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If you are over the age of fifty, you remember a time when you would have been corrected, if you said America was a democracy. Conservatives would interrupt you and say that America is a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Liberals would say that America is a fascist police state, not a democracy. That is a small exaggeration, but the liberals were always going on about the lack of democracy. Both sides of the mainstream agreed that America was not a democracy.
Somewhere along the way, this reversed. Both sides of the increasingly narrow political consensus calls America a democracy. In fact, they compete with one another to be the most outraged by threats to our democracy. Proof that the universe has a sense of humor, our rulers would no doubt condemn all of their prior statements about America not being a democracy. This would never happen as no one would dare bring this up to them, but the point remains.
Of course, when they say democracy they mean liberal democracy, rather than direct democracy, which is impossible outside of small exceptions. By definition this means elections between distinct political parties, the rule of law, open debate about the issues of the day, a market economy, private property and the equal protection of the natural rights of all citizens. In other words, liberal democracy is representative democracy bounded by the natural rights of the people.
That last part is the critical piece. The point of the system is to not only give the people a say in who governs them but to make sure the people in power respect and defend the natural rights of the people. Otherwise, there would be no point in having elections for representatives to a parliament. It would be like giving the condemned the right to choose their executioner. The word “democracy” as currently understood means the defense of your rights.
The thing is, as the use of the word democracy has exploded, respect for the basic rights of citizens has sharply declined. It is not just the in the areas that can be debated, but the most fundamental rights of people. There will always be a debate about the use of private property at the fringes. For example, an you build a factory on your property located in a suburban neighborhood? That is a different matter from your basic right to own your labor and the fruits of your labor.
Take for example voting. Back when we called America a republic or a fascist police state, voting was orderly and mostly above board. You showed up to vote on the day of the election, identified yourself, voted and that was it. Maybe you had to stand in line for an hour if you went at the wrong time. Now that we have democracy, voting is a mess and the results are not known for days, sometimes weeks. Worse yet, no one can trust that the results are on the level.
Probably the greatest violation of our rights in this new fangled democracy is in the area of speech, which is under attack by the people preaching democracy. Kanye West is being systematically destroyed by the defenders of democracy because he says things they do not like. The defenders of democracy tell us we are supposed to cheer their coordinated assault on the man’s ability to exist, because he is a threat to democracy for foolishly sharing his opinions in public.
This war of speech has led to a war on property. PayPal recently announced a scheme to steal the property of their customers if those customers said anything that PayPal does not like. They had to backtrack on that scheme, but the mere fact that they thought they could do it is the point. They are not alone in this. The federal government thinks it can willy-nilly take money from employees of regulated firms if those firms fall afoul of the accounting rules governing public firms.
Before anyone thinks that this extrajudicial seizing of property will not withstand court challenge, take a look at the courts. The high profile police cases in Minnesota provide a clear understanding of how the courts have been corrupted. All similar cases involving police shootings. The results make clear that the foundational liberal concept of equality before the law no longer exists in our democracy. One can find hundreds of such examples that are now the rule.
Of course, the most basic right of all is self-defense. In most of the Western democracies self-defense is now illegal. This is a typical example of how protecting your life in your home is prohibited in Europe. Americans assume this cannot happen here, but Kyle Rittenhouse is a free man only because he drew the right judge and happened to be in one of remaining civilized parts of Wisconsin. If that had happened in a place fond of democracy, he would be on death row.
Self-defense arises from the bedrock belief that you own you. The entirety of the liberal tradition rests on this assertion. Even Karl Marx, a man not fond of private property, argued that the basic right of every man is that he owns himself. The past two years people were forced to take medicines against their will in the name of protecting our democracy from Covid. If you no longer have the right to control your body, then you have no rights at all.
None of this should be surprising. For most of human history people understood that democracy was a nice word for mob rule. In a mob, you have no rights other than those provided by the mob at any one time. You are always subject to the whims of the mob and those who can manipulate them. Therefore, as the talk of democracy has increased, the respect for basic rights has decreased. It turns out that democracy and a police state look a lot alike.
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