Liberty and Government

Democracy and Freedom

We often confuse democracy with freedom. The greatest good of government is freedom – that is what our Declaration of Independence emphatically states. Simply implementing the “Will of the People” is no more noble, true, or decent than the will of a kind and wise autocrat: democracy has no value at all, except to help keep us free.

A truth all too often forgotten, but true nonetheless. No matter what form of government you live under, the moment that government starts to infringe liberty is also the moment it begins to undermine its own legitimacy.

By those standards, our current democratic republic has become almost wholly illegitimate.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.


Liberty and Government — 13 Comments

  1. I have lived in several military dictatorships. I observed that the people had more walking around freedom there, than in some places in the U.S. As long as people did not threaten the government, it mostly left people alone. I also observed that when so-called democracy was installed, it rapidly became too unsafe to leave your house, and the new democratic leaders voted away the rights and property of their opponents.

    In some countries, you can have democracy or freedom, but you cannot have freedom and democracy at the same time.

  2. The guy who said, “jaw, jaw, jaw, is better than war, war, war” (guess who) also said something like, “[representative] democracy is a terrible, stupid, wasteful, unfair form of government. It’s just better than all the rest”.

  3. Hayek said this long time ago. Democracy describes how the government makes decisions, while liberty is whether people are left alone by the government. These two are orthogonal to some extent – but one thing for sure – democracy cannot exist without liberty. In order for the people to control the government, they must exist a large sphere of society’s activity that is independent from the government. Moreover, the role fo the state must be sufficiently small so that the majority may indeed be formed in support of particular decision. Government with unlimited power and millions of mouths to feed cannot be run democratically.

  4. There are several versions of the jaw/war quote extant. This always seems to happen with well, um, jawed quotations … but then politicians do reuse their own stuff, so maybe there’s more than one authentic version. It is probably impossible to tell. What I put down is one of the versions that is, for better or worse, irreparably attributed to the great man himself (see here, for example). It is the version I like best. I first heard it long ago, probably from a book.

    As for the other “quotation”, you are quite right, what I put down is nothing more than a not very good guess. At least I didn’t identify it as a quotation and add to the pile of incorrect versions.

    Perhaps you know what he actually said?

  5. Bill Quick’s version sounds like Churchill. sirius_sir’s sounds spurious. I don’t think Churchill would have begun his own clever observation with the words “it has been said that”. Leave off those words and it sounds like Churchill.

    Well I should get an E for effort.

  6. Your point cannot be repeated enough, and is unfortunately virtually foreign to any product of the public schools for the last couple decades or longer.

    ‘Ordered liberty’ was the goal of the American Revolution, whereas representative govt (republic, not mobocracy) was merely the least-worst means of preserving it.

    Or as I tell my eleven year old son,
    “They did not fight for the right to vote, they fought to be free.”

  7. Pingback: Is the US government illegitmate? If so, does that justify violent revolution? « Fabius Maximus

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