Democratic Majority Vote Justifies Nothing
Posted by strategesis on May 13, 2012
There is nothing magical about democracy that prevents it from violating rights, or from enslaving people–even those whom it grants the privilege of voting. The majority can vote to enslave whomever it pleases–without denying them the privilege of voting. Nor is there any limit to the degree of slavery that a democracy may impose.
That falsifies any assertion that slavery or serdom cease to exist once the slave or serf is allowed to vote. For the same reason that it would falsify an assertion that a majority vote to have someone killed wasn’t murder, simply because it was done by majority vote.
You own yourself. I can fully justify that assertion, but since most people accept it, and since that point isn’t the topic, I’ll just assume that the reader accepts the assertion, and proceed:
Ownership, by definition, defines as rightful whatever actions you decide to take with respect to what you own, with the sole exception of whatever interferes with the property rights of others–including their symmetrical and reciprocal ownership of themselves. That’s why the concepts of property and rights exist. Their purpose is to define and disambiguate whose will rightfully prevails, when there is a conflict of wills.
Consequently, your neighbor has no right to enslave you. He has no rightful title to you as his property. Whether it could ever be possible that one person could rightfully own another via transfer of title using some unspecified procedure is non-sequitur to this discussion. What is sequitur is whether or not your neighbor can rightfully acquire title to you as his property–his slave–simply by asserting it sua sponte.
If he could, then property would have no meaning, since the concepts of rights and property would have no utility if they could be nullified by sua sponte assertions. You could, for example, respond to your neighbor’s assertion that you are his slave by asserting that he is yours. That would result in logical contradiction and chaos, and so demonstrates that unrestricted and unlimited transfer of title by sua sponte assertion has no utility. Formal systems–which is what a system of morality is–do not and cannot work that way. Logical contradictions are not allowed.
But what if 2 of your neighbors assert sua sponte that you are their slave? And do so by holding an election where you are allowed to vote yes or no on the proposition that you are their slave? Does the fact that it is two against one make any difference?
If it does, then why is it wrong for two robbers who confront you in an alley and demand that you give them your valuables? Even if they let you vote on the proposition before actually taking any action? And if that’s not wrong, would it be wrong for them to use the same procedure to justify kidnapping you to serve as their slave? Or just killing you for their entertainment?
Of course, you are permitted to vote yes or no on whatever these two guys in the alley propose to do, so it’s all justified by the will of the majority.
If you don’t think this two-against-one vote justifies whatever is decided regarding your fate, what about adding more voters? If we add voters, one by one, when does the magic happen? How many voters do we have to add before the outcome of the election redefines right and wrong?
The only logically and mathematically correct and consistent answer is never. The results of elections do not define or redefine right and wrong. Nor do democratic elections incorporated into systems of government so as to morally justify the actions of the government.
And that's why the Constitution of the United States does not establish the United States as a democracy of any sort. It establishes a republic–that happens to use democratic elections, but not as a mechanism to define right and wrong.
What matters about a republic is the rule of law. And what matters about the rule of law is that a) the laws must have higher authority than any person or governmental officer or agent, and b) the laws must apply to everyone symmetrically and equally [Ref: The Rule Of Law].
“It is the rule of law alone which hinders the rulers from turning themselves into the worst gangsters.” ~ Ludwig von Mises
The rule of law–strictly applied–is far more important than democracy–because it’s more effective for the purpose for which both are intended: Decreasing the probability that the government will violate rights.
Democracy’s contribution is primarily to increase the odds that the rule of law will be strictly applied. But neither of them provide any guarantee of that–as evidenced by the history of both Rome and the United States, among many others.
But the rule of law, like democracy, has no philosophical significance with respect to what is and is not rightful. Right and wrong is not defined by the outcomes of votes, nor by any other procedural rules (e.g. trials,) structural rules (e.g, separation of powers) or semantic rules (e.g., the rule of law.) All those things are just mechanisms, devices or tools intended to raise the odds that a government will not violate rights. But they do not guarantee it.
It’s analogous to the jury system, whose point isn’t that all the jurors agree and therefore their decision defines truth or defines right and wrong, but rather that the probability should be exceedingly low that 12 randomly selected jurors (which is no longer how it’s done–they cherry pick) will vote to convict if the defendant isn’t clearly guilty or if the law isn’t accepted as just and proper by almost everyone (originally the main purpose of the jury, although they’ve done a good job of preventing most jurors from knowing that fact.)
For a more in depth discussion of these issues, read The Law, by Frederic Bastiat