“Democracy” Thrives in Darkness — And Liberty Withers

The title of this post alludes to a slogan adopted by The Washington Post (WaPo) in February 2017 to mark the paper’s membership in the anti-Trump chorus of “news” outlets. The idea, of course, is that Trump is the new Hitler and WaPo and its brethren will keep us out of the gas chambers by […]

Democracy in Austin

Proposition 1 was on the ballot in a special election held yesterday in Austin. The adoption of Prop 1 would have left background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers in the hands of the companies. But it was hard to tell what Prop 1 meant because of the contorted language concocted by the anti-Uber/Lyft majority […]

How Democracy Works

A minority of eligible voters elects representatives. Those representatives — often by bare majorities — empower bureaucrats who effectively write laws and impose penalties for the violation of same. Bureaucrats are barely constrained by statutory law, and the Constitution is nothing but a word to them. Bureaucrats aren’t accountable to voters, nor do they care […]

Democracy, Human Nature, and America’s Future

Like many (most?) persons of a libertarian stripe, I see democracy as an enemy of liberty. Democracy is popularly thought of as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. There are two things […]

About Democracy

I want to be clear about this: Yesterday’s post was a criticism of the left’s hypocrisy and authoritarianism (and viciousness). It was not a defense of democracy. I have written many times about the insidious effect of democracy on liberty. This is may be my best effort (from part VI of my series on practical […]

Democracy and Liberty

In an update to yesterday’s post, “A Prediction,” I quote Arnold Kling, who quotes Peter Thiel, who says (among other things) that he “no longer believe[s] that democracy and freedom are compatible.” I have said, for years, that democracy is an enemy of liberty. You could read the ten posts to that effect at my […]

The Ruinous Despotism of Democracy

Not long ago, in “‘Liberalism,’ as Seen by Liberals,” I quoted from a review in The Washington Post of Paul Starr’s Freedom’s Power: The True Force of Liberalism. Here is an especially telling paragraph from the review: By opening up power to progressively broader participation, liberal constitutions have subjected government to scrutiny, criticism and even […]

Democracy and the Irrational Voter

It is well understood that voters, by and large, vote irrationally: emotionally, on the basis of “buzz” instead of facts, and inconsistently. (See this, this, and this, for example.) Voters are prone to vote against their own long-run interests because they do not understand the consequences of the sound-bite policies advocated by politicians (nor do […]

If Liberty Depends on Democracy, We’re Doomed to Slavery

Seven dwarfs more famous than US judges: poll NEW YORK (Reuters) – Three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Show White’s seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices, according to a poll on pop culture released on Monday. Democracy is “Government by the people, exercised either directly or […]

Democracy vs. Liberty, Again

Arnold Kling adds a dimension to the critique of democracy: I think that [Bryan] Caplan gives too much credit to well-educated citizens. While educated Americans might score somewhat better on measures of knowledge of economics, educated Americans are still far from trustworthy as policy formulators. Our most highly educated citizens, ensconced in the academy, are […]

Conservatism, Libertarianism, Socialism, and Democracy

Libertarians have much company in the struggle against socialism. From Ten Books That Shaped America’s Conservative Renaissance: George H. Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 is the authoritative study on conservatism’s intellectual renaissance. In it, Nash outlines an American conservative movement that was forged, at times uneasily, from three intellectual groups: libertarians, […]

Democracy and Great Art

I have written much about democracy’s insidious effect on liberty. For example, in Part V of “Practical Libertarianism for Americans” I said: [P]ublic opinion, elite opinion, and the media have combined to undo the great work of the Framers, whose Constitution prevented tyranny by the majority. Unchecked democracy has become the enemy of liberty and, […]

Yet Another Look at Democracy

James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds is a flawed masterpiece. Surowiecki seems to understand how unregulated markets make people better off, but in the end he succumbs to the notion that we can regulate our way to “the common good” through democracy. Surowiecki nevertheless gets it right when he says this: [A] group of people…is […]

Liberty, Democracy, and Voting Rights

I wrote recently that we have come to [the regulatory-welfare] state because public opinion, elite opinion, and the media have combined to undo the great work of the Framers, whose Constitution prevented tyranny by the majority. Unchecked democracy has become the enemy of liberty and, therefore, of material progress. As Michael Munger says, “The real […]

James Burnham’s Misplaced Optimism

James Burnham’s Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism was published in 1964. Had I read Burnham’s book then I would have agreed with his description of “liberalism”, as it was at the time, for I was one of the breed. I would not have agreed with Burnham’s prognosis […]

An Ideal World

Roger Scruton, in Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition, makes this observation: Many accuse conservatism of being no more than a highly wrought work of mourning, a translation into the language of politics of the yearning for childhood that lies deep in us all. Conservatism is more than nostalgia. It is, as I have […]