"The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. ... These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed...." ~ Benjamin Franklin
We hear a lot about democracy today. Most politicians and their statist sycophants pontificate about the benefits of democracy. On the other end of the spectrum, many free market anarchists rail against the evils of democracy. What is the truth about democracy, which some love and claim to be the salvation of civilization, and others love to hate, and claim to be a curse of mankind? Has the institution of democracy been fairly represented, or has it been politicized and subverted to represent something opposite of its actual intent? More importantly, does democracy and anarchy have any common ground?
One of the problems with democracy as a term is that it has several varying 'official' definitions, and many more unofficial definitions. The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary has many definitions for democracy, but the one I want to focus on is 'a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections' (emphasis mine). Also, contrast this to the definition of pure democracy: 'democracy in which the power is exercised directly by the people rather than through representatives.' Given these definitions, even the staunchest anarchist might pause to reflect if the basic concept of democracy doesn't deserve further inspection.
Probably the most commonly accepted unofficial definition of democracy is 'one person, one vote.' One has to wonder where such a definition came from. In most definitions of democracy, voting is not mentioned. Where it is mentioned, like in the one I chose, it is not a requirement, only a usual occurrence. Only in the fevered imagination of statists can one find that democracy equates to voting and elections. In a truly Orwellian twist, people have confused the freedom to select tyrants and become absolute slaves to the will of the tyrants as a sign of freedom and democracy. In truth, the opposite happens with voting and elections ' the supreme power is wrested from individuals, and invested in representatives. These representatives can then ignore the will of individuals and groups, both majority and minority, and cater to the special interest groups that they really represent. Voting and elections are a sham to steal power from the individual, to cloak the results in the empty skeleton of democracy, having the outward form, but lacking the inner essence. Sadly, most fully embrace this charade and gladly accept their own slavery. It would do well for people to heed the words of one of the leading luminaries of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, when he noted: 'None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.'
The founders of America held scorn for democracy, and never intended that American government be a democracy, but a constitutional republic. They seemed to share the same views that most detractors of democracy hold, that democracy is mob rule, has no respect for individual or property rights, and is a license to plunder. The way that people use the term democracy today does seem to confirm this, except in one important area. Though people often use the term mob rule, to be more exact, it is mob selection. The rulers selected by the mobs are under no compunction to follow the whims of the masses, secretly promote shadowy agendas that are against the interests of most citizens, and often openly defy the wishes of the majority, while paying lip service to being servants of the people. Democracy has been subverted by voteocracy, where the only right and freedom a citizen enjoys is the right to vote, and where the supreme power is vested in the state and exercised by the state.
Alexander Fraser Tytler made this interesting observation about democracy in 1776: 'A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. [Tytler describes the life cycle of civilization as from Bondage to Spiritual Faith to Great Courage to Liberty to Abundance to Selfishness to Complacency to Apathy to Dependency and back into Bondage.]' There are several significant points about Tytler's remark. One is that voting is the means to enslaving the populace. Another is that it happens when people lose their respect for the individual and individual property rights, and surrender their supreme power to a criminal class of parasites called politicians who promise them free wealth and benefits. For Americans, the warning about loose fiscal policy is especially poignant. With Greenspan and the Fed following a policy of printing fiat money at will, with no regard for budgets or deficits by government officials, and an inability to pay current debt obligations without borrowing more money, most Americans should realize that the US government is technically bankrupt and financially insolvent. That most Americans and their parasitic politicians are completely ignorant of this fact, and have complete faith in the fantasy of US fiscal policy, is a sad commentary on the average American, and confirms that most people are ignorant of the basic principle of TANSTAAFL.
While the preceding thoughts may be viewed as an unmitigated condemnation of democracy, it is probably fairer to characterize it as how easily democracy can be subverted when people abandon their supreme power to unscrupulous politicians. One need only look at Switzerland , and its version of direct democracy, to realize that it is not necessarily democracy, but people abdicating their responsibility, that is the real problem with most democracies. In many respects, Switzerland appears to be the federal republic with autonomous states (cantons) that the US was supposed to embody. The Swiss have a strict foreign policy of non-interventionism, the exact same foreign policy the US used to adhere to, and do not suffer from the self-inflicted sorrows of empire and terrorism that Americans do. Libertarians have long noted how Switzerland embodies the concepts of individualism, individual rights and responsibilities, and self defense that are all hallmarks of freedom loving societies. The major difference between Swiss democracy and US democracy (and all other forms of democracy) is that the Swiss have not completely abandoned their supreme power to elected representatives, but retained that power for each citizen.
In truth, democracy and anarchy should be complementary ideas. Only by having the supreme power vested in each individual and exercised by each person can democracy and anarchy be fully realized. Instead of the inane statist maxim of 'one person, one vote,' it should be 'one person, one government.' Individual sovereignty is the only true logical outcome for both democracy and anarchy, and the only path to liberty. But for this to work, people will need to grow up, accept responsibility for their own lives, quit meddling in other people's affairs that are none of their business, and learn to live by voluntary association and trade. People need to reject the collectivist mindset of the state, disavow any right of the state to use force and coercion, and stop abdicating their sovereignty to the state.
All this shows how easily words and ideas are subverted by the state, and how the state portrays them in a manner that is contradictory to their original intent. When Bush and his criminal cronies expound on the benefits of democracy, freedom, liberty, the rule of law, fighting terrorism, and the free market, one sees that they are using these terms as superficial gloss to hide their criminal activities and mayhem ' what they really mean is that they want to use force and coercion, the power of the state, to impose their will on anyone at any time they choose. And not only has the state subverted words and ideas, it has also subverted whole institutions, the mainstream media and public education, to indoctrinate people into accepting the lies and propaganda of the state. While Americans are not really stupid as many would have you believe, as a whole they are extremely gullible and ignorant, and this seems to be by the design of the state and its institutions. These are severe limitations to possess, and are inimical to the exercise of liberty. Americans need to listen to the words of Jefferson when he said: 'If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.'
The basic principle of democracy, of self rule, is sound and in accordance with the principles of anarchy. The state has subverted the concept of democracy to enslave people to the dictates of the state and its rulers. As practiced by most democratic states, it is just a sham that allows an elite oligarchy to maintain control of the state while maintaining the appearance of popular rule. People need to realize that the state is the greatest threat to their freedom, peace, and happiness. Only by rejecting the state, and the use of force and coercion to interact with their fellow humans, and embracing voluntary association and trade, can people actually enjoy the benefits of democracy that they clamor for.