Democracy and Freedom

I was in an argument on the book of faces about why allowing unlimited immigration whether simply legally removing restrictions on immigration or the current insanity of having immigration laws but largely leaving them unenforced is a bad idea.  I’ve discussed that here before. And part of the argument was that you cannot import wholesale people  who do not support the idea of liberty and expect to retain that liberty.

One person thought he’d made a telling come-back in pointing out that a lot of people had “democratically elected” governments back home.

Democracy does not mean freedom.  There is no necessary connection between democracy and freedom.  Indeed, many of the things we consider “democratic freedoms” inherited from the forebears of the colonists, primarily English (in cultural antecedence if nothing else) who founded the United States actually predate the rise of elective governments in the United Kingdom.  On the flip side, the Fascists in Italy won sixty-four percent of the vote in 1924.  In 1932, the National Socialist German Workers Party won a plurality of seats in the Reichstag and it was the elected President of Germany, Paul von Hindenberg who (on advice of his chancellor) issued the Reichstag Fire Degree which nullified many civil liberties.

Tyranny can often be quite popular with the masses…at least at first.

Liberty may be more common in governments headed by elected representatives of the people than by hereditary monarchs or other systems, but the two are not the same.  And people, time and again, have shown themselves a willingness to vote restrictions on “those people”, never realizing that they, themselves are “those people” to someone.

Indeed, in the American colonies generally you did not see anything resembling our “Freedom of the Press” or “Freedom of Religion.” Massachusetts, for instance, had a law on the book that no one was allowed to settle there whose orthodoxy was not demonstrated to the magistrates.  However, there were many of these small despotisms, each different from the others, and none able to either subjugate or convert the others.  As circumstances required them to begin working together it became apparent that they had to tolerate each other for their own sakes.

It was the great diversity in ideas, in beliefs, in practices that led to the spread of the idea that by protecting the freedom of the other one in turn protects ones own.  As a result, they enshrined certain protections of fundamental freedoms in the Constitution and recognized that this list of freedoms is not exhaustive (the 9th Amendment).

Indeed, Freedom can only exist in the presence of diversity of belief, of thought, of values, and of action.  If everyone thinks, acts, or believes the same way, whence Freedom, whatever liberties are guaranteed on paper?  The Freedom of the robot, marching in identical step with identical other robots.

Unfortunately these days when people talk about “diversity” they frequently don’t mean the kind of diversity that leads to freedom.  They mean shallow, almost trivial things like diversity of skin color, or feature shape, or genitalia, or (a little bit deeper, but not much) how people prefer to connect up those genitalia.  Freedom of thought, of belief, of value, those things are one or another “ism” which must be stamped out at all cost.

I claim that even those I violently disagree with have the right of free speech, of the same use of the public square, common carriers, and public platforms as anyone else?  I get called a “Nazi supporter.”

Only the thing I support is Freedom. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of anything “Nazi.”

 

11 thoughts on “Democracy and Freedom”

  1. Some idiots talk about “Banning Hate Speech” without realizing that a Government able to ban speech the idiots dislike, would be able to ban the speech of the idiots.

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    1. “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” H. L. Mencken

      People I dislike, people I violently disagree with have their freedom too. And if I don’t support them in that “scoundrel” or not, then it follows that my own freedom will not be so long in being lost as well.

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      1. Yes scoundrels believe they should be free to say and do as they please and there has to come a point where we rope them in as we do those who need to be in asylums.

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        1. And the people who would restrict freedom always use “scoundrels” as the excuse. But the thing about restrictions on freedom, they never apply to just the scoundrels. They apply to everyone else as well. And so, one “scoundrel” at a time, one finds freedom slipping away and folk are left wondering how it happened.

          In the end it comes down to whether one supports freedom or not. Do you support the right of odious people to make odious speech or do you just not support free speech? Do you support the right of people to follow religions that you vehemently disagree with and practice their belief, or do you not support freedom of religion? Do you support the right of people to keep and bear arms that you see no “need” for, or you you just not support RKBA? And so on.

          Freedom must apply to all, including to “scoundrels” or it is not freedom at all.

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          1. Total freedom is not believed in by most people except anarchists. That is why we have laws and in democracies they are decided upon by consensus. What the individual believes is not relevant they must obey the law of the land.
            We must also obey the law of the country we live in not our country of origin.

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          2. One of the paradoxes of freedom is that a certain amount of “law and order” is required to maximize freedom. As I have put it before: being able to get up on your roof with a rifle to defend your life and property from barbarians (whether invaders, rioters, or what have you) is freedom. Having to spend all your time up there because the barbarians are ubiquitous is not. Thus, some modest amount of government, even though it in and of itself is a restriction on freedom, increases net freedom.

            This does not mean that all laws serve that end, or can becalled “good.” As for “democracy” there’s a reason the US was never set up as what most people think of a “democracy.” Penn Jillette put it well: “Democracy is the majority ganging up on the weird kid and I’m always the weird kid.” Democracy is three rapists and a woman voting on whether they’ll have sex. Democracy is mob rule legitimized.

            The US was founded, not as a democracy but as a Constitutional Republic of limited powers with the rights of the individual paramount. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are created among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

            The very purpose of government is to secure the individual rights such as (“among these”–not an exhaustive list) life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Where it works towards those ends it is “good”. Where it does not, it, at a minimum, exceeds its just purpose or more likely is now working against that purpose.

            I have written about this more elsewhere on this blog, including in the following:

            https://thewriterinblack.com/2019/02/18/hormesis-and-government/
            https://thewriterinblack.com/2019/02/16/the-needs-of-the-many/
            https://thewriterinblack.com/2017/04/23/blast-from-the-past-life-liberty-and-pursuit-of-happiness-part-1-life/
            https://thewriterinblack.com/2017/04/25/blast-from-the-past-life-liberty-and-pursuit-of-happiness-part-two-liberty/
            https://thewriterinblack.com/2017/04/26/blast-from-the-past-life-liberty-and-pursuit-of-happiness-part-3-the-pursuit-of-happiness/

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          3. It is not relevant whether laws are what we call good or bad since we all have different definitions of good and bad , what matters is consensus by the government .
            The law changes constantly and in democracies the direction of change is to bring greater freedom to larger numbers of the population. The law on same sex relationships has changed very recently and the rights of women are now nearer to those of men .
            Even among the religious communities , who are notorious for resisting change , change is taking place. Women can now drive alone in Saudi Arabia.
            Regarding all men being born equal personally I cannot bear witness to this often claimed truth. Some are born in destitution others like myself into rich nations .
            Some are born more intelligent with much more potential and sadly some are born handicapped with physical disabilities.

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          4. Ah, you’re one of those. First off “consensus” is a myth, implying a general agreement or near unanimity which is remarkably rare when it comes to real populations of any size. If one simply means “majority” one should say so.

            As for not mattering? You basically seem to be saying “the law is the law and should be obeyed.” I would like to point out that fugitive slave laws were legal. Helping slaves escape was not. Hiding Jews in the attic was illegal. Turning them over to the Geheime Staatspolizei was not. The Killing Fields were legal. Having people “persecuted to death” was legal. The Mormon extermination order was legal. The attempted confiscation of weapons and powder at Concord Massachusetts was legal. Arresting Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat was legal. The list goes on and on and on.

            If you don’t have some moral compass that transcends just “what the law says” than you have no basis to criticize any of them. All of them were legal according to the systems and laws in place at the time. And majorities? Even supermajorities. As I point out elsewhere ( https://thewriterinblack.com/2019/07/01/democracy-and-freedom/ ) the Fascists in Italy won 64% of the vote. In Germany, the Nazis had a plurality of a very fragmented electorate when Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Popularity is a very thin reed to hang principle on, leaving one cast about by turbulent winds with nothing to cling to but the latest opinion poll–and even that you cannot trust because unscrupulous pollsters are well known to be able to make polls say whatever they want them to say.

            But you do you.

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    2. While I wouldn’t claim that it’s specific to any particular position on the political spectrum, it does seem like leftists (particularly of the “hard” variety) seem to believe that nothing bad could ever happen to them, and that their ideas don’t have any way of backfiring because they believe they’ll always be in control.

      Maybe it’s an inherent problem with the whole Marxist notion of history having a specific course it follows, and that there’s a “right” and “wrong” side of it to be on, I don’t know.

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      1. The Fanatic never believes that “Bad Things Will Happen To His Plans”.

        The Modern Lefty/Liberal is very often a Fanatic regarding his Political Views.

        I haven’t encountered anybody on the “Right” that is that Fanatical but they may exist.

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