01 July 2007

Democracy is the Art of Getting Votes from the Poor and Campaign Contributions from the Rich . . .

. . . by promising to protect each from the other. With apologies to Oscar Ameringer. The inherent contradictions in "democracy" should be apparent to anyone who looks closely. It is only when a political system protects citizens from democracy, that democracy becomes workable.

Most people erroneously believe that democracy is equivalent to "freedom," "rule of law," and "constitutional republic." Nothing could be farther than the truth.

The controversy over "basic human rights" brings this issue into the clearest focus. The American concept of human rights is based upon freedom from oppression by a tyrannical government. The US emerged from an era where governments were relatively unconstrained by rules or laws limiting their action against citizens. The US Constitution was an attempt to delimit the rights of governments and the rights of citizens--to clarify the freedoms from arbitrary governmental oppression for the citizens of the new country.

Freedom from arbitrary governmental oppression was the basis of the US Constitution and the founding of the US republic. For over 200 years, such freedom from oppression defined human rights. One way to summarize this view would be: "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law."

The view of human rights has changed significantly in much of the rest of the world, outside the US. For example: The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

The UN definition of human rights is open-ended, and more subject to wildly varying interpretation. In other words, while a constitution based upon the 18th century American view of human rights might survive for many centuries, a constitution based upon the UN view of human rights would be unlikely to survive a single century. Simply put, laws based upon insubstantial enthusiasms can not be adjudicated.

Which brings us to the problem of pure democracies. A pure democracy is not constrained by hard-headed principles of rule of law. A pure democracy very quickly devolves to a "people's democracy", administered by a "servant of the people" such as Idi Amin, Hugo Chavez, or Robert Mugabe, "presidents for life."

It could not be any other way. Fuzzy headed concepts of benevolence toward all, that are not backed up by adjudicable law, inevitably decay to dictatorship. Unconstrained democracy is always dangerously unstable, except on a very small scale--such as the intentional community. But even in the small intentional community, a well thought out set of community by-laws must be strictly adhered to.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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