Democracy Is Opposed to Freedom
By Don Watkins (sent to the New York Times, June 19, 2007)
Re "An Unexpected Odd Couple: Free Markets and Freedom" (International, June 14)
It is a mistake to equate democracy and freedom. As the Founders understood, democracy is opposed to freedom.
Freedom means the absence of physical coercion. The political system that protects freedom by barring the initiation of physical force from human relationships is laissez-faire capitalism. Under capitalism, man's rights, including his right to property, are sacrosanct. The government is required to respect and defend them--irrespective of the will of the majority. This, in essence, was the American system before the the introduction of regulatory controls and the welfare state.
Democracy, on the other hand, is the system of unlimited majority rule. It substitutes the will of the majority for the principle of individual rights, and it is therefore contrary to freedom, because an individual's life and property are at the mercy of the mob--and any tyrant that may be democratically voted into power.
In a free society, voting is an appropriate mechanism for selecting a nation's political representatives--not, as democracy demands, its political principles. The great achievement of the U.S. Constitution was to limit the power of the government to a single function: the protection of individual rights. That is the true meaning of freedom.