The Purpose of Democracy
By Bruce Walker
October 1, 2012
When Mitt Romney says that 47% of us pay no federal income tax and so have little interest in tax cuts he is, of course, telling the truth. The brouhaha over his remarks ought to remind us why we have democracy. It is not to pander to the biggest bloc of voters. It is to secure liberty for us all.
There is no moral or intellectual value in the vague talisman, “The Will of the People.” “The people,” after all, gave Hitler power in Germany. Churchill rightly judged democracy as the worst form of government in the world…except for all the rest. Ibsen, in his play, An Enemy of the People, stung puerile populism with his message “The majority is always wrong.”
People do not need politics to express their will. In a free society the people are a diverse collection of individuals, who express their personal will through marketplace choices. Conservatives sometimes overlook the fact that this marketplace involves much more than simply economic choices. Free society has a marketplace of human interactions which involves love and friendship, science and art, faith and philosophy among many other things. We do not want, and do not need, “The Will of the People” to dictate how we make those choices.
Democracy, the more it tries to express the “Will of the People,” becomes simply a tyranny whose ultimate controllers are those who occupy or own the means of communication, education and information in a society. All government, as it grows more piggish in its lust for power, becomes the enemy of freedom.
So why do we need democracy as the source of government authority rather than, say, a monarchy? The virtue in democracy, when in its proper role of protecting freedom, is that we all have a common interest in preserving our own liberty. That means voters must reject the Marxian notion of “interest politics” and instead embrace a system of democracy which is like our jury system.
The jury is supposed to be utterly disinterested in the parties to a trial. A juror, for example, who has been the plaintiff in a whiplash case, will be kept from sitting as juror in a lawsuit involving a whiplash claim. If a juror knows one of the parties or his lawyer, he will be removed from the jury pool. The goal is to have each member of the jury as impartial and as disinterested as possible. Judges who know the parties or have a reason to favor one side over the other are likewise supposed to recuse themselves from cases.
“Interest politics” insists that candidates and parties tell particular groups of voters that they will defend the voters and represent their interests. This obscenity has become so commonplace that politicians revel in it. Because a majority of voters who treat government as a tool for enforcing their will can justify its actions under the “interest politics” theory, democracy has become the instrument of wickedness.
Consider how awful “interest politics” would have been had we always followed that path. Christians, particularly of a dominant profession in particular states, had an “interest” in taxpayers supporting their church and government officers being members of that church. White voters had no “interest” in liberating black slaves. Male voters had no “interest” in women’s suffrage. What the end of established churches in early American states, the bloodletting of the Civil War, and the adoption of the 19th Amendment had in common was the electoral majority rejecting their own interests for the sake of common liberty.
The Left seems to think – if it thinks of it at all – that the imposition of an electoral majority of serious Christians on the state differs from the imposition of an electoral majority of low income Americans because Marxian theories of economic justice are in play. But this ignores hideous history. The Nazis railed incessantly against “Jewish Finance Capitalism.” The Fascists condemned “Plutocracy.” Modern totalitarianism invariably wages jihad against the wealthy and successful carrying the banner of “interest politics.”
The ugly truth is this: Interest politics is warfare within government. Liberty is peace within government. Democracy, as a jury writ large, can be a powerful tool for preserving peace within a state by permitting markets and choices to replace laws and orders, but this happens when voters grasp that an indifferent and impartial structure of laws and officers protects us all equally from oppression.
Leftists eschew this notion of ordered liberty through democracy and embrace the use of democracy as interest politics to pursue a holy war against those they think wrong. Ultimately the only way to handle those who would wage war on us is to wage war back, to win that war, and to treat the defeated as enemies of peace.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.