Liberty or Voting: I'll Take Liberty

Couldn't agree more with the thoughts in this post from TJIC:

I was discussing this with Dan Geer the other day "“ the fact that individual liberty (social, economic, etc.) is the goal, and democracy (political "liberty") is just a tool to get there "¦ and not even a particularly good tool.

I'd be all in favor of a limited constitutional monarchy, if the result was "“ integrated over time "“ more social and economic freedom....

Leftists don't understand this at all "“ they think that the freedom to vote for your choice of bully who will lord it over everyone else is the paramount right, and they don't recognize economic liberty at all.

I said something similar in this post on why I don't necessarily treasure the right to vote.

Now, don't get me wrong, the right to vote in a representative democracy is great and has proven a moderately effective (but not perfect) check on creeping statism.  A democracy, however, in and of itself can still be tyrannical.  After all, Hitler was voted into power in Germany, and without checks, majorities in a democracy would be free to vote away anything it wanted from the minority "“ their property, their liberty, even their life.   Even in the US, majorities vote to curtail the rights of minorities all the time, even when those minorities are not impinging on anyone else.  In the US today, 51% of the population have voted to take money and property of the other 49%.

I go on to discuss what things are more important to a good government than voting.


  1. Billy Beck:

    It is a grave mistake to even entertain the *premise* that liberty can be divided into "economic", "social", etc., classifications. To do that is to engage the enemy's fight on his ground.

  2. me:

    True. However, whenever I read an intense tribal argument like "Leftists don't understand [..]" I shudder.

    What is the definition of a leftist? Which test was used to determine that they don't understand an specific concept? Which percentage of class failed that test?

    The Us vs Them mentality is what is hurting American politics on many levels. Imputing irrational attitutes to an ill-defined "Other" class is a great way to get nowhere.

    The tragedy here is that while the Coke and Pepsi parties are driving this nation into the ground, the few active members of the populace are fingerpointing at each other instead of seeking common ground.

  3. Retardo:

    He's mistaken about the Left's "paramount right". The leftists I know regard election fraud as perfectly reasonable, if the right guy wins. In their view, the paramount right is material security, and they regard material security as something which, for most people, can only be provided by a government which is controlled by the right people. They see democracy as a mechanism whereby the common people secure for themselves the blessings state-mandated material security. So leaving the results of an election up to the voters is, in the left-wing mind, a horribly anti-democratic thing to do.

    You might also say that their own paramount right is to be the bully who lords it over everyone else, and your and my paramount right is to accept handouts.

    As for liberty without voting... I don't see how you manage the rulers' incentives that way.

  4. Retardo:

    Ha ha, I wrote that before reading your "intense tribal argument" comment. Point well taken. But then again, I'm not talking about an abstraction, but about concrete friends of mine who I argue with a couple times a week...

  5. norwalk virus:

    How much liberty should be conceded legitimately to find the common ground?

  6. Ted Rado:

    In every organization I have been associated with, there are always those who want to run the show. The "Napoleon complex" seems to be pervasive.

    The authors of the Constitution understood this, which is why it was written. Unfortunately, "guardhouse lawyer" types have twisted it around to where it is meaningless, and all sorts of government interventions are deemed OK. The thing that those pushing for unconstitutional government programs miss is that one day the other side will get in power and push for things that THEY hate.

    Almost any proposal can be twisted to pass constitutional scrutiny. For example, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. One could then argue that TV, radio, and the internet can be controlled by the government, as they are not mentioned in the constitution. Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA can regulate CO2. Now they are creating science as well as law from the bench!! What is fascinating is that the Feds create more and more agencies to control our lives at our expense. It's like paying someone to hit you over the head with a two by four. I don't know where all this government interference into our lives will lead, but I am fearful.

  7. Dr. T:

    Democracies and democratic republics are vastly overrated forms of government.

    The ideal form of government is libertarianism under an elected dictator who can be deposed by referendum. It provides the freedoms of libertarianism, the efficiencies of a small government not run by committees, and the ability to remove a leader who fails to meet the expectations of the citizens.

  8. Gil:

    "elected dictator"

    Say what?!

  9. David Zetland:

    That's what Sen says in "Freedom as Development"

  10. David Zetland:

    clarification: he says that freedom is more important than democracy

  11. astonerii:

    "In the US today, 51% of the population have voted to take money and property of the other 49%."

    Or, the 10% with guns and the attitude needed could just take the money from the other 90%.

  12. greg:

    Maybe I am dumb but if we are just fantasizing about the ideal world here why dont we imagine more social and economic freedom AND having the right to vote as well. Hell how about we are all young and beautiful & there is no disease either. Do these intellectual exercises really accomplish anything?

  13. Mark:

    The real purpose of government is that there are times when the rights of one individual clashes with the rights of another. That may not make sense to a ideological libertarian, but it is the reality of the world. A government that efficiently adjudicates these clashes while preserving the most freedom is the best. The constitutional republic of the founders is clearly that best government, although its modern execution may leave a lot to be desired.

  14. IgotBupkis:

    > at least, that is, until the bodies started piling up.

    That never stops the true elitist boob:

    Speaking of which, socialist countries like the USSR made all sorts of huge mistakes and committed atrocities. The Left should own those mistakes and atrocities, and learn from them to avoid repeating them.
    Ted Rall

    Translation: "It just wasn't done right".

    Which IS a perfectly correct statement IF you are capable of grasping that "being done right" means "not being done at all".

    A grasp of which Leftists are not thus encumbered.

  15. IgotBupkis:

    > Imputing irrational attitutes to an ill-defined “Other” class is a great way to get nowhere.

    Geez, who the fornication needs to "impute"...? The irrationalism is thoroughly documented.

  16. caseyboy:

    We had this issue solved once upon a time. I used these quotes in a previous blog comment. I think they apply here as well. By - Thomas Jefferson
    "Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."

    "For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security."

    "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government."

  17. T M Colon:

    I suggest there is an aspect of democracy that makes the growth in the size, power and scope of government almost inevitable. The weaker the government the less meaningful, influential or you could say powerful a vote is. Voting to increase government is voting to increase the power of the voter.

    Voters might not even make this direct connection, but it is there. In this way voters trade freedom (usually of others) for power over a long period of time, possibly without even being aware of it.