The Idea that Democracy Is the Same as Liberty Is a Weapon in the Hands of Despots
As Americans approach a date with their polling places, and “get out the vote” campaigns crescendo, there is plenty of rhetoric that all but deifies democracy.
Unfortunately, while democratically determining who will be entrusted with the reins of government may generally represent the best hope to enable governments to change without bloodshed (exemplified by John Adams just going home when he lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson for President), democracy is not the defining characteristic of American greatness. Liberty is. Democracy is important only insofar as it serves and defends liberty. For example, if whatever the current majority decided “democratically” was to be law, our Constitution and Bill of Rights, which put some things beyond majority determination, could not in fact be the highest law of the land.
Unfortunately, democracy need not serve liberty. It is entirely consistent with choices that destroy liberty, even though Americans commonly equate them. Consequently, it is important to refocus attention on the primacy of liberty over democracy as we exercise our voting power. And there is an excellent guide to such reflection in F.A. Harper’s “Democracy and Liberty,” in his 1949 Liberty: A Path to its Recovery.
- A government can enslave the citizens…But the belief prevails that…“So long as democracy is preserved we can rest assured that liberty will be continued to the full.”
- Probably no other belief is
Article from Mises Wire