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To the Democracy for Which it Stands

February 15, 2010
 by Alberto Arredondo

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I want more healthcare at a cheaper price, to raise taxes on the wealthy few, to punish polluters, to benefit from oil companies' huge profits, to have an affordable home in a posh neighborhood, a 1080p television (LCD preferred), a Panasonic sound projector, a raise, an iPad, and a better shoulder so I can play basketball again. Who's with me?



The United States has evolved into a democracy (as opposed to a republic with democratic mechanisms.) Yes, it’s fashionable to equate a free society with democracy (one might say that, democratically speaking, our country agrees with this statement). Our politicians constantly tout democracy, the will of the people, scorn enemies as enemies of democracy, etc. People online are reinforced with the idea that majority makes authority (the new, sophisticated might makes right.) People vote in online polls, they “like” or “dislike” articles, products, sports teams, and people. We’ve grown into a society that values whim over principle.

Democracy has a dark side, however. Milton Friedman gives the famous example of 55% of the people wanting the other 45% dead. Why not? It’s the people’s will after all. Tut, you say, this is a ridiculous example of an extreme, it could certainly never happen here, as you take a break from reading about the Japanese-American internment camps. But, in fact, it happens all the time, though perhaps not here. So you can stop reading this article now and start that book about slavery in America.

Friedrich von Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom based on his experience of the rise of Nazi power. Today we have a perfect example mirroring that rise: Venezuela. Chavez is a “democratically elected” head of state (sounds so legitimate), who rules by intimidation, throwing his cabinet members under an unending caravan of busses, decree, and, yes, popular consent. And guess what, if you gain the population’s notice with criticism of Chavez, you get noticed by Chavez. What’s wrong with this picture? That can’t happen here, you say. And don’t you dare equate our president with a two-bit dictator, you racist hick.

So what does happen here? Democracy is a two edged sword. Yes the people make known what they are thinking, but in practice, is it not the ruling class, the hegemony, those with any interest in influencing the government that make their thinking known to the public? Democracy is supposed to flow up from the people to the government but in practice it just as readily flows down to the public. And once the public is on board, anything done by the “will of the people” is seen as legitimate.

Well we’ve arrived to that, haven’t we. No one bats an eyelash when taxes on the “rich” (equate that to “not me”) are raised. We do have principles, but we have to exercise them through our actions (and we do this all the time when making choices in the market place), and our elected officials. When you think of principles, do Democrats and Republicans come to mind? I’m not talking about personal principles but principles from which to govern. Libertarians are the party of principle. Give democracy a chance, vote Libertarian.



Related Content:

The Economic Crisis in Venezuela: How Hugo Chavez Squandered An Oil Boom. - Kimberly Ruff
Where Were You? - Kimberly Ruff
The Catharsis of the American Civil War: How the Near Division of the United States Served to Strengthen the Union - Kimberly Ruff


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