The word “democracy” is frequently used in daily life, and even more so in political discussions. There is talk of “spreading democracy” and movements that want their nation’s government to be more “democratic.” The phrase “our democracy” in regards to the United States is also widely-used. Sadly, a great majority of people, even those who claim to be conservatives, use this term incorrectly, and do not understand the implications of democracy and how this relates to our nation.
Democracy can be stated as nothing other than mob-rule; it is the true and complete will of the people. Democracies are nations in which quick changes can be made with regards to the government. In a democracy, it is the will of the majority, not a Constitution, that rules. Democratic revolutions nearly always lead to the same result—death and tyranny. The French Revolution caused tens of thousands of deaths, and brought one of the most infamous dictators to power—Napoleon Bonaparte. Today in the Middle East, we see the rise of “democratic” governments. But these governments too shall end in the same way.
Libya is an excellent example of a true democracy. Their constitution, though only temporary, is clearly a far cry from the United States Constitution. Using the United States Constitution as a model—as it does embody the ideas and values of classical liberalism (i.e. “true” Conservatism and Libertarianism)—for a comparison greatly helps in this discussion. The United States Constitution is a rather simple document, and is concerned with the protection of rights (also called “natural rights” or “negative rights”). Let’s look at Libya’s Constitution. It states (page 4, Article 8 ) “The State shall also guarantee the right of work, education, medical care, and social security, the right of intellectual and private property.” The last two are rather obvious, though the others disturbing. All of those seem like lovely ideas, but they have failed every time tried. All that is necessary is to look at FDR’s New Deal and the current state of Social Security. But beyond these empirical (experience-based) examples, there are also the philosophical aspects of tampering with the free market and having citizens involuntarily pay into a retirement system. Yet consider the next section from Article 8 that is even more disturbing: “The State shall further guarantee the fair distribution of national wealth among citizens, and among the different cities and districts thereof.” In short, the Libyan government is authorizing the robbery of citizens. It should also be noted the legal and religious aspects of this document (page 3, Article 1) “Islam is the Religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Shari’a).” The trap of an official religion (or an official atheism) is easily observable in history. And such caused the lack of religious liberty in England, and subsequently forced Brits to come to the New World, in order to freely practice their faith. The horrors of Shari’a law are also abundant—such is the case because of its grounding in tyranny.
The faults of the Libyan Constitution—also representative of democracy—are so numerous that it could be picked apart for quite some more time. This constitution serves to illustrate the fundamental folly of democracy. This flaw is, very simply, that the will of the people will always serve as the greatest authority. Historically and philosophically speaking, this is madness. The will of the people is so fluid that it serves to say at one moment one thing, and soon something else. Now, I am in no way suggesting that what is necessary is a dictator, technocrat, strongman, or even a small group of omnipotent leaders. This too is folly—as it assumes that those men are the greatest source of guidance and answers. It is in this area that the mob-rule of democracy stands out from the republic of the United States. The foundation of government in the United States is not the relative moods of the mobs, or the musings of a crazed dictator, but the ideas embodied in the Constitution—the ultimate in just and moral principles. Even with this, the Founding Fathers were wise enough to realize that their Constitution was not perfect, and to allow room for change. Contrary to the opinions of those who argue for a “living Constitution,” ideas like these are not changed by the passage of time. Ideas are a constant throughout history.
Another important flaw of democracy is that of aggression, or, rather, the possibility for state-sanctioned aggression. What I mean by this is the unjust use of force, by the government. While this may seem like a strange worry, it is clarified by a simple understanding the law and the government. In his influential essay “The Law” Frederic Bastiat defined law as “collective force.” This leads to the realization that many laws may qualify as an unjust use of force. So, in using this as a definition, we shall move to the part of the possible aggression. As a prominent feature of democracy is the will of the masses, this leads to many democracies allowing for great, sweeping changes to take place in their government in a very short span of time. In absence of a constitution, like that of the United States, this opens the door to a great variety of aggressions against private citizens.
The most disturbing feature of all this is the prominence that democratic ideals play in current Western thought. As was noted at the beginning, it appears many (even those of the non-Progressive right wing) use the terms incorrectly “democracy” and “republic” (though this seems to be seldom used) interchangeably. As is now evident, this is simply not the case. One should be able to clearly see the danger of democracy, and pick out democratic ideas among the various liberals and Progressives. Not only will it mean a loss of liberty and further economic collapse (as the former facilitates such by putting the free market in a straightjacket), but a likely breakdown in order—leading the United States to choose between anarchy and totalitarianism. Sadly, in some ways, this might be where the United States is heading—considering that it is now common practice for our government to trample and abuse the Constitution.
The new democracies resulting from the Arab Spring must serve as a warning. And we Americans must stick to our Founders’ ideas and Constitution if there is any hope to prevent a loss of liberty.
Christian Lopac :: University of St. Thomas (MN) :: Cokato, MN :: @CLopac