Democracy Reform

Sir Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest. He is right. Its the best form of government but it also has its flaws. I think that its flaws endanger democracy and needs to be fixed. This blog is for like minded people who want to see democracy improved. I invite people to sumbit essays. I will publish even those I do not agree with so long as I find them interesting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Does democracy erode property rights?

Here is the latest article by the incomparable Scandinavian writer,

The Gates of Vienna

Of relevance to this blog are his comments that supports my thesis that modern democracy is not working well and may be heading for collapse:

"As Alexander Boot writes in his book, 'How the West Was Lost', "a freely voting French citizen or British subject of today has every aspect of his life controlled, or at least monitored, by a central government in whose actions he has little say. He meekly hands over half his income knowing the only result of this transfer will be an increase in the state’s power to extort even more.

[...] He opens his paper to find yet again that the ‘democratic’ state has dealt him a blow, be that of destroying his children’s education, raising his taxes, devastating the army that protects him, closing his local hospital or letting murderers go free. In short, if one defines liberty as a condition that best enables the individual to exercise his freedom of choice, then democracy of universal suffrage is remiss on that score."

Friedrich A. Hayek warned in 'The Road to Serfdom: against all collectivist ideologies', and feared that the social democratic welfare state would eventually propel society in a totalitarian direction. He has been dismissed as wrong, but was he? In Western Europe, it is difficult to imagine that we would have accepted the massively bureaucratic European Union if we hadn’t already been conditioned to accept
state intrusion on all levels of our lives in our nation states.

The EU became just another layer of bureaucracy. We now have a situation where a massive, inflated national and transnational bureaucracy runs our lives, and even writes our laws. We have become serfs, just as Hayek warned against.It is possible to
argue that this is a built-in flaw in the democratic system. As blogger Ohmyrus (ahem - that's me) has shown, democracies will tend to expand into high-taxation welfare states because, simply put, there are more low-income people than rich people, and it is possible for politicians to stay in power by giving people access to other people’s money. But if individual liberty diminishes with high taxation and intrusive bureaucracy, and if democracies have a built-in tendency to gradually increase taxes and create more state jobs, does that mean that democracy will, over time, diminish individual liberty? Is democracy bound to go through cycles of bureaucratic inflation and collapse?

This could well be a basic flaw in democracy, but I still believe we need a
system where the majority population have a genuine say in politics."

So as you can see, as democracy matures, there is less and less liberty for all of us. As I said in my earlier article, "Did America's Founders wanted Democracy," what America's Founders wanted was liberty and not democracy.

Today, we find that the state is taking more and more of our money to buy votes so that votrepreneurs (politicians) can win or stay in power, intrude more and more in our private lives, telling us what we can and cannot do and how we should think. In one European country, the government even tells you how to pee! (1)

I used to think that democracy and liberty comes together, but now I am rethinking my old ideas.

The more taxes the state collects, the more powerful it becomes and the less liberty we all have. The Reagan-Gingrich revolution has failed though they both tried to trim down the role of the government. But as I have shown in my article, "Democracy and the Welfare state", the size of the government grew under Republican governments. In spite of their free market philosophy, they cannot defeat the iron law of the one-man-one-vote system:

For votreprenuers to stay in office, they must redistribute wealth.

A certain amount is beneficial. Money raised to provide education, the police force, the construction of roads and infrastructure benefits all. But the problem is that the public will always demand for more. They will demand what is beneficial to themselves even though it is harmful to everybody else.

The votrepreneurs are happy to oblige their customers - the voters। Most of the welfare and entitlement systems found in western democracies are actually harmful to the long term interests of society. Welfare to unmarried mothers led to breakdown of families is one example perpetuating poverty instead of alleviating it.

Protection of favored industries led to higher prices for consumers is another. In each case, the benefits to the small group of beneficiaries is great and the cost to the majority is small. So there was no outcry or strong opposition. But the cumulative effect of all such programs harms society.

Property rights is also a basic human right. This is often forgotten. One of our government's job is to protect the fruits of our labor. We work hard for our money and we want it protected from robbers. But with the one-man-one vote system, other people can have access to your property by using their votes. The more the government taxes us, the more our property rights are eroded.

Besides taxation, government intervention also erodes our property rights in other ways। There are laws in some western countries that tells you who you can hire and who you cannot fire and even how many hours your workers can work in your factory or office. In the case of landlords, governments have been known to pass rent control laws and laws making it difficult to evict your tenants.

These laws are passed so as to help votrepreneurs remain in office because they know that standing for your property rights is a net-vote loser. The long term prosperity of the nation is the last thing on their minds. America's Founders realised this and what they wanted ultimately was liberty:

'Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.'- James Madison

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
- Benjamin Franklin (2)

(1) Big Brother teaches you the correct way to pee.
(2)Article on Ben Franklin


At 8:19 PM, Blogger pommygranate said...

What an interesting blog.

I wrote an article about a year ago, which was then posted on UK libertarian blog, Samizdata.

In the article, i looked at how democracy could possibly work when 55% of voters are dependent on the State for their livelihoods (pensioners, direct State employees and welfare dependants now make up 55% of UK voters).

What government in their right mind would legislate to reduce the size of the State when so many voters are dependant on that State.

I cheekily ended the argument by suggesting that perhaps all those dependant on the State for their livelihoods should be banned from voting.

This was a step too far even for the anti-statists at Samizdata.

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