Democracy & Freedom: A Contradiction in Terms


“Modern absolutism, which we find the most natural thing in the world, would have been quite beyond the dreams of the most absolute of kings.”

― Bertrand De Jouvenel, Sovereignty: An Inquiry into the Political Good.

Every political Regime, whatever be its form has had to justify its position of power and authority, be it a Sovereign ruler who establishes its authority to exert its power over the nation and its people with the divine rights of the king or be it the dictator who dispenses with civil liberties in the name of protection and leading the masses towards some common greater good.

Modern democracies are not any different, it promises and upholds a certain principle of political freedom i.e a democracy provides for all citizens to rule and be ruled as equals over libertarian freedom which is the power and license to do and live as one pleases, and economic freedom which consists in the power to rule and not be ruled in the matters of one’s private property in the sphere of the market economy and exchange.

The justification of absolute control and ownership over all resources lies in institutional incentives that absolute ownership provides, only in ownership over property can one have the proper incentive structure in place to take the best care of it. A caretaker in charge for a short period of time has the only motive of extracting as much as possible in the small period of time he has, as he is aware that it doesn’t belong to him and has to be returned back.

One can illustrate this with a simple thought experiment of why a person who owns the house will take better care of the house than the person who rents it, The person who rents it takes over its possession for a limited period whereby he has no incentive to implement long term improvements in the property as it has to be returned and would provide no benefit to him in comparison to the owner who has the incentive to implement long term changes as it would increase its capital value on the market-leading to the possibility of greater returns in the future.

Furthermore, the ownership over something gives one the absolute authority to direct one’s will as one sees fit, this leads to him and him alone bearing the absolute responsibility of the state of affairs whether good or bad as they emanate from his and his actions alone. This brings effectual and emotional attachment to the thing one owns in comparison to something which one doesn’t, or over which one cannot exert its control. Therefore Sovereign rulers have a greater incentive to think in terms of long-term prospects of the nation as the power and prestige which stems from the greater well-being of a nation and its citizens can be passed on towards their sons and daughters.

While democracy suffers from the fundamental flaw of an absence of libertarian and economic freedom, it tries to safeguard itself from the perverse incentive structure which results from people in positions of power exerting their control over things that they do not own by the logic of the rational voter, whereby long term bad actions which result from perverse incentive structure will be kept in check by the means of the discipline of the majoritarian voting over long periods of time, where the majority will not accept a despot for a long period.

The high lofty ideal of discipline is tarnished when one looks towards real-world scenarios, but the falsification of an ideal should first be purely theoretical, This theoretical negation lies in the ethics of human behavior, Democracy lays the framework of a totalitarian mob, where in principle a majority of 51% can rule to strip the other 49% percent of its rights, Democratic consensus thus suffers from the violation of the sacred principles of liberty and individual rights.

The essential issue which the critics and opponents of absolute authority have provided lay in the indisputable and fundamental principle of freedom and liberty, the idea where one’s way of life, behavior, and views are not subject to oppressive restrictions and control by any other, even when they seem to be for their own good.

The organization of political and legislative affairs advanced by critics of absolute authority in history has laid the groundwork of modern democracies. Modern democracies gain the legitimacy of exerting and infringing upon the private rights of its citizens on the backs of what its most arduous and adherent supporter “Jean Jacques Rousseau” calls the “General will”, the will of the people as a whole. The general will be superior, says Rousseau if and as long as people assembled and bound together consider themselves as a single body, then they would have only one will which would be directed towards their common preservation and general wellbeing.

Whether the great Rousseau slid an underhand through an exercise in logic where the truth of the first principle assumption is a necessary adjunction for the falsification of its conclusions, thereby effectively safeguarding his ideas on “general will” and its deductive consequences from empirical criticism is a matter of a debate, what one can attempt in true dialectical terms is a negation of the negation.

Rousseau advanced the rule of the many in form of a general will over a single Sovereign ruler or a body politik over the masses due to the problem that absolute authority possess in terms of oppressive restrictions and control over masses, but as and when Rousseau’s first principle doesn’t stand and thus we cannot empirically subject his ideas to examination we can negate the negation of a general will over the absolute authority of one overall, in favor absolute power of one over its own self, in the process preserving the true ideal of freedom and liberty.

The organization of political institutions in such a form that uphold libertarian and economic freedom on the backs of private property in place of a general will in terms of democratic consensus integrates streams emerging from both the directions of a warranted and efficient state of affairs which emerge from exerting absolute control

over property, along with the preservation of civil liberties and checks on exertions of power and control of one over the other.

While traditional monarchs thought of the country as their property, modern democratically elected monarchs think of themselves as temporary caretakers ready and willing to exploit as much as they can in the short time they have, but the obvious truth is, the property belongs only to the individual who owns it, thereby democratically mandating something which impacts other’s lives or property is cohesion and violence of the highest order.

Consequently, Democracy and freedom are not only contradictions in terms !, where one by a simple majority can violate the private property and rights of the other non-consenting half through legislation and enforcement through violence lead them to be antithetical to each other, bound to separate from the origins of the principles which drive them.

The only existing model of true freedom and efficiency walking hand in hand today can be found in the voluntary exchanges of a marketplace, where each of us restricts our control to the things that we own, i.e our own private property, Thus it is only there that we can find a model of how to construct the political and institutional setup which provides both efficiency and freedom to the individual.

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