by Marc Emery and Robert Metz – September 1988

What is “democracy”?

Contrary to popular belief, “democracy” is not necessarily compatible with freedom! In fact, today’s “democracies” may soon represent as great a threat to individual freedom as any dictatorship in the past ever has.

In determining the value of the process we call “democracy”, it is essential that we first determine what the legitimate role of government is, and most importantly, what the rights of individuals are.

So let’s begin by making our perspective on this issue clear: the proper purpose of government is to protect an individual’s freedom of choice, not to restrict it.

Individual freedom is more important to the citizens of any nation than any economic or social “benefits” their governments may claim to provide, because without individual freedom, nothing else works and no social or economic benefits are possible.

Individual freedom simply means having the right to choose your own peaceful lifestyle and to be free to take any peaceful actions necessary to personal fulfilment. Live and let live. This type of freedom, which is essential to any civilized society, can only be protected by the legal entrenchment of private property rights which allow individuals to control their own lives, and which prevent them from controlling the lives of others.

Individual freedom and freedom of choice are at the heart of every political issue, but ironically — only in a “democracy”.

Our freedom of choice would not be an element of political discussion in a totalitarian state, where individual choice is explicitly denied. Likewise, our freedom of choice would not be a political issue in a free society, where individual choice is guaranteed us.

In a democracy, the constant political struggle is not over “how we can enhance freedom of choice for individuals”, but over who shall make personal and economic choices and what they shall be. Regrettably, our system of “democracy” has deteriorated to the point where whatever the political struggle, it is no longer between individuals, but between governments, bureaucracies, organized lobby groups, and a host of other “organized” outgrowths of the “new democratic” philosophy of “Majority Rule”.

Viewed from this critical perspective, “democracy” is far from what it has been presented to be. Through all our historical research on the subject, we have yet to discover any piece of federal, provincial, or municipal legislation enacted through the democratic process with the conscious intent of enhancing individual freedom. (Individual freedom has always been won through political resistance or revolution, never through the democratic process.)

Instead, each and every day, our own politicians and governments who comprise this “democracy” we all claim to cherish so much, create new and increasingly restrictive measures which diminish our individual freedoms, and which increase the powers of the state.

Implicit in all social legislation created by the democratic process is the express use of force and compulsion as a means of preventing individuals from exercising choices inconsistent with government policies. Increasingly, those who hold views, opinions, economic preferences or lifestyles that are not held by the “majority” are finding themselves punished and restricted for being different.

This is the proof that pure democracy, practiced as majority rule, is not only inconsistent with individual freedom, but is its arch enemy. A fundamental of any free society is that freedom must apply equally to minority choices. Otherwise, freedom does not exist.

Think about it. The “freedom” to agree with the “majority” is no freedom at all for anyone. Individual freedom exists only when the smallest possible minority — the individual — has a legally protected right to the complete security of his peaceful actions, beliefs, and disposal of property.

Consider the possible horrors of living in a society that only recognized the principle of majority rule democracy: What if 5l% of voters, through some “democratic” process, decided to order the other 49% of voters to death? Would we, as citizens of a free country, accept this democratic decision?

An extreme example? Democracy doesn’t mean that, you say?

Good. Glad to hear it. Because that means you recognize that each individual has inalienable rights (i.e., rights not granted by governments, but rights recognized as being fundamental to individual survival and fulfilment), and that the first of these rights is the right to one’s own life. So far, so good.

But is that the only right we have under a democracy? The right not to be arbitrarily killed? Or do we have other rights, rights consistent with individual freedom that no form of government, even a democracy, may abridge? If so, what are they? If not, why?

As you can see, the global political issue of our time is not: “Can democracy survive?” — but rather, can we, as individuals, survive democracy? Can freedom survive?

In both theory and in practice, majority-rule democracy is a political system of compromise between tyranny and individual freedom. Virtually all of today’s political systems evolved from relatively tyrannical political systems (whether called divine monarchies, tribal societies, dictatorships, feudal societies, etc.) which only gave up their authority over individual freedom of choice in a piecemeal fashion, forced by the moral indignation and suffering of those few citizens who had either the understanding, the will, or the means to act.

Fortunately, most resistance against government oppression was carried out in a peaceful manner through public protests, meetings, underground papers, etc., — methods particularly employed to avoid any democratic processes, and to avoid condemnation by the state. Only in rare, violent revolutions have entire political systems been destroyed, but for lack of an appreciation or understanding of individual freedom, these revolutions often were followed by totalitarian regimes no different or worse than what was overthrown.

Yet, many might understandably ask that, if the process of democracy is such a threat to individual freedom, how is it that we have come to enjoy so much individual freedom, at least to a greater degree than has ever been possible before? Don’t we live in a “democracy”?

Yes, we do. But the fact that some degree of individual freedom may exist within a democracy is no testament to the democratic process itself. Regrettably, individual freedoms within our democracy are only tolerated until they present a potential or perceived threat to the political ideal of “democracy”, that is, to rule by the majority.

To explain this more clearly, let’s examine what’s been happening under our current political system of “social democracy”: The democratic process that currently exists in Canada. (and elsewhere) is, in practice, a political system that allows certain elements of society the privilege of conferring an unearned benefit upon themselves at the expense of others in society. Though we have been calling this process “majority rule”, it is a historical irony that true majorities are extremely rare and virtually impossible to document or prove.

Usually, it’s not a “majority” that is in control of the democratic process, but many competing minority political interests, all who claim to represent some undefined and unsubstantiated “majority”. They know that the public at large has come to equate majority rule with democracy, which in turn, has become confused with individual freedom. As a consequence, lobby interests do not have to justify their demands on the grounds that what they may want is right or just; they only have to promote the numbers they represent as their badge of economic or moral righteousness: “It’s right because we have the numbers to prove it.”

Thus, numbers, instead of ideas, morality, or individual choice, become the focus of political issues. It is in this way that our once much freer nation has fallen to what, increasingly, can only be accurately described as a sophisticated political system of mob rule. This is the inevitable consequence under any “democracy” that purports to hold “majority rule” as its highest ideal, by placing the whims of voters above their fundamental rights and freedoms.

We most often find this philosophy expressed in the statements: “It’s for the good of society,” while in actual fact, the only “good” thing for all of society is the guaranteed protection of the individual freedoms of all its citizens. In stark contrast, our democratic process has been abused to barter away individual freedoms for the benefit of some vague, undefinable, socialistic notion of the “collective” good.

As citizens within a majority-rule democracy, we must learn to understand that any rights and freedoms we currently enjoy exist only because governments know that a certain amount of individual freedom is necessary to get us to produce the economic and social benefits that they want to confiscate and “redistribute”. Thus, while legitimate individual rights are being shattered, politicians are busy fabricating a set of artificial bogus “rights”, “rights” that give special privileges to some groups of people at the expense of other groups and individuals.

Rather than expanding our freedom of action to pursue our individual choices, these “new democratic rights” impose arbitrary obligations on innocent and unwilling victims — obligations to the beneficiaries of the democratic process.

New democratic rights like the “right to affordable housing” mean that some people are entitled to the benefit of subsidized housing at the expense of responsible landlords, homeowners, and tenants alike. New democratic rights like the “right to a job” impose an obligation on some employer to provide and pay for that job. In the process, the individual’s legitimate right to work is denied, for fear he may compete with someone else’s legislated “right” to a job. and let’s not forget the increasingly popular democratic “right to decency”, which imposes an obligation on others to suppress their personal lifestyles and choices, and which gives those claiming this “right” to make their choice for them.

These “new democratic” rights thus illustrate that the issues in a democracy revolve only around who gets to make our choices for us, and preclude the option that we as individuals should have the right to determine those choices ourselves. As these “democratic rights” become more entrenched through the democratic process, they change the meaning of the word “right” from one of “freedom of individual action and choice” to “freedom from the responsibility for one’s action and choices.”

Needless to say, this makes the democratic process extremely attractive to a significant portion of the citizenry. Majority-rule democracy offers an opportunity to cash in on these new democratic “rights” and gives its supporters the power to impose obligations and commitments on others, while bearing less or no responsibility for their own actions.

Majority-rule democracy operates in a moral vacuum: it explicitly proclaims that “anything society does is right because society chose to do it.”

Any way you look at it, this is a moral and legal inversion of fundamental justice: While no responsibility is attached to those who advocate the violation of individual freedoms, the obligation and cost of defending one’s individual freedom is placed on those who would have it denied them, despite the fact that such freedom should be theirs by right.

While advocates of individual freedom must spend thousands of their own dollars in our nation’s courtrooms to defend their legitimate right to peaceful behaviour, those responsible for dragging them into those courtrooms are heralded as “champions” of the democratic process, and get to have the taxpayer fund their dubious causes for them.

This democratic process of violating our individual rights is well under way. Consider how many of our individual freedoms we have already become conditioned to giving up for some undefinable “common good”.

Right now, the average individual in Canada pays 52% of all his income to the over-l00 taxes applied by various levels of government, making him virtually a slave to the state for half his adult lifetime.

Don’t be too surprised if you don’t feel like a slave; it is only because, until now, you’ve been a well-pampered slave, deriving many benefits like subsidized education or “free” health care, both temporarily paid for by putting our governments under a perpetual threat of bankruptcy.

Consider that government debt is still accumulating despite the fact that over half of our personal earnings are already being confiscated. (Rapacious government-spending is yet another inevitable consequence of the majority-rule democratic process, whether in Canada or through- out the world.)

Another reason we may not feel physically burdened or “enslaved” by our democratic governments is that, even though more than half our earnings go to government, the portions of the marketplace that are still relatively free operate magnificently enough to provide us with the bountiful material comforts that can make life very enjoyable.

But we must never let ourselves forget: The marketplace works despite majority-rule democracy, not because of it.

The danger in forgetting this important point cannot be understated. Let’s not be blinded to the origin and source of the abundance of goods, services, and products that we enjoy — free will, free enterprise, and individual freedom.

It is our ignorance of these fundamental human values that the democratic process exploits so well. Yet, only a society of “free minds and free markets” can provide us with a greater abundance than all the political promises of the world combined. It is only through our willingness to understand why this is so that we can begin to reclaim our freedoms lost — lost to the very process most of us think is protecting them.  {end}

– Marc Emery,  Robert Metz     Consent #5   Sept-Nov 1988