Abandoning democracy is not a smart move for friends of liberty - image credit.
The denial of the need for politics is naive to the point of disqualifying the judgement of the proponent. In the second part of this post, I discuss the questionable view that politics - and derivatively democracy - is nothing but a heinous playground for knaves. I explain why I believe that such a radically one-sided perception is uninformed about, incompatible with, and destructive of the case for liberty.
Chris Berg of Australias's Institute of Public Affairs - The Voice for Freedom: 70 years 1943-2013 takes a refreshingly circumspect look at the issue:
There's a lot not to like about government of the twenty-first century - the institutionalised rent seeking, the expanding web of regulatory control, the lack of accountability, the national security excesses.
Yet it remains the case that elections are the most equitable, peaceful and legitimate mechanism to fix those problems.
Calling for "revolution", as Brand does, is childish and naïve. At best such calls result in the kind of nihilistic destruction we saw in the London riots. At worst, well, I'm sure you know your history.
Democratic institutions ensure that if you want to alter policy, you have to convince your fellow citizens that change is desirable.
And, because any single vote will not change an election outcome, you have to convince a very large number that your cause is so important they should make an expressive, personal, "irrational" stand at the ballot box.
The futility of voting means that democracy resists sudden radical change. This is a good thing.
So many people who complain that the "system" is rigged are in truth complaining that most other citizens don't agree with them.
In a post of opposite spirit, A Shameful Trade, where Don Boudreaux explains what a moral outrage it would be to him if his son decided to become a politician, he posits:
To succeed at politics - especially at the national level – requires duplicity and shamelessness rivaled only by arrogance.
To be a politician, Boudreaux claims that it is necessary to abandon
honesty, forthrightness, decency, respect for others, and modesty.
I know enough politicians whose character and conduct serve to falsify this view. Think only of our hostess here at RSE, Laura Ebke.
Also, I have frequently observed that people who subscribe to such radical across-the-board discrimination against politicians are quick to admit exceptions among ideologically congenial politicians.
I do not know if Boudreaux has ever worked for a firm of the private sector. I have. I assure everyone, I have never experienced more duplicity, shamelessness, arrogance etc. than with (not a small number of) collaborators - bosses and underlings - in the various companies I have worked for. My conclusion, however, is not, that the free market is to be blamed for this, or that one should abolish private enterprises or prevent one's children to work for them.
A certain streak of libertarians insinuates that all human arrangements and interactions can be brought about in the fashion of market transactions. This assumption is patently false. Social order cannot exist unless a large number of precepts achieve general recognition in society, many of which can gain their functionally requisite social preponderance only in spite of the lack of unanimous support and understanding. Politics is the business of championing universal efficaciousness for ideas and corresponding practices that cannot be expected to ever attain unanimous acceptance and conviction. In large measure, politics is the hard and difficult business of finding tolerable compromises in the face of decisions that need to be taken in the absence of bilateral or unilateral unanimity.
Of course, there is bad and even evil politics, and yes, politicisation ought to be avoided, where it is unnecessary and defective, i.e. where it crowds out civil society, but it is a misconception to conclude from this that politics is fundamentally and exclusively evil, and that it ought to and can be eliminated and replaced by a world void of the state - the most powerful instrument of turning politics into reality.
Politics is everywhere, not only in politics. It is an eradicable and indispensable part of human life. He who does not understand this, does not understand the requirements of liberty either.
Imagine a world peopled only by libertarians sharing the same fundamental convictions; being individuals, in no time will they develop divergent views as to what liberty is and requires, what state she is in and what her prospects are; in fact, liberty is one big effort to allow people to develop divergent views and aspirations. Reconciling these different views and aspirations requires political expression, political mediation and ultimately politically determined and controlled enforcement.
Liberty is a state of affairs characteristic of a civilization with the highest degree of specialisation and division of labour ever attained in the history of mankind. It would be preposterous to rule out political participation for free individuals in a society where the management of violence, power and politics have naturally and sensibly become specialised nodes in the division of labour.
Abandoning democracy is not a smart move for friends of liberty.