cherished freedoms are absent today. This Washington Post article outlines the big, most important issues of freedom lost (to outline the whole kit and caboodle would require a book length exposition). Essentially, Americans have, over the past one-hundred and fifty years or so, traded away our freedoms for security, protection, and safety, often in sheer ignorance.
One might say that the majority mob rule which brought the American South to its knees, rather than allowing them the freedom to secede, which is written into the freedoms of the constitution, was the beginning of a long, tortuous journey into the dystopian central government rule we have today where any citizen can be taken against his/her will using “extraordinary rendition”, and locked up in perpetuity, and even tortured – all without any recourse whatsoever. Is that freedom? Where is democracy in all of this? Democracy will not protect citizens from this tyranny, as is self-evident in the American law policy today which allows such an abomination.
Ironically, all those who equate democracy with freedom are not jumping up and down protesting to restore that fundamental, supposed, freedom of democracy, but rather are busy instituting more tyrannical policies such as compulsory vaccinations and other invasions of a person’s right to his/her body. The road to tyranny, in the form of authoritarian heavy fisted rule, is alive and well, and growing world-wide, as the above-mentioned article posits.
I would suggest to any person who wants an in-depth reading of these questions to pick up Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of our Times by Erik von Kuhnelt-Leddihn. Note that the book was originally written and published in 1952 and is almost more relevant today. Interestingly, the author considers monarchy to be friendlier to freedom than to democracy. I have come to think, like others, that democracy would work best in very small, homogeneous, tribe-like, communities of people who are tightly bound by a specific culture and custom, where most people think rather alike. In other words, in a wildly diverse community of differently thinking people, there will almost never be a majority rule that will be tolerable. Freedom means no majority rule over others.
Which brings me back to my most treasured tenant of any civilized community: The Golden Rule, an ancient understanding of real freedom. Within this rule is the freedom live by one’s principles, regardless of what others think about them (again, so long as one does not infringe on another’s rights). If everyone lived by the Golden Rule, freedom and peace would reign supreme. Of course this sounds utopian but if it is true then we ought to pursue means to that ends.
I encourage the questioning of democracy. Although in principle liberal democracy sounds good, fair, honest, and just, in actuality it often stumbles into chaos, upheaval, and ultimately tyrannical rule. Many a political scientist would argue that is, and always has been, the endgame of democracy itself. Just like the endgame of communism is bankruptcy and starvation, which we have seen countless times. Central authority, be it democratic, socialistic, or in any other fashion, usurps individual freedoms.
To vote in a democracy is not representative government. That is a false notion. In my four decades of voting life there has never been a true representative of my political philosophy or desires in any candidate. If democracy isn’t honestly representative, then might it be better to leave well enough alone and live and let live, give each person a real chance to fulfill their lives without government power backed by a gun?