Why Democracy?

A guest post by Shem Bennett, of the LDP.

A lot of people seem to have some naïve views about democracy that I would like to dispel. It’s actually not that uncommon- I’ve had people in the past question the LDP’s name saying, “liberty, that’s all well and good, but why democracy? Isn’t that just mob rule and contradictory to freedom?” Well, yes and no, depending on how one views democracy. Taken in isolation democracy can be seen as to put it bluntly “two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner”** but the reality of democracy, particular the tradition of liberal democracy seen in Western nation states is far removed from such a crude analogy. So I’d like to take some time to highlight why democracy is not just a “necessary evil” but rather a good that we should strive for.

Firstly I’d like to say that I am a utilitarian- that is I believe that the most moral option is the one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number. Usually, this means that government should let individuals live their lives without interference- because individuals know what is best for them. To put it simply if Tom likes playing football, Dick likes playing Soccer and Harry likes playing Xbox the government can either force them all to do a single activity (in which case 2 are unhappy) or it can allow each of them to do what they like themselves (allowing all 3 to be happy).

Secondly I would like to say that there are occasions where government intervention provides a more utilitarian outcome. If Jack is starving to death in the gutter because he cannot afford to eat and Jill is a multimillionaire, then if the government takes some of Jill’s money (say 1%) to feed Jack it will upset her a little, but the positive it will bring to Jack’s life by allowing him to live offsets that.

Hence from my perspective government should allow people to live their own lives without much interference while still providing a minimal set of services that are necessary for a civilised society. Some radical anarchists would disagree on this point, but I’m sure most Australians would agree that SOME government is necessary and a good thing.

Now with this framework set up I’d like to highlight why a democracy, in a particular a liberal democracy constrained by the constitution and the rule of law and with a universe franchise, is the superior form of government not only on utilitarian grounds, but also liberal grounds.

The first point I’d like to make is regarding accountability. The government is an exclusive institution, it is the only entity in society that is able to make legitimate use of coercive force. If you don’t pay taxes the government can threaten to throw you in jail. If you kill someone, you’ll spend time behind bars guarded by men with guns (or in some countries be executed). The government’s use of coercion and violence is necessary to protect the rule of law and ensure criminals are brought to justice. That said without a democratic system this power becomes open to abuse. Without democracy what ability would Australians have to remove a corrupt government from power? Democracy is said to be the tyranny of the majority- but without democracy you have a tyranny of a minority ruling elite much as happens in dictatorships, feudal societies and one-party states. Democracy is the means by which a government not acting in the interests of the people is able to be ejected making it imperative that a government wishing to stay in power does act in the interests of its citizens.

Second, what functions should a government perform. I believe it is quite arbitrary and based on individual values. It is almost impossible to prove that the government is the best or easiest way to solve environmental problems, for example. Some would argue that only an entity as big and powerful as government can solve climate change, while others would argue that the free market and individuals are able to solve it. Neither side can really prove their case and both are relying on moral judgements to assert their points of view. When there’s a difference of opinion like this on the limits of government power the most peaceful way to resolve the debate is through democratic process.

Now there is a slippery slope argument- over time as government controls more and more of our lives more and more government control can be seen as legitimate, but that is why the LDP and other groups form- in response to what we see as illegitimate government intervention. We hope to shift the debate and to highlight areas where people should reconsider government involvement because often government isn’t the most utilitarian way to do things. The constant tension between government control and individual freedom is essential an argument about values and the line will constantly shift from one side to the other. The good news for proponents of freedom is that the evidence is on our side.

Next I’d like to talk about democracy as a means for consensus building. In Australia, I’ll admit often democracy drops to the lowest common denominator- pandering to marginal electorates, campaigns targeted at “working families” that ignore other groups in society, preference deals, party discipline- the entire thing can look more like a complicated numbers game than a way of representing the interests of Australia as a whole. But democracy at least should be about representing the interests of Australia as a nation, even if at times it doesn’t live up to this standard. To refer to our earlier example of the two wolves and a sheep, but now extend it out to include two wolves, a sheep, a cow and a pig. If they were to vote on what’s for dinner one of a couple of things could happen:

  • Firstly the sheep, pig and cow might vote to eat grass, slop and hay respectively. Of course each of their votes would only count for 1 while the 2 wolves, voting together to eat the sheep outvote the divided herbivores. That’s an example of a first past the post system of voting.
  • Secondly the sheep, pig and cow might vote together as a herbivore bloc. Together they vote in favour of sheep being able to eat grass, pigs being able to eat slop and cows being able to eat hay. But they all vote against wolves being allowed to eat anything so the wolves die. This is often the sad situation we see in Australia with preferential voting, it’s also seen in countries with proportional voting.
  • There is a third option however, the sheep, pig, cow and wolves might sit down and discuss what they’d each like for dinner. After much negotiation they might decide that the cow will provide milk for the wolves every day, the wolves can take a bite out of the pig and sheep’s hindquarters once a month (so they have long enough to heal) and the wolves in return will bring grass, slop and hay to the other animals. This is an example of consensus building where a mutually favourable outcome is reached, even where it’s not the first preference of each individual. It is a model of democracy that is seen occasionally in western systems and in my mind is the one that we should strive towards.

I feel the Democrats in particular, are one political party that understood this vision of democracy. Take the GST- they were opposed to it. However the majority elected coalition supported it and it was down to the Democrats to decide if it was passed. Now they could have blocked it but instead they decided to forge a mutually agreeable outcome, building a GST model where the key concerns of those opposed to the GST were met. Now a lot of us still didn’t like the final GST package as was introduced but the amendment to the legislation still made it preferable to the original proposal. By taking this attitude of amendment of legislation a mutually agreeable solution can (hopefully) be found- one that takes into account majority opinion, while still preserving the rights of minorities and those opposed to a particular plan.

Finally I would like to speak of the future for the democracy. I feel that with the rise of the technological age democracy has the potential to become less of a representative democracy and more of a participatory democracy where citizens don’t just vote for a party once every 3 years on current issues, but where citizens remain actively engaged in the policy development cycle throughout a government’s entire term. Last federal election one party actively campaigned on such a platform- Senator Online- now they weren’t successful, but their premise- that individuals in Australia should have a greater ability to influence public debate- is a noble one and one that I hope the major parties take up in the years to come. Even within representative democracies there are systems, in particular electoral and voting systems, which give individuals more of a say- first past the post systems ensure that only a plurality of voices are heard (which at times can be far less than 50%) and while the preferential lower house and proportional upper house are strong systems within Australia there is further reform that could see even better democratic outcomes (though I won’t get into that now).

So for me, I am a member of the Liberty and Democracy Party not just because I hold liberty as a virtue, but also because I hold democracy as a virtue. A lot of members in the party focus on the liberty aspect and indeed that is a worthwhile goal, but democracy is just as crucial. Democracy is the tool through which liberal reform can come about. Democracy, in the LDP, should not just be a casual afterthought or a lesser of evils. Democracy, especially participatory democracy and democracy as a way of achieving consensus is something that the LDP should be responsible for actively championing and promoting.

cross posted at the LDP.

**“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1759

35 thoughts on “Why Democracy?

  1. Not everyone would accept that democracy is a tool to achieve liberty.

    It can equally be a tool to reduce liberty. What do you think the entire environmental movement is based on ?

    The hard libertarians and anarcho-capitalists think that maximising liberty doesn’t need elections at all. Democracy is secondary to liberty. If we have a liberal society with low taxes and freedom, people wouldn’t care which gang of caretakers are in power for 3 years.

  2. Within linits, we should have democracy. The public Authorities should be limited to Public Properties, such as roads, parks, borders, etc. Private Property should be sacrosanct. Public property, belonging to all, should be controlled by all. This Co-Monarchist believes in Private Monarchies, and Public Democracies.

  3. Jono- how do you recommend we protect our communal rights if not by democratically elected law makers?

    While a state exists democracy is the most liberal tool to maintain that state and the only system where power is legitimate and the state is made accountable. And a state must exist to uphold the rule of law- unless you live in a lala fairy land anarchy where everyone is well intentioned.

    Democracy, as mentioned is the post, requires a well informed public, liberally minded politicians and public servants, as well as a strong constitution.

    If you think the environmental is effective at reducing liberty in a democracy imagine what would happen if they successfully lobbied a monarch with full executive powers.

  4. I’m not advocating a monarchy over a democracy. But if we have a free society, then I really don’t care whether its King Charles or Emperor Rudd who are the monarch so long as they uphold the constitution and constrain the size of government.

    I’m not going to start debating about the rule of law, other than to say its definitely a legitimate role of the state. But its not la-la land to suggest that security, conflicts and mediation and the courts could be run by private enterprises. Go read some David Friedman, he’d explain it better than I could.

  5. I’ll take a stab at defending Anarchy (more closely, Anarcho-capitalism), because it seems to be taking a bad rap from statists of all degrees with the perception it is only a utopian ideal or ignorant et cetera.

    My property is my effort. Indeed it is the ultimate expression of my effort; a mark of my existence. When does my effort become that of the state? What becomes of my effort when I have no definable right, but what others feel is just by the collective?

    Consensus, or middle ground is the result of a group having their property taken by tax and getting it back in altered portions. How often is the outcome equal? And if it was equal, why contribute to the great bureaucracy of government in the first place?

    I would say that democracy is a great disbeliever of morality within humans (perhaps second to religion). We are innately bad…

    Joe down the road needs a hand up, so we need to coerce our terrible nation through tax to give him that hand. We can’t be charitable? We can’t be trusted to help that man?

    How much do we pour out of our pockets every day to help find a cure for cancer? Is that through the wisdom of democracy? Or is it through the wisdom and morality of the individual willing to pass on his effort (albeit for altruistic gratification)?

    I am growing more discontent with the LDP simply for its tiptoeing around rights. Social rights are clear in the party…that is it. The consensus drawing on everything else is pitiful. To be honest it was the main motivator for finding another party outside of Labor and Liberal.

    Participation in a democracy with clear property rights before the law is the only form of government that will hold any ounce of morality, and one that liberty and freedom enshrines.

    I do believe in the rule of law, and I do believe in fundamental rights. Rights that cannot, under any circumstances, be contradicted. You either hold title over your efforts, or you don’t. There is no middle road.

    I’ll give two quotes –

    “The law perverted! The law – and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation. The law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law becomes the tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very inequity which it was its mission to punish!” Frederic Bastiat’s The Law.

    “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Thomas Jefferson.

  6. Rob – the LDP contains many anarcho-capitalists. But the party objective is not to be the perfect libertarian movement, just to be more so then any of the rest. And to be at some stage, in some small way, electable. And as the rest of the parties fall over themselves to promote big government, we don’t even have to do much to be left with the libertarian teritiory all to ourselves….

    Not that this is the LDP blog (maybe that should be an automatic footer on every post?) but, given that we’re trying to appeal to not just the hard core committed libertarians, but everyone who is starting to realise the government is interfering in their lives too much, how should we go about defending property rights more?

    Just personally, I think it’s already almost an impossible dream to hold the state down to what it currently is, let alone start carving it back. We’re going to get more bloated government and more tax for at least the next 25 years. Just watch the Libs rally round in defence of middle class welfare. And our state govs abolishing property rights.

    The LDP may not be able to save liberty, but no-one else is even going to try.

  7. I am a bit puzzled why you would quote Basistat or Jefferson as a capstone element to your argument for the predominance of anrcho-capitalism over all other philosophies.

    “The consensus drawing on everything else is pitiful.”

    I don’t think so. Unilateral free trade and capital flows. Free labour markets. Recent discussion at the national conference to go beyond the 30/30 reform for tax.

    I share fairly ardent libertarian preferences, but you need to be optimistic about the party.

  8. Jono

    The hard libertarians and anarcho-capitalists think that maximising liberty doesn’t need elections at all.

    so how would you preserve those freedoms? what would replace democracy?

  9. Mark, I took a stab at defending it. I am a believer in the rule of law. Perhaps, “optional” government. If you don’t participate, if you don’t interfere, why be apart of it? And if you are a part of it, why not tax you for using those services only (ie. vehicle registration for roads)? Your rights to your own property would not be violated because you agree to surrender your money as tax to be involved with society.

    I certainly support decentralisation, and would much prefer legislation on that level. For one, it is more representative, and the competition created between local councils to outperform those around them would be high. As was posted a little while ago about tax competition, I would see the same in this field.

  10. If we have a liberal society with low taxes and freedom, people wouldn’t care which gang of caretakers are in power for 3 years.

    Jono is right, if the state is not affecting you it doesn’t matter who is in charge as long as they are not moving to affect you more.

    In a free society it is likely that the only time the majority would bother to vote would be if a party which seemed credible and wanted to increase state powers appeared to be likely to get in, and thus represented a threat.

    If Australia had a history of true liberty, the sort that Jono envisages and suddenly Howard and Rudd appeared and announced the policies they went to the last election on, the only people not rolling around on the ground laughing would be the ones reaching for their guns.

    Democracy in its current form is very much like the Douglas Adams model: –

    “Do they like the lizards?”

    “Oh no they hate them”

    “Well why do they vote for them?”

    “Well they wouldn’t want the wrong lizard to get in”

  11. Jim and Jono, which system do you think is more likely to move to increase its power? A monarchy where there are no restraints on power or a representative democracy where individuals get to have a say?

    Not to mention a democracy is the only one where power is legitimate. Governments have power because citizens agree to cede a portion of their power to the government. There is a social contract in democracies that we agree to by participating in democratic processes, this social contract does not exist in dictatorships or monarchies.

    What it comes down to is that any population favouring liberty is better than one that doesn’t, but if you have a population that doesn’t favour liberty there’s really nothing you can do but promote liberty yourself and hope that your democracy is representative enough that it listens to all views instead of just trying to eliminate them.

    In a perfect world anarchy would be fine, because people would respect the rights that you believe in Rob. But it’s not a perfect world so those with resources would become dictators over those without resources and exploit them and ignore their rights. Just like communism- anarchism requires people to be well intentioned and have the same world views to work. A liberal democracy works even if people have different opinions, different priorities and if people are flawed and selfish.

    That’s why I’m a supporter of liberal democracy rather than an extreme follower of ideology. I believe most people care more about themselves and their own self interest than they care about the rights of others and a liberal democracy is the best institution that can realistically exist to protect those rights while still allowing people to pursue their self-interest.

    So the LDP is a party of liberal democracy, not of anarchism. Our policies are liberal democratic policies. You’ll find that your rights are increased more by being part of a liberal democracy than a social democracy, but if you want to promote anarchism you’d better get your gun ready because the only way to further that cause if revolution. And personally I’d rather reform.

  12. Shem, I think individual rights are of primary importance in an ideal government system. These can then restrain the powers of government. Democracy usually does the opposite.

    I have no problem with using a democratic approach where no other approach is possible eg/ political elections. However that’s where democracy should stop.

    The original US government system, arguably the most free and sucessful in the history of the world, was actually defined as being a republic.

    I don’t see why “consensus building” is a value. It’s unscientific for starters and should be irrelevant if powers of government are restricted as they properly should be.

    In developing countries it’s much more important to establish property rights and the like rather than establishing a democracy. Just look what Iraq did with their democracy. They elected Islamofacists.

    Democracy is mob rule if its powers are unrestrained (as in all democracies around the world).

    Democracy has given us the Nazis in Germany, has given us Communism in Russia. There’s no two ways about it – democractic powers should be severely limited to matters where there are no other options.

    Idealising democracy is highly dangerous George Bush-type crap IMO.

  13. What Tim Said!
    Also, beware the word ‘Republic’. The latin root means ‘Thing Public’, as in public properties- which are obviously flexible terms. The French, after murdering the Royals and Nobles, called their system a Republic. The english equivalent is ‘commonwealth’, which is also worryingly flexible.

  14. Idealising democracy is highly dangerous George Bush-type crap IMO.

    What Dubya promotes isn’t democracy. He uses the word, but that’s like saying Australia is libertarian.

    In developing countries it’s much more important to establish property rights and the like rather than establishing a democracy. Just look what Iraq did with their democracy. They elected Islamofacists.

    Come on… Bring on a Pinochet or China reference… I agree that democracy should emerge out of a liberal state rather than a liberal state emerging out of democracy. I’ve never said democracy is a higher value than liberalism, rather that democracy is ALSO important.

    I would not trust a liberal dictatorship one ounce. Liberal democracy should ALWAYS be the goal.

    There are two main types of democracy, headed in two directions- Liberal democracies and Social democracies. One believes only in negative rights, the other also believes in positive rights. In reality most people believe in some negative rights and some positive rights. Democracy is the process of working out which negative rights and which positive rights should be granted to people.

    Now some would disagree. Randite natural rights kooks believe there is some objective standard (God?) humans can look to as the source of their rights. I believe rights are nothing more than evolutionarily conditioned consensus driven decisions made by participants in a society. They are totally subjective. I support most negative rights and a few positive rights personally, a position the LDP as a party shares. Some in the party might believe in more or less positive rights.

    But democracy is the only legitimate way of determining which rights are protected by law. Everyone should be involved in the process of determining which rights are given and which are not. Ideally I support more negative rights and less positive rights but unless I intend to impose my world view onto others I have no right to make this decision. Each person has their own sense of morals and their own sense of rights. Democracy determines what “rights” are right.

  15. Shem, there is a flaw in the above argument. If rights are a product of evolution, then they have survived in the objective world, and can’t be wholly subjective.
    Sorry to have destroyed your whole world like that. I hope you recover soon!

  16. Shem, you obviously seem to view monarchs and dictators only in the traditional sense and have not considered the concept of enlightened absolutism, under which a despot is sufficiently enlightened to realize that real liberty among the people will advance the prosperity and hence the power of the domain.

    In such a system the fact that the monarch or dictator have a minimal impact on the lives of the people means that there would be little support for any attempt to overthrow the system. The fact would be that any attempt to do so would in effect be a threat, as there would be no point in doing so other than to reduce liberty.

    I am not criticizing your idea that democracy generally tends to be the best medium for freedom, however even with constitutional restraints we tend to find ourselves on the slippery slope. I would submit to you that an enlightened despot, or a constitutional dictator would probably not see a need to place restrictions on the people other than to prevent elections.

    If the power is centered in the hands of one person then there are likely to be fewer silly ideas enacted, than in a parliament run by the majority of 300 people. A benevolent despot does not need to populist, therefore is less likely to introduce silly rules,

    If you think that democracy is a path to freedom, try arguing with our opposition, the Natlibor Party and you will find yourself hearing (its meant to be a criticism) “If you were running things people could do whatever they like.”

    TimR is correct in his statement on “consensus building” The Hawke government proved this. Under this system the government and opposition would get together and form a consensus on what position they would like us in. They would then go to a bipartisan vote.

    The result was usually that instead of getting screwed by the government, we got gang banged by the whole parliament.

  17. Define objective and subjective.

    I don’t believe in objectivity at all 😉

    The sky is only blue due to a consensus among humans that we all see the same colour. Some shades of aqua are quite debatable between different people (is it a type of blue, a type of green or its own colour?). Some rights are almost universally agreed on- the right to not be killed, for example; other rights- like the right to do drugs- is much more debatable.

  18. Shem, you obviously seem to view monarchs and dictators only in the traditional sense and have not considered the concept of enlightened absolutism, under which a despot is sufficiently enlightened to realize that real liberty among the people will advance the prosperity and hence the power of the domain.

    Examples?

    I can understand it on a theoretical level, but in reality there is no such thing. Most interested in seizing power are interested in abusing it when it suits them.

    If I was optimistic enough to believe that an enlightened despot could exist I’d also be optimistic enough to believe that communism could actually work because there would be no free riders and everyone would be selfless and could follow “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

    But people abuse power when it benefits them, people aren’t generous enough to give in a utilitarian fashion. So neither anarchism or communism will work.

  19. TimR is correct in his statement on “consensus building” The Hawke government proved this. Under this system the government and opposition would get together and form a consensus on what position they would like us in. They would then go to a bipartisan vote.

    The result was usually that instead of getting screwed by the government, we got gang banged by the whole parliament.

    I already gave the Democrats as an example of the type of consensus building I see as valid.

    You are right that 300 politicians ruling over 20 million people is illegitimate. Especially if they never listen to the 20 million. But 300 members of a Royal Family that doesn’t rely on the 20 million to keep their power is even less legitimate. Politicians are at least accountable once every 3 years- that is more than a monarch.

  20. You state: “Democracy is the only legitimate way of determining which rights are protected by law”.

    I strongly disagree. And incidentally I object to being called a “kook”. I should also add that Objectivism does not regard value as intrinsic, nor subjective. This is a false dichotomy and a misrepresentation of objectivism.

    When you say ethics are totally subjective, then you cannot use reason and logic in determining proper ethics. This only leaves one other option – the use of force (albeit mob based force), which itself cannot be ethically condemned on rational grounds and therefore will most likely continually increase excatly as we have seen throughout the democratic 20th century.

    You say “I believe” rights are derived by consensus.
    This is exactly my point and it’s the political equivalent of religion. You have no other option but to obey those who claim to represent the “masses” – and there is no such thing as a mass consensus anyway, only a majority consensus.

    At least you haven’t tried to use objective reason and logic to explain why ethics is totally subjective. However this is ultimately what you will have to do if the discussion continues. So far all you’ve said is “you believe”.
    So how do you then determine your statment:
    “I (you) have no right to impose my world view onto others”.

    I don’t know how you determine this, but this statement contradicts your proposal anyway because a group is in reality made of individuals: If individuals cannot impose on others. Then why does a group have the right to impose their world view onto others? This is mob rule at best. Why is it different to the mafia? Is the mafia actually wrong – they have been quite popular in Sicily during certain times.

    Ethics should never be based on popular opinion.
    But you want more than this: You want politics ie: police forces, armies, and ultimately gun backed legislation based on popular opinion!

    I think it’s totally appropriate to use the Nazis and Communist Russia as examples of the logical conclusions of your proposal.
    Here is some more current day empirical evidence:
    Islamic women shouldn’t be forced to cover up in public, or get exectuted for adultery just because a majority thinks it’s right.

    Your proposal is a slap in the face to the original developments of legal science in the western world.

    Democracy doesn’t determine “what rights are right”. In the best case scenario it determines popular opinion – something that can be left to private companies running surveys – without the power of force.

    Hoping that popularity will limit government is a pipe dream – Look around and show me a democracy in the world with low levels of government power.
    But the most important reason popularity based rights are ultimately doomed is because popularity based decisions by their very nature obsolete any need for rational and logical approach, leaving people at the mercy of authorities claiming to represent a non-entity, the collective.

    You finish by saying “each person has their own sense of rights”. This leaves two options: 1) Ethics are inbuilt to each human. This implies no one is responsible for their actions, humans do not have volition and this is actually IMO an argument for a totalitarian society. 2) They are determined by culture. This presupposes the question what determines ethical culture? In a culture that doesn’t believe ethics actually exist, that they are merely subjective whims, the only conclusion can be authority and force.

  21. You may not believe in objectivity, but it believes in you! Or you wouldn’t be here!
    Objective- outside the self, real.
    Subjective, inside the self, unable to show to other people, personal.
    As for Democracy, I believe in buying and selling, and owners of land being free to use their lands. If the public owns those lands, like roads and parks, called ‘Public’, then the owners can democratically decide for that land, just like shareholders, what will occur on it, being joint owners.

  22. If you don’t believe in Objectivity at all, then how do you know other people are real? If you can’t prove they are real, then why have a consensus? They might just be figments of your imagination, so the final outcome will be according To Your Will, Oh Lord God of ALL. Just declare your will/wish/whim, and have them all agree.
    A question- if the world is shaped by your desires, how did it get so complex? Why wouldn’t it stay at a baby’s level of consciousness, with no surprises around any corners, and nothing nasty? If it is because other people were already here, shaping the world to their desires, then they exist independently of you- the world is objective! If the world is subject to humans as a group, then it would be a flat world, since most of humanity has believed this for ages, and the consensus would always be that it was flat, regardless of any contrary evidence. So why is the world now round?

  23. “That’s why I’m a supporter of liberal democracy rather than an extreme follower of ideology.”

    Extreme? Why load your sentence with this word when we are all ardently promoting ideologies.

    Same goes for kooks, and living in lala land…

    “Just like communism- anarchism requires people to be well intentioned and have the same world views to work.”

    I wouldn’t say anarchists are well intentioned at all. They are self centric – ie. Leave me alone cause I couldn’t give a stuff what you think, or do if it doesn’t impact on me negatively. And I would believe that statists of varying degrees (democratic or not) have “good intentions” as their motivator. Good intentions are a shroud for coercing or forcing others. As you said, you are a utilitarian.

    “I already gave the Democrats as an example of the type of consensus building I see as valid.”

    Their molesting of the GST wasn’t a good thing.

    Now we have the wonderful Green party here to provide sufficient consensus building?

    Your idea of “consensus building” is not based on reason or scientific fact. I take most things on scientific value, not your glorification of ideals. What poor judgment…This is precisely why Labor and socialists get things wrong so often. They look at things in a collectively selfish nature, without analysing carefully and rationally, the facts at hand, or human nature for that matter. Building a consensus, purely to meet the “needs” of everyone at a particular time is no way forward, or at all correct. Should you be a socialist because you live in Sweden and everybody else is? Should you be a sellout on your convictions?

    I’m glad Tim has defended the objectivists’ side.

  24. *Believe* in objectivity? Good idea because there are so many versions of “objectivity” out there that I wonder how we can know objectivity.

  25. The Liberals and the Democrats, Labor and the Democrats, Liberal and Labor getting together and forming a consensus are the same thing. One result that you approve of doesn’t justify it.

    I approve of the concept of constitutional democracy. I do not accept however that it is moral, although I accept that it is (within the constraints of our culture) probably the most acceptable of the available alternatives as they exist at the moment.

    Accept it Shem, there is no strictly moral form of government. As we tend to be utilitarian we generally accept the state but only from a utilitarian perspective, or through never questioning the concept. Sorry mate but if you want a moral basis you will have to be an anarchist. (I am not one)

    The only argument for government is collective protection of rights, however as soon as it assumes the role as the sole protector it loses that morality. The institution of government does not for example accept the idea of competition from a rival government and is therefore inherently monopolistic.

    I note your example if the government takes some of Jill’s money (say 1%) to feed Jack it will upset her a little, but the positive it will bring to Jack’s life by allowing him to live offsets that. does not allow for the possibility that Jill might voluntarily donate to charities that might feed Jack, or that Little Boy Blue fresh from releasing his no. 1 horn album might give Jack a job as a personal assistant which will feed, clothe, and put a roof over his head. Are you sure that you are not a closet statist.

    Does the fact that Jill and Boy Blue have invested in a tuffet factory that provides a living for 500 people count for nothing.

    OK monarchs and dictators tend to get a bad rep from the liberal press, but this is not an indictment of the institution of dictatorial power. Previous examples have not been good however this can change, the emergence of such people has in the past been based on the nature of tribal culture as seen in Africa and Europe. We are emerging from this.

    As a matter of interest I did not say that 300 politicians ruling over 20 million people is illegitimate but If the power is centered in the hands of one person then there are likely to be fewer silly ideas enacted, than in a parliament run by the majority of 300 people.

  26. I like the way the debate is headed, because it agrees with my preferences.

    I think the US system is better. The President governs and can get money and the legislation necessary for programmes though Congress. He/she /it can also check their stupidity.

  27. The Delegating Dictator,

    Why not a president whose principle role is to assign government decision to making to various commercial consultancy networks. Good for the dictator, if the decision is a bad one the relevant organisations cop the rap, if a good one he\she gets the cookies.

    At present we have a situation where govts rely on advisers who often lack experience in the commercial world and are captive to political interests. By outsourcing the making of major decisions such captivity is lessened and we get the advice of the best and brightest in the general community.

  28. Mark, I know that, but a subjectivist, or solipsist, would have a hard time accounting for that, since only one person’s desire is real, one’s own!

  29. I don’t think subjectivists have argued that the human condition doesn’t exist. Mises uses this as the basis of subjectivst economics.

  30. I am curious why we always assume democracy requires elections. There may be a good reason to have parties with visions of a better society contending for public support, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we used sortition for the House of Representatives? “Sortition” means the selection by random lottery, to create a legislative body that is a scientifically accurate reflection of societh as a whole. Many Western societies use a distorted form of sortition to select jurries, but since ancient Athens, sortition hasn’t been used for selecting policy makers. I served ten years as a member of the Vermont House of Representatives in the U.S, and often observed that a group randomly selected from the phone book would have been more representative, more serious, just as competent (and without as many ego-maniacs), and opening the door to genuine consensus-seeking (rather than always trying to make the other party look bad). Just a thought.

  31. Maybe rent seeking is too popular to let sortition become popular on its own?

    I like elections:

    1. US States directly elect Governors and other cabinet officials.

    2. We could have CIR for worthy constituional referenda – making Govenrment more checked.

    3. We have a strong, democratic republican referenda (even though effectively only the PM can nominate the issue).

    4. We could elect judges (I recommend approval voting for a panel of judges).

    5. CIR could be used to strike down bad laws amde by Parliament.

    6. Libertarianism isn’t well known and sortition would consolidate the status quo.

  32. “Second, what functions should a government perform. I believe it is quite arbitrary and based on individual values. It is almost impossible to prove that the government is the best or easiest way to solve environmental problems, for example. Some would argue that only an entity as big and powerful as government can solve climate change, while others would argue that the free market and individuals are able to solve it.”

    For fucksakes Shem. Why are you still lying about this?

    Does this mean you’ve finally tracked down the evidence. You jerk!!!

    Lets see that evidence then.

  33. “Secondly I would like to say that there are occasions where government intervention provides a more utilitarian outcome. If Jack is starving to death in the gutter because he cannot afford to eat and Jill is a multimillionaire, then if the government takes some of Jill’s money (say 1%) to feed Jack it will upset her a little, but the positive it will bring to Jack’s life by allowing him to live offsets that.”

    Why would Jack be starving in the first place? If property rights had been improving and the size of government had been reducing for the prior 50 years the idea that Jack wuld be starving is pretty implausible.

    Franklin had it right and there was no crudeness about it. The implication being that the main problem we have if we want a democracy, is finding how we go about bringing the level of stealing down.

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