Shock + horror

There I was, minding my own business and googling some material for the Liberal Democratic Party’s health policy in development, when I stumbled upon this by John Quiggin:

Given this lineage, it is unsurprising that the CIS is sceptical about democracy. If liberal, free-market, institutions are the basis of a good society, but the majority of the public cannot be trusted to support them, power must be placed in the hands of a reliable minority. Hayek opposed what he called ‘dogmatic democracy’ . He suggested denying the vote to government employees and recipients of welfare benefits, as a possible first step towards a system in which voting was restricted to male property-owners over forty. In claiming to support ‘real’ democracy, while opposing democracy as the term is normally understood , Hayek was at one with the ‘people’s democracies’ he condemned.

In a recent CIS publication, entitled Building Prosperity, CIS Senior Fellow Wolfgang Kasper endorses many of Hayek’s proposals for the curtailment of democracy. He canvasses unspecified ‘formal qualifications on the active right to elect’ and suggests that large classes of citizens should be prohibited from standing for public office. It is a pity that other advocates of the imposition of free-market policies on an unwilling public are not as explicit on this point as Kasper.

And there is more, if you click the link.

Please — someone tell me it’s not true and has been taken horribly out of context. This can’t be the Centre for Independent Studies I’ve come to know and love… 😦

47 thoughts on “Shock + horror

  1. No need to immediately slash your wrists. Quiggin’s article was published in 2001. Kasper’s book only has a summary on the CIS website and the ‘purchase’ link does not work, so perhaps it is out of print.

    If we assume Quiggin has not misrepresented Kasper (a bold assumption, I would imagine), it merely confirms that libertarianism is a fairly broad church.

    Actually though, the idea of not letting public servants vote has a certain appeal. The ACT would be a different place.

  2. the attribution to Hayek makes sense. All this is in LLL. Hayek was born in 1899 and democracy brought Hitler to power. Hayek was a man of his times.

    I have no idea about the Kasper reference, haven’t read it.

  3. And furthermore:

    I don’t agree with Wolfgang’s proposal but I don’t see anything to get shocked about. It is consistent with a certain hard core variant of classical liberal thought.
    Now on the other hand, the work that Barry Maley and the high tax News Weekly socialist Lucy Sullivan did for the CIS Family policy program had far, far more proposals that I vehemently disagreed with. The CIS is as David puts it a broad church.

  4. I think all adult citizens should be allowed to vote. However I think the actions open to government should be severely restricted in a constitutional bill of rights. Free ranging democracy would be a periodic menace. Which is demonstrated periodically.

    I think that Karl Marx had some good insights. I don’t feel compelled to accept every idea from a source just because I like some of them. Hayek is no different. And sometimes even Quiggin says something I agree with so we have the counter point that we should not reject every idea just because we don’t generally agree with the source.

  5. ‘He suggested denying the vote to government employees and recipients of welfare benefits’

    Anthony Trollope (apparently) in his autobiography indicates that he couldn’t vote because he was a government employee. I say apparently because I haven’t read the book (nor anything else by Trollope), but it is an intriguing principle – and maybe supported by s44 of the Australian constitution. Anyway, it’s probably not going to happen.

    More importantly, I remember the Quiggin piece well – I read it in Perth at the Economists Conference that year. John was having a go at the CIS for being anti-democratic. Why the left hate the CIS and the IPA so much I don’t know. Anyway, what Wolfgang sets out is in Hayek (as Jason says). In his new book (Why I, too, am not a conservative) James Buchanan indicates that Hayek went ‘strange’ towards the end. Perhaps. I don’t know. Certainly, his best work is The Constitution of Liberty (I have two copies, one at home; one at work). The bigger incident though was John having a go at Steven Schwartz (now of Macquarie Uni) over a piece he had published the week (or so) before in the Wednesday Australia Higher Ed section. In fairness to John, Schwartz did not express himself well, and I did email him (Steven) saying that. He and I had a long email exchange over several days and I can report that his views of academic freedom are very sensible and consistent with many discussions held at Catallaxy (before the Great Crash destroyed all comments). I can also say that for a VC to engage in an email debate with someone he doesn’t know reflects well on the man. Unfortunately, that email exchange did not survive a computer upgrade in 2002 (or 2003).

  6. I’ve been searching for a letter I wrote to the AFR at the time in response to John Quiggin’s piece. It was something like “John Quiggin has read page x of the Constitution of Liberty. He should try reading the other y pages”. I can’t find it. Greg Lindsay also responded in an op-ed piece that can be downloaded from the CIS website. Unfortunately, the CIS page doesn’t have unique links, but the reference is:
    Executive Highlights No. 45 When black is very definitely not white
    Greg Lindsay (Published in The Australian Financial Review, 2 October, 2001).

  7. Found my letter to the AFR from October 2001.

    “The ideological left must be getting desperate. Not only are free markets wicked and evil exploiters of humans and the environment, but anti-democratic and anti-free speech! So John Quiggin (Free speech sits ill with a free market, AFR 27/9/01) tells us. After being criticized by Greg Lindsay (When black is very definitely not white, AFR 2/10/01), Quiggin provided references for his allegations. It is clear Quiggin has read part of one paragraph on page 105 of Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. He could try reading the other 410 pages.”

  8. What Sinclair said before when we were having that debate about Andrew Fraser over at Catallaxy before the Great Server Crash. Fraser’s ‘free speech rights’ were not violated when he had his classes cancelled and an attempt was made to get rid of him after his comments.A university is still ultimately a business, not a sheltered workshop. The fact that the tertiary education sector is partly subsidised is neither here nor there. As a business a university is entitled to fire/restrict employees which it thinks are acting against its corporate interests. Fraser is not entitled to a job for life to say what he wants if his employer, the university does not think this is consistent with its corporate interest.

    A similar situation occured in the Steven Schwartz case which Quiggin is referring to.

    So Quiggin’s folly is compounded
    1) by criticising Schwartz’s comments which are basically similar to mine above Quiggin is claiming that academics have special contractual rights to a job that the rest of us working stiffs don’t have.
    2) yet there was no trace of him acting on this false belief to defend Andrew Fraser.

  9. The bit about academic free speech probably had some exenuating circumstances I’m not aware of, so I was more surprised to see someone from a classical liberal think-tank wanting to restrict:
    (a) the ability of certain people to stand for public office – other than on the grounds of criminal behaviour, etc.
    (b) the right of anyone to vote, apart from certain classes of convicted criminals – presumably the reasoning for this being that we don’t want politicians chasing after the ‘convict’ vote.
    J.S. Mill had similar ideas about restricting franchise, but I thought this was old-school stuff and liberalism had developed to encompass universal franchise since then. Are there any other modern day advocates of this hard core variant in Australia?

  10. I haven’t read Kasper’s book either, so this could all be misinterpretation.

    Hayek was born in 1899 and democracy brought Hitler to power.

    Was he really democratically elected? According to Prof. Rummel, Hitler used ’emergency powers’ – similar to how Indira Gandhi used them in India I think – to dramatic effect. Such provisions, when including in the constitution, are an abuse of power waiting to happen.
    Thanks for the reference to Greg’s article Sinclair, I will look it up and hopefully be able to renew my faith in the CIS 🙂

  11. Democracy certainly allowed the Nazis to become the largest single party in the German Diet. That said, Hitler was a skillful backroom schemer and used the ’emergency powers’ in the Weimar constitution to gain absolute power. At no point did the Nazis enjoy a ‘50% + 1’ majority. The other parties combined could have defeated them in terms of numbers.

    In that sense, both Rummel and Hayek are correct, and Hayek’s franchise comments should be seen as part of strain of libertarian/liberal thought that has long since run out of legs. John Stuart Mill wanted to give Oxford and Cambridge graduates ‘double votes’.

    Hayek was also fond of tossing ideas out there to see what sort of response he’d get. He was unfailingly polite, and always willing to give ground when someone had a good argument.

  12. Sukrit – I emailed Greg’s piece to you. You should read chapter 7 of the Constitution of Liberty. There are many, many good things in that chapter. From the opening para

    ‘Liberalism … is concerned with limiting the coersive powers of all government, whether democratic or not, whereas the dogmatic democrat knows only one limit to government – current majority opinion.’

  13. There is a tendency within liberalism that wants to put greater controls on majority rule through constitutional devices. In Australia, this is much stronger among left-liberals than classical liberals, through their advocacy of bills of rights. But any suggestion that there is any significant support for restricting the franchise among classical liberals is nonsense.

  14. There is a tendency within liberalism that wants to put greater controls on majority rule through constitutional devices.

    One political device that leads to increased state legitimacy (and therefore legitimacy for its parliamentary laws) is compulsory voting and the (effective) two-party system. An Australian prime minister can absolutely claim an moral mandate for his legislative programme because we are all forced to vote, one way or the other. Even if we throw away our vote, we have still participated in the democratic process, lending it our unspoken support (under threat of force).

    Remove compulsory voting, and it will take more than a sausage sizzle to get Australians down the polling booth. Such a change would both satisify a classical liberal desire for freedom from state coercion and many of the individuals whom some not so democratic libertarians don’t trust, would self-select themselves out of the democratic process. For a libertarian of that ilk, they could conspire to hold elections on AFL Grand Final Day or some such.

  15. The LDP does not employ the standards of John Hunt the Coward to its promises. I’m pleased to advise we are still pretty idealistic.

    Will we deliver? If we get the balance of power, you betcha. Our share of the vote would go up enormously.

  16. If the LDP wins the balance of power then it gets the right to sit at the negotiating table. The LDP still has to negotiate. If voluntary voting is the LDPs price then the LDP is way too cheap.

    The slogan is clever in a jingle sort of way. However appealing to those that are uninterested in voting is hardly a winning strategy. I still think taxation should be centre stage. It is the one issue of freedom that has widespread appeal. Most people are not going to appreciate the significance of voluntary voting as a broader statement about freedom.

    My suggestion: “If you want wowsers, beauracrats and the tax man off your back then vote for the LDP”.

    Given that the LDP will not win power then a vote for the LDP should be a vote that sends a clear signal to the major parties. Sending a signal to the major parties that some Australians are tied of compulsory voting is not really earth shattering in my view.

  17. Sukrit: “Are there any other modern day advocates of this hard core variant in Australia?”

    Yeah. Me.

    Don’t get me wrong — democracy is nice and all. Better than the alternatives. Allows more peaceful transition of leadership and places downward pressure on corruption. But hardly something to write home about and I doubt any link between democracy and good policy.

    To paraphrase Churchill, democracy is the worst system around, except for every other one ever tried. The point: all government sucks.

    At one stage a majority would have supported slavery. When two wolves and a sheep vote on what to have for dinner you can’t expect a perfect outcome and I see no morality in it. In the western world, liberalism and good policy pre-dated democracy. Democracy is a nice outcome from prosperity, not the cause. A “luxury good” in economic talk.

    Like others have said, the standard liberal response to prevent democracy leading to socialism (as predicted by Schumpeter) is to advocate a constitutional liberty where the activities of the government is limited. I like that. A libertarian bill of rights, or compulsory sunset clauses on legislation, or a constitutional limit on the size of spending/GDP are options.

    But I don’t see why Hayek’s suggestions are all necessarily evil. I don’t like the “male property owners over 40” line. Sex should not be an issue, the voting age should be lower and property owning is no longer (if it was ever) a reliable signal for education and civic mindedness.

    But the idea that people who live from government money should be restricted from voting doesn’t offend me any more than restricting the democratic rights of criminals — a policy that Sukrit seems to accept without an ounce of righteous indignation. Aren’t criminals human too?

    Another idea sometimes used in the past is to require a minimum education (in Rhodesia it was grade 4) or to require prospective voters to pass a test. The test would be fairly simple (even open-book), but not doing the test is an indication that a voter really doesn’t give a shit.

  18. Democracy is just the tyranny of the majority. Democracy in Australia allows (amongst other things) people with no interest in shopkeeping to tell shopkeepers when they can and can not open their stores.

    It allows non-smokers to dictate to smokers whether or not they can smoke on their own property.

    And representative democracy is even worse, because it allows a minority as small as 3-5000 people to dictate things like Australia’s tariff and trade policy, and keeps agricultural subsidies kicking along.

    Democracy only works with a US-style constitution and bill of rights that ensures that the retarded majority can’t make laws that adversely affect others.

    Topics like Sunday trading should never be sent to referendum like they are here, being able to open your doors on a Sunday should be a constitutional right that comes with ownership.

  19. To paraphrase Churchill, democracy is the worst system around, except for every other one ever tried. The point: all government sucks.

    The other point is that there is not much of an alterative.
    Most people accept that democracy is the way to go. The question is what should be the checks on democracy, what should be the processes, what should be the limits. All power structures are flawed but some are less flawed than others.
    I do find it annoying however that people are reflexively defensive of democracy without reflecting on the different forms that democracy can take.

  20. My gut feeling is that criminals should be allowed to vote. But what is the reasoning behind those serving 2 or more years (not sure of the exact number) being denied voting rights?

    Yes, democracy is imperfect. A constitutional bill of rights with a maximum of five negative rights, with others outlined in statutory form, sounds good. Terje’s suggestion about laws having an automatic sunset clause is worth considering for the constitutional reform. But first, if you want competitive federalism, something needs to be done about s.96 and s.109.

  21. Section 44 of the Federal Constitution:

    “44. Any person who –

    (i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power: or

    (ii.) Is attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer: or

    (iii.) Is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent: or

    (iv.) Holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: or

    (v.) Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons:

    shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
    … “

  22. I agree with Sam. We need decentralisation of legislative authority, but also secure property rights.

    Removing the right to regulate trade and commerce, as well as citizen initiated referenda for each jurisdiction that can only have the same ambit as constitutionally valid Parliamentary legislation should do this.

  23. Jason, I’m disappointed that you’d cliam I ignored the Fraster case without checking. In fact I commented here, arging that while Fraser’w writng was trash, he shouldn’t have been censored. Google ought to have found this for you pretty easily.

  24. In fact, rereading my comments thread, Jason, I see that you commented on my post yourself. This is pretty poor stuff from you.

  25. What the hell is the business about ‘MALE’. I’ve read quite a bit of Hayek and recall reading his idea for an upper chamber of elders, but I don’t recall the bit about males.

    I confess I’m shocked by that. What on earth is going on? I’ve read most of the 28 comments and no-one I’ve seen has even commented on it.

  26. Okay, as Catallaxy’s lone feminist, I’ll bite.

    Switzerland didn’t give women the franchise until 1971 – the year before I was born, so I always remember it.

    It’s long been my view that the most significant difference between western civilization now and western civilization, say, 500 years ago, was the status of women. Not technology. Not free markets. Not modern warfare. Europe 500 years ago made Iran’s current treatment of women look exemplary. The idea isn’t new – even the totalitarian Plato recognised that Athens was ‘half a state’, and that one of the reasons Sparta handed their arses to them was the better exploitation of their available human resources. It’s also why fundamentalist Islam is doomed.

    That said, the remarkable speed with which thinkers like Friedman and Mill, say, managed to catch on to the idea of gender equality is notable. Hayek, for all his great gifts, was operating out of a European tradition where women’s rights lagged behind those in the US and the UK, and for that reason I forgive him this lapse.

    Similarly, too, Hayek was a keen social observer, and I’ve long maintained that just as men stand to learn much from women – the traditionally ‘feminine’ characteristics of cooperation and empathy – women have just as much to learn from men – the traditionally ‘masculine’ traits of individuality and courage.

    I’ve long been of the view that when women ‘pile on’, it’s just as nasty, and it’s made worse because the rules are less clear. One of the reasons for my libertarianism is my tendency to be individualistic to the point of eccentricity. I’ve learned that this requires courage, sometimes even recklessness.

    This is not something traditionally rewarded in women.

  27. Regarding our lack of reaction on the ‘male only’ issue, I’m amazed that Nick missed my comment. The relevant part would be:

    I don’t like the “male property owners over 40″ line. Sex should not be an issue

  28. The alternative view is that women’s suffrage led to the welfare/nanny state. The industrial revolution and the golden age of capitalism occurred beforehand, and since women’s suffrage of the turn of the 20th century we have seen prohibition of most mind-altering drugs and alcohol, increasing taxing and spending all around the world, socialism and communism.

    “The Christian Women’s Temperance League” and “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” were the driving forces behind prohibition and now one of the biggest supporters of the “war on drugs” in the US.

    And many more would argue that it wasn’t any form of government sanction that freed women from the stove and the home, but the reality of WWII which saw women, for the first time, working in all industries due mainly to the shortage of men. In that sense it was the free market in the guise of Rosie the Riveter that was the main driver of women’s liberation (rather than suffrage).

    And fundamentalist Islam is doomed not because of its treatment of women, but because it has chosen to go to war against the world’s superpowers.

    If they hadn’t have flown planes into the World Trade Centre, fundamentalist Islam could have gone along quite happily oppressing women until the oil ran out.

  29. Cross posted from the Catallaxy thread:

    Count on Nick to take a holier than thou attitude. I suspect most people didn’t actually notice the ‘male’ bit. I’d skim read the entry and only noticed and addressed the ‘property owners’ bit because that was the main thing it had in common with the Kasper quote. I think because I had started the debate on the ‘property franchise’ issue most other people just read that from thereon and argued that point

  30. And fair call, John, I should have said something.

    And yair, Yobbo, I suppose they’re getting into female suicide bombers now… You’re right – up to a point – about attacking western powers. But now they’ve attacked the western powers, they’ll pay still more for not making use of their available resources.

  31. I don’t really see how, SL. Even if every single muslim in the world – male and female – was fighting in one united army, the US, China, or Even France could take the whole lot of them out in less than a week.

    They are paying now for not joining the industrial revolution when they had a chance 1-200 years ago. Whether or not they have female politicians or taxi drivers is pretty irrelevant.

  32. Jason, you still haven’t corrected your earlier claims, which I find disappointing. And you haven’t offered an argument in support of restrictions on academic freedom, only the observation that this is a particular condition for academics rather than a universal one for all employees (I should say that I favor some protections of employees in general, but I’ll leave that for later).

    Coming back to the freedom of academics to comment on matters of public interest, this is something that has served society and universities well for a long time. Some low-grade private universities don’t offer this freedom and that’s a bad thing for them, but not a matter of public policy. However, suppression of academic freedom by vice-chancellors and administrators who are ultimately appointed and paid by the public is a matter of public policy.

    Anticipating that most here will favour privatisation of universities, let me suggest that, if such a policy is adopted, it should be done with constitutional protections of academic freedom, to ensure that the privatised institutions are more like Harvard and Yale than like Bob Jones, at least in this respect.

  33. JQ,

    I agree that if Universities were privatised it would be best to find a model other than a company structure in the traditional corporate sence. I think it would be great if there was more discourse on the different vehicles for privatisation in general.


  34. Nick, you still haven’t noticed my comment? I think that most people took it as given that women should have the vote and so didn’t bother defending the idea.

    The more interesting points were perhaps (1) the context in which Hayek made the remarks; and (2) some of the other limitations such as welfare-recipients and public servants.

  35. Yes what John said.
    As I explained in my comment above, most people just took up where the debate had gone and didn’t bother reading the quotes in full, so the ‘male’ bit had simply evaded notice.

    You are such a sanctimonous prig, Nick, assuming you’re more moral than everyone else. This is what I mean by ‘holier than thou’. Perhaps you would have been comfortable in the Red Guards making and extracting public confessions?

  36. Pingback: John Quiggin » Friedman, Hayek and the epigones

  37. John, I thought I did say that I missed your comment mentioning Hayek. I actually remember typing it into the relevant window, but somehow it didn’t end up finding it’s way onto the page. Sorry anyway.

  38. Pingback: Club Troppo » Collateral damage in the war of ideas

  39. Pingback: Club Troppo » Hayek’s Utopia

Comments are closed.