|Liberty and Democracy|
Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Allegories of the Good and Bad Government, commissioned six and a half centuries ago, in 1338, to remind the city fathers of Sienna of their duties, is still to be seen today. Good Government is dominated by a throned figure representing the commune, flanked by the Virtues. Bad Government is ruled by Fear, whose scroll reads: "Because he looks for his own good in the world, he places justice beneath tyranny. So nobody walks this road without Fear: robbery thrives inside and outside the city gates."
The renowned essay On Liberty was written by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) and published in 1859, the year in which Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published. On Liberty contains a rational justification of the freedom of the individual in opposition to the claims of the state to impose unlimited control, and has become a classic of libertarian philosophy.
In this essay Mill also warns of a second danger to liberty, which democracies are prone to, namely, the tyranny of the majority. In a representative democracy, if you can control the majority (and get them to vote for, and elect, your candidates) then you can control everyone (because your candidates, once "democratically elected", will pass whatever laws are needed for this, as was done by Hitler's agents in the 1930s in Nazi Germany and seems to be happening today in the U.S.A.).
Here's what Mill writes in the Introduction to On Liberty about the tyranny of the majority:
Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism. On Liberty, The Library of Liberal Arts edition, p.7.
- A brief biography of Mill from Encarta '95.
- Extracts from On Liberty.
- John Stuart Mill: On Liberty
John Stuart Mill ... advocated Utilitarianism in ethics, i.e., the view that we should each act so as to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Yet he was a champion of individual's rights, calling, among other things, for more power and freedom for women. In his treatise On Liberty he argues that in the past the danger had been that monarchs held power at the expense of the common people and the struggle was one of gaining liberty by limiting such governmental power. But now that power has largely passed into the hands of the people at large through democratic forms of government, the danger is that the majority denies liberty to individuals, whether explicitly through laws ... or more subtly through morals and public opinion ...
- The full text of On Liberty online (282K).
In which kind of social system does liberty thrive best - or in which kind of social system is liberty least threatened? Some believe that liberty is is best safeguarded by democracy - but this is very doubtful, at least if democracy is taken to mean simply a system in which political representatives are elected every now and again. Voters in many Western countries are apathetic because they believe that their vote actually makes no difference. As has been said of so-called democratic elections in the U.S.: Whoever wins, the people lose.
Neither the word "democracy" nor its derivatives occur in the U.S. Declaration of Independence or in the U.S. Constitution. Yet because of an 80-year propaganda campaign the American public has been brainwashed to believe that "democracy" was what the American Founding Fathers wished to establish on the North American continent (as a model for the world). As the article by Robert Welch (below) makes clear, the truth is precisely the opposite. The Founding Fathers framed the U.S. Constitution so as to protect Americans from democracy.
These days the word "democracy" is bandied about by many politicians, high government mucketymucks and U.S. imperialist stooges in S. E. Asia and elsewhere as if it were a noble ideal that everyone should support unquestioningly - and preferably unthinkingly. (It's getting so that when I hear the word "democracy" uttered by a politician or government official I automatically reach for my BS detector.) Could this official rhetoric disguise a more sinister intent? Could this apparent "pro-democracy activism" in fact disguise a drive toward a one-world government by which the ideal of a totalitarian fascist government, dear to the hearts (if they have hearts) of the U.S. imperialists in Washington would be extended to cover the entire globe?
- A Usenet article about the whether the U.S. is a republic or a democracy.
- For an interesting clarification of the concepts of liberty, freedom and democracy see On Democracy in Our Republic.
- Robert Welch: "Republics and Democracies"
In a democracy there is a centralization of governmental power in a simple majority. And that, visibly, is the system of government which the enemies of our republic are seeking to impose on us today. Nor are we "drifting" into that system ... We are being insidiously, conspiratorially, and treasonously led by deception, by bribery, by coercion, and by fear, to destroy a republic that was the envy and model for all of the civilized world.
The important question is not whether the people can (or are graciously permitted to) vote every few years to elect their "representatives" (who usually turn out to be the paid agents of their oppressors) but rather whether they can live their lives and raise their children as they wish, free from intrusive government interference in their private affairs (and even in their private thoughts). Clearly many who live in a so-called democracy, such as the U.S.A., cannot.
"I have often thought that if a rational Fascist dictatorship were to exist, then it would choose the American system." -- Noam Chomsky, Language and Responsibility
The drive toward a totalitarian police state in the U.S.A. continues as fast as its instigators can push it without arousing the attention of the television-besotted public. The latest abomination is the Counter-Terrorism Bill. See Harry Browne on anti-terrorist proposals and America's Reichstag Fire
All who value their liberty and are concerned by government encroachment upon their lives will find of great interest the New Declaration of Independence (in which, as in the original U.S. Declaration of Independence, the word "democracy" does not occur).
Human Rights and Genocide
Western governments are great supporters of "human rights" -- provided that the rights involved are not those of their own citizens and that concern for such in other countries does not threaten the profits of the multinational corporations.
A small Canadian firm, Gerald & Maas, published in 1996 a human rights handbook, Common Rights and Expectations: United Nations Texts of Primary Treaties Concerning Rights of People.
This book includes the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Though U.N. treaties are available in several places, what is different about Common Rights and Expectations is that as a North American edition it notes the "reservations" (but-ifs) made by the U.S. to what should be basic guarantees of human rights. These "but-ifs" are suppressed information in North America, and, for example, U.S. reservations to the Convention On Genocide raise doubt about whether the U.S. is really a participant.
John Bart Gerald: Is the U.S. Really a Signatory to the U.N. Convention on Genocide?
Jonathan Blumen: What I Learned From Auschwitz
Genocide -- an Eternal Crimson Braid, an article from The Ethical Spectacle.
Just as each of eighty million loyal Germans had his favorite Jew, each of us has his favorite genocide, the one genocide that is an exception, that was only self-defense, or a regrettable but understandable act of war, or an act of heroism, or an exercise of a God-given right to claim a birthright. There are Israelis today who think the gunman in the mosque was a patriot and hero, Serbs who think the weak NATO response to ethnic cleansing an overreaction, and millions of Americans who do not realize that the United States itself was built on a genocide.
If you say that yes, but that was in the last century, and things were different, and Americans have changed since then, think about the heap of corpses at Mylai, women and children murdered by American soldiers under orders from Lietenant William Calley.
I know I sound dangerously close to saying that genocide is inevitable, that humans will always kill humans for land or for power, so lets get on with it. I am not saying that at all. Humans never flew until they flew. The fact that something has always been a certain way does not mean it must continue.
As long as we are taught that genocide is something that can only be committed by a demonic "other", that we are good people and the desire to commit genocide could never come to us, we will perpetuate genocide, for it is precisely (as Santayana said) those who deny who perpetuate the evils and disasters of the past. Gibbon said that history is nothing but the record of the follies and misfortunes of mankind: it is not however graven in stone that we are eternally doomed to commit the same crimes and mistakes until we expire on this earth. There is a way out.
Human Rights and the Drug War
The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights Selected excerpts and analysis.
What happens to the children when narcotics police take the family car and home, and send Mommy and Daddy to prison for decades at a time under mandatory minimum sentences? How does it affect children to see their parents tied up face down on the floor while armed men in dark suits tear the house apart? How can a person support their family from prison, financially or emotionally? How can an inner city community survive with a quarter of its adult male population stigmatized by a criminal record? Indeed, the family is a primary target of the Drug War.
The Drug WarA major threat to the liberty of Americans (and to that of the citizens of other countries whose governments follow the American model) for the last couple of decades has been the Drug War, in which the U.S. government has waged war upon its own citizens, both physically and by means of propaganda, and in the process the civil liberties of all Americans have been significantly eroded to the point where liberty for the average citizen has become increasingly an illusion.
- The Duplicity of the War on Drugs
The intent of this essay is to demonstrate that the War on Drugs was America's first great psy-war campaign perpetrated against its own people and that such abuse of power is likely to happen again.
- Richard Lawrence Miller:
I believe authoritarians are manufacturing and manipulating public fears about drug use in order to create a police state where a much broader agenda of social control can be implemented, using government power to determine what movies we may watch, determine who we may love and how we may love them, determine whether we may or must pray to a deity. I believe the war on drug users masks a war on democracy. After all, what is the vision of a Drug-Free America? Millions in prison or slave labor, and only enthusiastic supporters of government policy allowed to hold jobs, attend school, have children, drive cars, own property. This is the combined vision of utopia held forth by Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, William Bennett, Daryl Gates, and thousands of other drug warriors. News media and "public interest" advertising tell us this is the America for which all good citizens yearn. Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State
Civil Asset ForfeitureAlong with the Drug War has arisen a predatory state whose agencies no longer recognize property rights (ironic in a country supposedly based on a respect for the sanctity of private property). No property owner in the U.S. (or in any other country which models its laws on those of the U.S.) can any longer feel secure about continued ownership of their property. Here are the details:
- The Dangerous Expansion of Forfeiture Laws
- Civil Asset Forfeiture - the end of the rule of law Legal theft in America.
- The Introduction to Brenda Grantland's Your House is Under Arrest
You may say this could never happen in America because the U.S. Constitution protects you. There you are wrong, because it is happening in the U.S. -- at an alarmingly increasing pace.
- Jarret Wollstein: The Looting of America
How over 200 Civil Asset Forfeiture laws enable police to confiscate your home, bank accounts & business without trial.
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reform of federal and state asset forfeiture laws to restore due process and protect property rights in the forfeiture process.
- Civil Asset Forfeiture what happened to the Kubinski Family
Jury NullificationDid you know that a jury can refuse to convict if the law is bad? Did you know that a jury has the right to nullify laws that are immoral, stupid or grossly unjust?
If the jury does not judge the law, the facts, and ALL of the evidence, then they are merely the tools, rather than the barrier against the tyranny and oppression of the government. -- Lysander Spooner, quoted at Liberty Issues.
- New Hope for Freedom: Fully Informed Juries
- Laura Kriho: Am I a Criminal?
For more information on the Kriho case and other jury issues see the web site of The Jury Rights Project.
- D. Paul Stanford: How FIJA Saved My Life!
- Julian Heicklen: Jury Nullification
Defrauding AmericaThis website is about deception, greed, coercion, coverups, conspiracy, false imprisonment, misinformation, murder and much, much more. The goal is to make people aware of the extent of widespread corruption in American government today.
Democracy may be subject to hijacking by unscrupulous interests, but should we blame democracy or rather the unscrupulous interests themselves?
Daniel Brandt: Along Came the Transnationals
In their relentless pursuit of power and profit, the transnational corporations of today are debasing the social and economic fabric of cultures worldwide.
An article from the April-May 1997 issue of Nexus magazine.
There is a second danger to human culture other than that of tyrannical government, namely, that of the universal triumph of mindlessness. America and the rest of the world were, for several centuries preceding the 20th, literate cultures, in which reading and writing were central, in which rationality was the norm. With the rise of mass communications (telegraphy, radio, television and computers) we have entered a new cultural era, one which may turn out to be a cultural wasteland.
Neil Postman has written lucidly on this theme in his book AmusingOurselves to Death. Here is the Foreword and an extract from Chapter 5.
Since John Stuart Mill published On Liberty, his ideas have inspired a school of political philosophy known as "libertarianism", of which Encarta '95 says:The doctrine of libertarianism stresses the right to self-ownership and, by extension, the right to private ownership of material resources and property. Advocates oppose any form of taxation and favor a laissez-faire economic system. The doctrine was espoused by American anarchists in the 19th century. Libertarianism reappeared in U.S. political thinking in the 1970s, representing an assertion of individual liberty in the face of growing government involvement in all aspects of life. The Libertarian party was founded in the U.S. in 1972. Since then its candidates have run for political office, including the presidency, in all 50 states, but it has not won enough adherents to be a major political force.As stated in some of the articles cited above, a republic is a society in which government is based upon a written constitution, and a derivative legal system, to which both governed and government itself are subject. The constitution is the supreme law of the land, and in a republic the government cannot institute a law which conflicts with the constitution (a fact often forgotten, it seems, by U.S. senators - particularly those who voted in 1995 for the Communications Decency Act).
But we have plenty of examples in the present U.S. legal system of laws which are repressive, intolerant, unjust, immoral, predatory and just plain ridiculous. An obvious example is the law which criminalizes the use of cannabis (marijuana and hashish) for recreational, spiritual and even medical purposes. Since cannabis has been used for thousands of years for its beneficial psychoactive and medicinal properties, and has been shown in many U.S. medical studies to have no adverse effects on users, this law is one of the stupidest laws ever passed by the U.S. Congress, and demonstrates that the real intent of Congress is not to protect the people's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to impose upon them a crushing authority which restricts not only their freedom of action but also their freedom of thought and freedom of spirit.
But if republicanism is the best form of government, are we not obliged to obey this stupid law? Clearly not, because Americans no longer live in a republic. Moreover, the law is unconstitutional (and therefore invalid) according to the 9th and 10th Amendments (see the Bill of Rights) since the U.S. Constitution nowhere gives the federal government the right to restrict what consenting adults may do in the privacy of their own homes. (For a more general statement of this position please see Harry Browne on the 10th Amendment.)
The American republic has been turned into a tyranny by means of the ruse of majority-rule democracy. The solution is a re-affirmation (and an improvement) of the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights by means of a constitutional convention, as called for in the above-cited New Declaration of Independence. All laws inconsistent with the principles of liberty, as presented and established by reason by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, must be nullified (though it is perhaps not necessary to hang those who were responsible for passing them).
The viability of a republic depends on the voluntary assent by the people, generation after generation, to the constitution of that republic and to the laws passed which implement its intent. A legal system will earn the respect of the people only if it first respects their freedom, their dignity and their ability and right to decide for themselves what is best for themselves. A new constitution, if it is to be the basis of a viable republic, must be based upon libertarian principles. If not, those whose freedom is infringed upon, either by the constitution itself or the laws passed to implement it, will surely object (perhaps violently), and social discord, repression, disruption and dissolution will follow.
The U.S. ConstitutionA tool for the study of the U.S. Constitution is The CONSTITUTION Notebook Program. This software helps answer the questions: "What, exactly, is written in the United States Constitution?" and "What does it mean?" This web site also has several pages of links to other sites concerned with the Constitution.
There are some who claim that in fact the rights of Americans are no longer protected under the U.S. Constitution because the Constitution has been suspended for over sixty years.
Senate Report 93-549, written in 1973, says "Since March 9, 1933, the United States has been in a state of declared national emergency ... Under the powers delegated by these statutes, the president may: seize property; ... seize commodities; assign military forces abroad; institute martial law; seize and control all transportation and communication; ... restrict travel; and, in a plethora of particular ways, control the lives of all American citizens." -- http://buffalo-creek-press.com/consec.htm
Hmmnn ... every wonder where Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and so on up to Clinton got the power for these "Executive Orders" you sometimes hear (obscurely) about?
See also Dr. Eugene Schroder: Is the Constitution Suspended? and War, Central Planning, and Corporations
Impeachment and the Constitution
A desire to disarm the people is a sign of a government that believes it may one day have to keep its people down by use of violence. Anti-gun laws do not make the world safer for ordinary people, for those who would use guns to rob and intimidate people know that (when gun ownership is prohibited) law-abiding people are normally unarmed - quite helpful to the would-be robbers, no? As for mass murders, so conveniently used by governments (at least three recently) as an excuse for enacting yet more stringent anti-gun legislation, just reflect that someone who killed 30 people would probably not (if people were generally free to carry guns) have killed more than a small number of them before someone else would have shot him.
And if you don't think that the U.S.A. is under the control of an organization prepared to use whatever force is necessary to maintain its control over the people then take a look at:
- Sean Gabb: An Open letter to the Gunowners of the United Kingdom
This mentions a number of issues of interest to Libertarians.
- Brian Micklethwait: Why Guns Should Not Be Illegal
- Police Against the New World Order
Our associationís singular goal is to stop the use of our brothers and sisters in uniform from being unwittingly used to enslave the people of free nations under the anti-God, anti-Freedom, UNITED NATIONS lead, World Government.
Another subject of interest to libertarians in modern society is the government's interest in what the people are saying to each other, and the extent (if any) to which government should be permitted to eavesdrop.
- John Dillon: Are the Feds Sniffing Your Re-Mail?
- Global Surveillance Network -- the NSA is reading your email.
Yet another subject of interest to libertarians in modern society is the centralization of information concerning private individuals. Read about the P-TRAK database.
The oppressive effects of custodial states (those which regard the people under their supposed control as their property, to be used as they wish) has led to attempts to escape this tyranny. One solution is that of Temporary Autonomous Zones, as suggested by Hakim Bey. As he says, the TAZ:
... can provide the quality of enhancement associated with the uprising without necessarily leading to violence and martyrdom. The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it.
Finally, a letter from a concerned citizen:
Edgar A. Suter, MD: Thomas Jefferson - Atlantic Monthly's Revisionism
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