Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jul/10

26

Democralatry strikes again!

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Jeff Jarvis:

There are those in the press and government who don’t like or trust the public they serve. It is an unliberal attitude–which can come from Liberals, by the way–for it doesn’t buy the core belief of liberal democracy that the people properly rule….

This ignores the 2,000 year suspicion of democracy which the norm up to, and including, the American Founding. We were founded a republic, and universal white male suffrage did not become the norm until the first decades of the 19th century. Today we elide the distinction between the liberal and democratic aspects of the dominant form of government in the West, but it is a real one. With widespread suffrage, a full realization of democracy, there is, and was, often a curtailment of liberalism, and a decline in Liberal parties. This is because sectors of society in the 19th century which were disenfranchised, such as the lower classes and women, were often socially conservative and suspicious of freedom which they may have perceived as libertine. There was a close connection between the push for suffrage in the United States, and the perception that women would support Prohibition.

Of course in our Panglossian world the tension between liberty, equality, and populism, do not exist. Reality is what we make it, and the people are always right.

Note: This does not mean that I favor top-down public policy. Rather, I oppose rejection of top-down policies on the grounds that such policies are undemocratic (quite often they’re not, as voters often delegate to technocrats willingly), illiberal (there is no identity between liberalism and majoritarianism), or elitist (there is no shame in graded orders and distinctions between the few and the many in a variety of domains).

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14 comments

  • Apathy Curve · July 26, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Universal suffrage is quicksand.

  • Author comment by luke1249 · July 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    “there is no shame in graded orders and distinctions between the few and the many in a variety of domains”

    This sounds like code for something you’re afraid to state explicitly.

  • Author comment by David Hume · July 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    sometimes something is just what it is.

  • Caledonian · July 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    This sounds like code for something you’re afraid to state explicitly.

    By all means, let’s be explicit:

    Sturgeon’s Law (Ninety percent of everything is crap) doesn’t apply literally, but the basic concept is valid. Without active selection, the majority of any population is likely to be inferior – almost no matter what standards are used to define quaity – to identifiable minorities within that population.

    Sometimes a given ‘elite’ really IS better…

  • kurt9 · July 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    The problems of democracy and majority rule are not an argument for top-down rule. Rather, they are an argument for minimal government and decentralized self-rule.

    Also, I challenge the notion that self-rule requires that people be fundamentally “good” (in the religious sense) or rational. The issue of good and evil is completely irrelevant to man and the state. If people are by nature good, then everything is hunky-dory. However, if people are by nature bad, then there is no sense in placing one person in charge of all others.

  • John · July 28, 2010 at 2:19 am

    True, kurt9, but what if some people are good and others aren’t? The ultimate question of government is, “How do we stop bad people from interfering in the lives of good people?”

    At least with democracy, sometimes different groups of bad people (or “factions” in Federalist Paperspeak) will use up some their energy opposing each other, and lead to a less oppressive state than if a single faction was in charge. Unfortunately, when the majority agrees about a bad policy, they’re going to be able to implement it, even if it says on a paper constitution that they shouldn’t be able to. In the long run, a government is only as good as its people.

    I think the only long term solution is separation. Part of the reason America has been so free is that it was a frontier country. There is no frontier now, so now there is nowhere for a people that want to be free to go. In the long run, space colonization and/or transhumanism will pull us out of this mess, but it’s going to be a long wait.

  • kurt9 · July 28, 2010 at 2:33 am

    “How do we stop bad people from interfering in the lives of good people?”

    A decentralized system, by definition, minimizes the damage these people do by the fact that there is no large scale social system for them to hijack.

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is the reason why ALL large scale social structures are INHERENTLY evil and why any philosophy, ideology, or religion that promotes large scale social structures are also INHERENTLY evil.

  • kurt9 · July 28, 2010 at 2:40 am

    “I think the only long term solution is separation. Part of the reason America has been so free is that it was a frontier country. There is no frontier now, so now there is nowhere for a people that want to be free to go. In the long run, space colonization and/or transhumanism will pull us out of this mess, but it’s going to be a long wait.”

    This I agree with 100%. I am a fervent advocate of both transhumanism and space colonization. I fail to see how any intelligent person could be opposed to these things.

  • MarkE · July 28, 2010 at 5:50 am

    On the issue of a libertarian, decentralized system minimizing damage caused by bad people: isn’t the problem technology (coupled with population density)? In the old West, say, a libertarian approach could work because there were no weapons of mass destruction etc. But today a few bad guys could do immense damage (like the mad scientist of 20th century popular culture).

  • kurt9 · July 28, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    But today a few bad guys could do immense damage (like the mad scientist of 20th century popular culture).

    A centralized system is no protection from this threat and may actually make it worse. I believe political centralization makes this threat worse for two reasons.

    The first reason is rooted in the fact that the most likely way for a small group of people to kill mass numbers of people is with a genetically engineered designer virus. Now, this is actually harder to do than it seems, but for sake of argument, lets say its easy to do. If such a pathogen gets out, which will lead to a faster cure for it? The centralized bureaucracy of WHO and CDC, or a decentralized network of 10,000 biohackers? I will put my money on the biohackers any day of the week.

    The second reason why centralized authority makes this threat worse is that it pisses off the smart people who can actually carry out such a threat in the first place. Technically-oriented smart people tend to lean libertarian. They tend to be those who merely want to be left alone to pursue their own dreams and goals. They also prefer positive-sum solutions (nuclear power, space colonization, curing aging) to whatever problems may exist rather than the zero-sum solutions that non-technical ideologues of both the left and the right seem to prefer. The key to minimizing this threat is to NOT PISS OFF the technically-oriented smart people, plain and simple. This, in and of itself, suggests minimal government, limited regulations, and minimal taxation; as the solution to this threat.

    When I was in high school, we used to say, “don’t flip shit at dudes bigger than you”. I would say that the modern-day equivalent to this is to not harass the technically-oriented smart people with bogus restrictions and ideologies that are likely to piss them off.

    This all was a “no-brainer” to me 20 years ago. I amazed that people have yet to figure this out.

  • B · July 29, 2010 at 12:28 am

    “A centralized system is no protection from this threat and may actually make it worse. I believe political centralization makes this threat worse for two reasons.”
    In response to your two claims: what warrants do you have for these beliefs? You claim you’d bet on the “10,000 biohackers” over the CDC, but why? Which has the amassed and quickly accessable research, the greater resourses, labs, and technology, and the mandate of the government? Your independent 10,000 biohackers?
    In claim #2, you assert that “Technically-oriented smart people tend to lean libertarian” but you don’t have any sort of statistics to support this claim.
    Furthermore–and perhaps I am interpreting what you wrote incorrectly, I apologize if I am–it would seem as though your 2nd claim is that these libertarians are going to create the biothreat in the first place, so let’s not piss them off. That seems pretty un-libertarian to me. I would sooner expect it from, well, any other group besides libertarians.
    I’m not disagreeing with you, at least not on the first claim (not quite sure what you’re claiming in #2); I would bet money first on some sort of pharma-co engineering the cure before a centralized authority or loose association of “bio-hackers”. And then charging a high price for it–and rightly so; greed fuels innovation.

  • cynthia curran · July 30, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Well, actually, conseratives not libertarins use to do good in the west in the us because of the aeropace. So Ca use to be a Republican strong hold because of the thousands of whites that work in the aerospace industry since the decline of the aerospace industry Cal is won by Democratics. The old Bismarkian Consertivism brought Conseratives in the west in the us not classical liberalism.

  • MarkE · July 30, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Cynthia, when I was talking about the old West I was thinking of the 1800s, the wild west – and it was libertarian in many ways (and conservative too in many ways).

  • Randall Parker · July 31, 2010 at 2:33 am

    kurt9, As I just told you over on OneSTDV’s blog: The biggest enemy of libertarianism is the majority. You can’t get limited government because the vast majority are eligible to vote. As long as poor people want to vote to use government to transfer money from others and as long as upper middle class liberals think that’s a great idea your dreams of limited government are going to remain just that: dreams.

    Democracy is the tyranny of the elected representatives of the majority. You can’t have a limited government without having a voting majority that favors it. Well, Hispanics aren’t in favor of limited government. So libertarians are looking like political road kill.

    We can’t draw back from limited government without restricting the voting franchise to those who favor limited government.

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