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Thread: Democracy? What does it mean?

  1. #1
    Good Doctor HST Guest

    Democracy? What does it mean?

    Democracy Is Not Freedom
    “…man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
    ~ Ronald Reagan
    We’ve all heard the words democracy and freedom used countless times, especially in the context of our invasion of Iraq. They are used interchangeably in modern political discourse, yet their true meanings are very different.
    George Orwell wrote about “meaningless words” that are endlessly repeated in the political arena.* Words like “freedom,” “democracy,” and “justice,” Orwell explained, have been abused so long that their original meanings have been eviscerated. In Orwell’s view, political words were “Often used in a consciously dishonest way.” Without precise meanings behind words, politicians and elites can obscure reality and condition people to reflexively associate certain words with positive or negative perceptions. In other words, unpleasant facts can be hidden behind purposely meaningless language. As a result, Americans have been conditioned to accept the word “democracy” as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good.
    The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply majoritarianism, which is inherently incompatible with real freedom. Our founding fathers clearly understood this, as evidenced not only by our republican constitutional system, but also by their writings in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere. James Madison cautioned that under a democratic government, “There is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.” John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Yet how many Americans know that the word “democracy” is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?
    A truly democratic election in Iraq, without U.S. interference and U.S. puppet candidates, almost certainly would result in the creation of a Shiite theocracy. Shiite majority rule in Iraq might well mean the complete political, economic, and social subjugation of the minority Kurd and Sunni Arab populations. Such an outcome would be democratic, but would it be free? Would the Kurds and Sunnis consider themselves free? The administration talks about democracy in Iraq, but is it prepared to accept a democratically-elected Iraqi government no matter what its attitude toward the U.S. occupation? Hardly. For all our talk about freedom and democracy, the truth is we have no idea whether Iraqis will be free in the future. They’re certainly not free while a foreign army occupies their country. The real test is not whether Iraq adopts a democratic, pro-western government, but rather whether ordinary Iraqis can lead their personal, religious, social, and business lives without interference from government.
    Simply put, freedom is the absence of government coercion. Our Founding Fathers understood this, and created the least coercive government in the history of the world. The Constitution established a very limited, decentralized government to provide national defense and little else. States, not the federal government, were charged with protecting individuals against criminal force and fraud. For the first time, a government was created solely to protect the rights, liberties, and property of its citizens. Any government coercion beyond that necessary to secure those rights was forbidden, both through the Bill of Rights and the doctrine of strictly enumerated powers. This reflected the founders’ belief that democratic government could be as tyrannical as any King.
    Few Americans understand that all government action is inherently coercive. If nothing else, government action requires taxes. If taxes were freely paid, they wouldn’t be called taxes, they’d be called donations. If we intend to use the word freedom in an honest way, we should have the simple integrity to give it real meaning: Freedom is living without government coercion. So when a politician talks about freedom for this group or that, ask yourself whether he is advocating more government action or less.
    The political left equates freedom with liberation from material wants, always via a large and benevolent government that exists to create equality on earth. To modern liberals, men are free only when the laws of economics and scarcity are suspended, the landlord is rebuffed, the doctor presents no bill, and groceries are given away. But philosopher Ayn Rand (and many others before her) demolished this argument by explaining how such “freedom” for some is possible only when government takes freedoms away from others. In other words, government claims on the lives and property of those who are expected to provide housing, medical care, food, etc. for others are coercive – and thus incompatible with freedom. “Liberalism,” which once stood for civil, political, and economic liberties, has become a synonym for omnipotent coercive government.
    The political right equates freedom with national greatness brought about through military strength. Like the left, modern conservatives favor an all-powerful central state – but for militarism, corporatism, and faith-based welfarism. Unlike the Taft-Goldwater conservatives of yesteryear, today’s Republicans are eager to expand government spending, increase the federal police apparatus, and intervene militarily around the world. The last tenuous links between conservatives and support for smaller government have been severed. “Conservatism,” which once meant respect for tradition and distrust of active government, has transformed into big-government utopian grandiosity.
    Orwell certainly was right about the use of meaningless words in politics. If we hope to remain free, we must cut through the fog and attach concrete meanings to the words politicians use to deceive us. We must reassert that America is a republic, not a democracy, and remind ourselves that the Constitution places limits on government that no majority can overrule. We must resist any use of the word “freedom” to describe state action. We must reject the current meaningless designations of “liberals” and “conservatives,” in favor of an accurate term for both: statists.
    Every politician on earth claims to support freedom. The problem is so few of them understand the simple meaning of the word.

    February 7, 2005
    Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.


  2. #2
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    Police State USA
    by Ron Paul

    Last week's announcement that the terrorist threat warning level has been raised in parts of New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. has led to dramatic and unprecedented restrictions on the movements of citizens. Americans wishing to visit the U.S. Capitol must, for example, pass through several checkpoints and submit to police inspection of their cars and persons.

    Many Americans support the new security measures because they claim to feel safer when the government issues terror alerts and fills the streets with militarized police forces. As one tourist interviewed this week said, "It makes me feel comfortable to know that everything is being checked." It is ironic that tourists coming to Washington to celebrate the freedoms embodied in the Declaration of Independence are so eager to give up those freedoms with no questions asked.

    Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens' lives. This doesn't stop governments, including our own, from seeking more control over and intrusion into our lives. As one Member of Congress stated to the press last week, "people who don't want to be searched don't need to come on Capitol grounds." What an insult! The Capitol belongs to the American people who pay for it, not to Congress or the police.

    It is worth noting that the government rushes first to protect itself, devoting enormous resources to make places like the Capitol grounds safe, while just beyond lies one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the nation. What makes Congress more worthy of protection from terrorists than ordinary citizens?

    To understand the nature of our domestic response to the September 11th, 2001 attacks, we must understand the nature of government. Government naturally expands, and any crises- whether real or manufactured- serve to justify more and more government power over our lives. Bureaucrats have used the tragedy of 9-11 as an excuse to seize police powers sought for decades, such as warrantless searches, internet monitoring, and access to bank records. It should be no surprise that the recently released report of the 9-11 Commission has but one central recommendation: bigger government and more spending at home and abroad.

    Every new security measure represents another failure of the once-courageous American spirit. The more we change our lives, the more we obsess about terrorism, the more the terrorists have won. As commentator Lew Rockwell of the Ludwig von Mises Institute explains, terrorists in effect have been elevated by our response to 9-11: "They are running the country. They determine our civic life. They shape our private life. They decide how public resources are spent. They may dictate who gets to be the next president. It should be obvious that the government doesn't object. Not at all. The government benefits, by getting ever more reason for ever more money and power."

    Every generation must resist the temptation to believe that it lives in the most dangerous time in American history. The threat of Islamic terrorism is real, but it is not the greatest danger ever faced by our nation. This is not to dismiss the threat of terrorism, but rather to put it in perspective. Those who seek to whip the nation into a frenzy of fear do a disservice to a country that expelled the British, fought two world wars, and stared down the Soviet empire.

    Liberty is lost through complacency and a subservient mindset. When we accept or even welcome automobile checkpoints, random searches, mandatory identification cards, and paramilitary police in our streets, we have lost a vital part of our American heritage. America was born of protest, revolution, and mistrust of government. Subservient societies neither maintain nor deserve freedom for long.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  3. #3
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    As Republicans go... he's "A-OK"...
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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