Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Thursday, September 16, 2004

Tyranny of the majority
Written by: Beck

Our Republic was founded on the principle of federalism. Every civics student knows it--or at least knew it for as long as it took to get past the test--but few understand the true relevance of such a system.

The whole point of the federal form of government is to limit the power of the rulers furthest removed from the individual citizen. It is less hard to hold a city council accountable for their decisions than it is to hold accountable the county government. The same applies all the way up to the level of the national government. Gradual erosion of the power of more relatively local governments (across all branches) in favor of the broader, national government, proportionally decreases the freedom of the people thus ruled.

This is the issue tackled in a recent article by Ilana Mercer at the Mises Institute, in one of the best reasoned and most relevant issues I've lately seen from those wacky Austrians. Virtually all of the compact, intelligent article bears reading, so I shall excerpt at length.
James Madison was not a democrat. He denounced popular rule as "incompatible with personal security or the rights of property." Democracy, he observed, must be confined to a "small spot" (like Athens). Indeed, the Bush administration's deafening demagoguery notwithstanding, democratic majoritarianism is thoroughly un-American.

Madison and the other Founders attempted to forestall democracy by devising a republic, the hallmark of which was the preservation of individual liberty. To that end, they restricted the federal government to a handful of enumerated powers. Decentralization, devolution of authority, and the restrictions on government imposed by a Bill of Rights were to ensure that few issues were left to the adjudication of a national majority.

The essence of democracy, instantiated so perfectly in Bush's neoconservative administration, is Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "general will," a "national purpose" that ought to be implemented by an all-powerful state. Voltaire, a rather more clever Frenchman, said that Rousseau is as to the philosopher as the ape is to man. Still, that ape's idea animated the blood-drenched French and Russian revolutions. And sadly, it wafted over the Atlantic, took root in the republic's soil, and flourished like kudzu.

Over time, this foreign weed began to choke the Founder's Republic. As Felix Morley observed in Freedom and Federalism, earlier Americans were undeniably influenced by Rousseau, harboring a considerable admiration for the manner in which the common democratic will found expression in revolutionary France. The later infestation of Marxist ideas completed Rousseau's work.

Were America still a republic, liberty would be guaranteed regardless of whom is elected on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November: the shifty-eyed Ewok (Bush) or the Wizard of Oz Scarecrow (Kerry). In democratic America, however, either of these demiurges will enjoy almost unlimited power. Marriage, marijuana, Microsoft, you name it--there is hardly an aspect of life from which these meddlers are barred. All are subject to the whims of the national majority, or, rather, of its ostensible representatives.

It is these representatives who triumph in this or any election, certainly not that fictitious entity "The People." While it seems obvious that the minority in a democracy is openly thwarted, the question is, do the elected representatives at least carry out the will of the majority?

The answer is No. The People's representatives have carte blanche to do exactly as they please.
The article then goes on to discuss a recent study of democracy as practiced in Norway, which has demonstrated precisely the above principles: that vote casting & other pantomimed acts of self-rule bear little relation to the actual behavior of government, that freedom decreases as federalism decreases.

The only true way to combat this pernicious, creeping effect--already hideously visible in Europe, and gradually increasing its influence here at home in America--is to fight at every step, every turn, and every moment, the further and continued attempts of governments to usurp rights and centralize power. Voting and Democracy alone are insufficient safeguards.

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