Unlimited Democracy

Unlimited Democracy

Tibor R. Machan

The Magna Carta was an early attempt to rein in government, reduce the scope of monarchical rule. Constitutional monarchy was the result in many countries.

When democracies replaced monarchies, the urgency to limit their scope of power waned even though there are many political theorists who warned that democracies can turn out to be quite tyrannical. The tyrannies of majorities are well known. Most recently there was plenty of talk about that in connection with developments in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. The election of Hamas, for example, bode ill for limited democracy!
Even in countries such as the United States of America the form of government that emerged was labeled “illiberal democracy.” Fareed Zakaria’s book The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad discussed the difference between liberal and illiberal democracies in the context of geopolitics but the idea had been the focus of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America over a century ago.

Of course there is something very wrong with unlimited democracies. There is simply no justification for the majority of the population in a country imposing its will on everyone. The idea is completely misguided. Why on earth should a great number of people have the authority to force a small number to obey them? There is no argument anywhere in the history of political philosophy and theory that would make out the case for this? If it were a valid point, it would imply that a large number of thugs somehow have the right to subdue other people to serve them. The famous example of the lynch mob that hangs an accused person make the point without difficulty. Expanding the will of vicious people doesn’t make it virtuous. And even if what the larger group wants is actually virtuous, forcing it on others is still not justified since they would have to make the free choice to be virtuous. Human virtue must be a matter of free choice. Only in self-defense may force be applied to others!

The election process in so called democratic countries is anything but justified or moral. Even when it hides behind the term “we” as it tries to do in too many instances–just listen to politicians anywhere around the globe and notice how often they pretend to be speaking for and acting in behalf of everyone–the will of the majority simply has no moral authority, none! Anyone who can dodge it successfully is perfectly justified to do so!

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