“Democracy is freedom”
We all have heard it. Democracy is freedom! Every country should be democratic!
Democracy is a tool that can be used to enhanced freedom, but in the West it has become corrupted.
Is republican democracy the best form of government so far? Probably. Communism, socialism, and fascism have caused massive amounts of destruction and death across the world. They all have failed spectacularly, or are in the process of doing so. But does that mean that democracy is the end-all, best government to ever exist? Not a chance. It is inherently flawed. Let’s discuss why.
What is Democracy?
A political scientist named Larry Diamond formulated the requirements for democracy, which have largely been accredited as a baseline for freedom in a democratic society. They include:
- Free and fair elections, and a system to accomplish them.
- Active participation by citizens in the democratic process.
- Protection of the human rights of the citizens.
- Law must apply equally to all citizens.
Does this sound like how the American (or any Western nation, for that matter) operates? These 4 key concepts of a democracy are great standards, but almost impossible to truly implement when dealing with (1) political power and (2) the realization that unhinged power corrupts. Let’s find out why.
First off, let’s discuss active participation. The last time over 60% of Americans voted in a presidential election was in 1968. In certain years, like in 1996, more people did not vote than those who did. This data is for presidential elections, the results for local and bi-annual elections are even lower. Let’s not forget the lackluster amount of people that vote in political party primaries. This is an incredibly low participation rate, where Americans simply are not using their vote. As a result, we see that the citizens are not actively participating in their elections. There are also a lot more problems with those who do vote. We’ll discuss that more later.
Another problem exacerbated by democracy is the lack of votes being applied to the market and its handlers.
Huge financial institutions and banking industries are largely privatized. Henry Ford said it best with “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning”. Even the Federal Reserve is mostly privatized. These banking institutions have vast amounts of control over the economy, and by de facto, every single person living in America. They do not work in the interest of the average citizen, nor are they accountable to us.
When profits come before people, we have a human rights issue on top of this lack of control over the banking institutions. On top of all of this, we have no way to remove them. We cannot vote them out of their position for their horrendous behavior, like the actions that led to the financial collapse in 2008. When certain people hold this much power, it doesn’t matter who we elect to lead us because they must cooperate with the interests of these power-players. So the end result is the exact same as the first paragraph; there is no participation by the citizens because we aren’t given the option.
So the first requirement of the ‘democracy is freedom’ has fallen: active participation by citizens in the democratic process. What about the other three?
It is no secret that the wealthy have a better shot in court than a poor person. Poor people can’t hire an expensive defense attorney that can research for days on a case to find a single loophole, they have to rely on public defenders. These public defenders are overworked and typically have so many caseloads that they don’t have time to put any effort into beating the results of a specifically trained lawyer.
We have seen these results in all kinds of court cases. “Affluenza” defense, as an example. Individuals with wealthy parents who can buy out lawyers to get them off the hook. The claim of Affluenza means the inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions because they are too wealthy to notice. A principle example was the case of Ethan Couch, who got off of killing 4 people in a drunk driving crash because of “Affluenza”. Do you think a poor inner-city person would have got off doing the same thing by claiming they were too poor to notice consequences of murdering people? Yeah, me neither.
Laws aren’t equal on a government versus individual basis either. The government has exclusive rights to break any of their own laws, whereas we can’t. Consider spying and Edward Snowden. Snowden released the biggest leak of information on domestic surveillance our government has ever seen. It showcased bulletproof evidence that the government was spying on citizens and breaking privacy laws. Now, do you think if the average guy Joe Brown spied on the CIA it would be fine and there would be no repercussions? Let’s be honest… Joe Brown would be on a one-way trip to Guantanamo Bay. The government has rights we do not. The laws are not applied equally here, either.
What about power basis?
The laws seem to be in stark contrast depending on how much political sway you hold in the country. Hillary Clinton broke numerous laws regarding her private email server that eventually were hacked into by foreign entities. But that’s not so bad, right? Not worth jail time? What about Bryan Nishimura? Mr. Nishimura plead guilty to “unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, without malicious intent”. What was the crime? He had classified material on a personal device, and when the feds found out, he tried to delete the information off the device. Sound familiar? That’s because what Nishimura did was exactly the same thing Hillary Clinton did.
Nishimura was prosecuted by the FBI, forever lost his security clearance, and was convicted. The FBI did nothing to Clinton. So, do we really have equal laws? Why are people at the top allowed to avoid punishment when lowly soldiers are punished for doing the exact same thing? Surprise, surprise, we don’t have equal laws.
Two ‘democracy is freedom’ pillars have fallen: active participation in the democratic process and equal laws for all citizens. Well, we are halfway there. Now let’s see the problems with the other two.
How Democracy Controls the Vote
Regardless of how “free” we believe we are when it comes to elections, it is still nowhere near the true potential. Certain organizations and voters can drastically influence the result of elections. Even with the freedom to vote for whoever you want, the result is easily corruptible. The media, uninformed voters, and the political party establishments make sure of this.
The decree of freedom is measured by “free and fair elections, with a system that accomplishes the former”. Does our system actually accomplish this?
The Mainstream Media
The main media organizations hold enormous power sway. This is largely a bi-partisan complaint—people on the left complain about it as much as on the right. However, so many of these media organizations are controlled by the same powerful or wealthy individuals. If you google something like “mainstream media organizations by the same corporation” you’ll quickly come to the result that I am discussing. 50 companies owned 90% of the media in 1983, it was 6 in 2011! Just one, News Corp, owns the top 3 newspapers on 3 continents. The media has a monopoly over a ridiculous number of local stations and influential potential. Just think: 90% of all the things you see and read from media organizations come from the same sources. Not to mention, a lot of these hold power monopolies in other industries—such as internet service providers.
The media has put forth outright lies, numerous times. Whether it’s covering up their own falsehoods, or to simply gain more viewers to line their pockets. Such as using their own cameramen to align with their political agenda. Or using fake actors to depict war. This is media manipulation.
It’s no “big news” for anyone that has been following this topic for any number of years. Hell, Chomsky wrote about it in his book ‘Manufacturing Consent’ in 1988. He stated that the media “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”. This is exactly what we still see today. The minds of viewers are drawn to emotional-charged articles and reporting that neuter their logical reasoning. How can one claim to be “free” when they are fed with lies through 90% of the media? Anyone that watches it catches some of the propaganda. It isn’t possible to escape.
How does this translate to elections? To put it simply, false narratives and illogical claims are used against whoever the media doesn’t support. They prop up political candidates and specifically target a political agenda to send to viewers. This is not a big deal to someone who would read through this article to this point, most of you would already be “awoken” to the reality. However, for millions of Americans this isn’t the case. They believe whatever these corporations say, because they are the supposed authority on the topic. When people go to the polling booth with this propaganda, they cannot vote logically. The media makes uninformed people hold strong opinions on very important topics that they have no idea about. It destroys the entire concept of a free system that defends a free and fair election when the system’s media actively promotes false information.
John Stuart Mill stated in the Harm Principle that freedom should never be limited unless it is used to prevent harm to other individuals. We already discussed that the mainstream media can push out propaganda, which influences millions of Americans. This results in them being uninformed voters. In addition to this, it is also sometimes the voters themselves that cause a degradation in a “free and fair” election. You cannot have an election that is fair if a significant portion of the voters know nothing about what they are voting for.
Is it fair for me to drive on the highway if I don’t know how to drive? Of course not. According to Mills’ principle mentioned above, I could harm someone from my lack of knowledge, which would break the Harm Principle. So then, why is it okay for someone to vote for political establishment candidates, not knowing anything about politics or the current issues facing their respective country? Would this not be a breach of the Harm Principle as well?
We have people voting in this country, who know nothing about politics. These people form their opinions, and inevitably their vote, on things tied to emotions or what other people tell them. They are sometimes called “Low-Information Voters” or “The Ignorant Voter”. I call them Malicious Voters. Let me explain with an example. If someone is drunk, and willing drives a car and harms a person, they are charged with malicious and willful intent. The driver willingly knows that they could cause harm, but does it anyway.
These voters are the same way.
They know they are under-informed on politics, but choose to still vote, anyway. This is clearly a malicious act. If individuals vote solely on their feelings, or on what other people say, it causes the candidates to be poorly chosen and inevitably harm others.
Let’s say someone views the economy as an important issue in society. They intend to vote for their presidential candidate that they “believe” will fix the economy. Then this same person doesn’t know what a supply curve is, or what NAFTA/TPP is. So where are they getting their information? Well, anecdotal evidence or what other people are telling them. They are a malicious voter. They just randomly decided who would fix the economy. There is no sound logical reasoning to it. This person does not know about trade deals, or the deals effect on a country. They don’t know basic economic theory and thus shouldn’t have an opinion on the topic until they learned the ABCs of economics.
As an example, I’m a male. I don’t research childbirth. I don’t claim to know what childbirth is like. As a result, I don’t go around telling women how they should handle childbirth. This malicious voter shouldn’t go around telling individuals how the economy will be fixed if they know nothing about it. But worse, this individual isn’t just telling people how to fix the economy, they’re casting a vote for the most powerful person that will assume control on this planet based on ill-informed and malicious intent.
There are numerous examples of malicious voters. Ben Franklin said it best with “tyranny begins with ignorance”. The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum did a study and found that 22% of Americans could name all the Simpsons characters, but only 1 in 1,000 could name all five First Amendment freedoms. These are people who vote for the person that is supposed to protect those freedoms. Scared yet? Well, let’s keep going. Just Facts did a study about voters’ knowledge on key issues, only measuring those that stated they would vote “most” or “all” election cycles.
A majority of the participants only gave the correct answer to 4 out of 23 questions.
52% of the responses were wrong, 13% refused to answer or no answer. The questions were not difficult and can be found here. An important notice is the following quote: “In total, the rates at which voters gave the correct answers varied from a high of 43% for Trump voters to a low of 31% for Clinton voters:
- 43% for Trump voters.
- 37% for 35 to 64-year-olds.
- 37% for males.
- 35% for undecided voters.
- 34% for females.
- 34% for 65+ year olds.
- 31% for Clinton voters.
Notice how all of these are under 50%. Each respondent studied that says they are going to vote, are going to vote without knowing the actual facts. From this study, it would seem that the majority of voters are malicious.
How can an election be “fair” when the majority of the voters don’t know what they are doing? The answer: It can’t. You can’t elect a representative under fair conditions when the majority of voters don’t participate in the “fair” part. This ignorance directly results from individuals’ lack of participation in wanting to understand the materials, and the media’s part of skewing the facts.
Political Party Establishment
Another issue of contention is the dual party system. When only given the option between two candidates, it very often boils down to a vote for which is less terrible, instead of which is the best. To compound on this problem, only 28.5% of voters even bothered to vote in their parties primary. So the two candidates that were chosen were selected only by 28.5% of eligible voters. Democracy is supposed to stand for “Rule of the Majority”. 28.5% is not a majority. And as discussed above, over 50% of them are malicious voters. But wait! There’s more! Even more of that figures voters have false notions about the candidates that were selected by their parties because of false media narratives and collusion!
The problem with the party system itself even goes deeper.
By having these two powerhouses (Democrat v. Republican), we divide our country. I’m sure many of you have seen it, old folks who vote along their party lines because, well, that’s what they have always done. It doesn’t matter who is actually a good leader or an intelligent realist. All that matters is the party sticker. One is racist. One is communist. All these fancy media labels people like to throw around to control the narrative.
With the two-party system, we annihilate any candidate that might actually better this country because the two powerful parties will veto them. We can’t get a good candidate without them bowing to these parties because they are the only ones that will get elected because of malicious voters. This further limits the population’s ability to make rational voting decisions and destroys any semblance of a fair election we had left standing.
So with mainstream media, malicious voters, and the two-party system, we clearly see that “a system that accomplishes free and fair elections” does not align with what we currently have. Quite the opposite, really. That knocks down three pillars of the ‘democracy is freedom’ argument. We have one standing left: protection of human rights. Let’s see if it can hold up.
We mentioned above that the candidates chosen are not picked under ideal circumstances. Malicious voters will put these politicians into office without even knowing their background or their bill-voting records. Many times, these same politicians owe their election to wealthy donors who contributed to their campaign. Their interests are thus not always in the interest of the individuals who voted for them. They are two-faced power brokers that are invested in the interest of the elite.
If everyone voted for the same candidate, but that candidate is in the pocket of a big corporation, the politician will side with the big business over the voter almost always. They have too, to ensure they have enough financing capital to get re-elected again. This results in them not always protecting the rights they are meant to, degrading democracy and draining our human rights. If a politician has to choose between keeping his financing, or supporting our rights, feel safe in knowing that he or she will always choose the former.
How far do we go to protect our rights?
Protection of human rights of the citizens was mentioned as a pillar of democracy. But how far do we go to protect these rights? As mentioned above, Mill stated that freedom is preferable unless it causes harm to another. This is a relatively logical assumption as long as no other person is harmed by someone’s actions, it should not be constrained. However, our versions of democracy in the West do just that.
Censorship democracy has arisen from the ashes of what the founding fathers envisioned. You don’t have to go far for an example of this. In Great Britain, people like Michael Savage have been denied entry because of “hate speech”. Many countries have implemented “online bullying” laws where if you say something that the government doesn’t want you to say, you get a monopoly pass straight to jail. Even forms of criticism against certain laws have sprung up to prohibit discussion of “sensitive” topics, that may hurt people’s feelings. This is simply a censor. It is a limitation of free speech. And free speech is a founding principle of human rights.
Politicians are owned by the lobbyists that prop them up. They are puppets to whoever gives them the highest price tag. Politicians ensure private industries get exclusive tax breaks, so of course the top industries are going to be involved in lobbying to get their candidate elected. It’s simple business. As mentioned above, it’s what happens when profit is declared more important than people. When profit is the end-all goal of a corporation, it results in more degradation of our human rights through illegitimate politicians. Profit is obviously a necessity for any business. But when it comes at the expense of everyone in society, it is no longer profit. It is a disguise. When the profit for a single company goes up, but the social welfare goes down for society, we reach a point where their profit is no longer worth the loss.
Consider an example:
Company A has 5000 employees in a small town. Company A owes their complete dedication to their shareholders (not stakeholders), because that is the law. Now, Company A sees a business opportunity outside of the country that could increase profit margins by outsourcing/offshoring. Company A is legally required to outsource or offshore, or the CEO could get in tremendous trouble if the shareholders find out he did not act in the best interests of the shareholders. So, Company A must move. The profit margins increase by 1%, but 5000 Americans are out of a job. The net benefit gained by Company A moving will not off-put the net loss of social welfare of the 5000 Americans now unable to pay their bills.
This is a simplistic example that obviously has many other caveats worth debating, but easily shows the result that company profit is not always profitable for society as a whole. With the Americans out of work, they lose out on one of the most important human rights necessary for survival: a paycheck. Politicians are complacent in these endeavors because these companies are the ones financing their election runs. The corruption and collusion between the two runs rampant. The ‘democracy is freedom’ proposal is not supposed to include corruption.
The elites allow this to continue because it is profitable for them. A millionaire that gains a 1% increase in shareholder value would absolutely support this proposition and use any logical loophole to avoid coming to terms with the harm they commit. Speaking of elites…
Nepotism, Cronies, and elite families. Applicants need not apply, the crony already has an unqualified buddy of theirs for the spot. In sports, there are fair rules to the game to ensure everyone plays fairly. If someone breaks them, they get a penalty. These rules don’t apply to elite families. Their wealth dynasties continue regardless of their effects on anyone else, because it can be passed down through inheritance. When one family can consolidate this level of power, there is rarely a “reset” and it results in these families having ridiculous levels of power to control others. The playing field is not equal, because cronies have unrestricted power to do as they please, so long as they line the politicians’ pockets to ensure they look the other way. We already discussed the “Affluenza” of wealthy families, but do they hurt our human rights as well?
Why is it fair that one person can begin life as an immune-to-law power child and another an average person? Why does one person have “more human rights” than the other? And more importantly, why are they allowed to cause harm to others without repercussion? Like when Goldman Sachs speculated about food prices and lobbied the government to destroy regulations that eventually caused a worldwide food famine that starved thousands. Isn’t “right to live” and “right to have access to food” relatively commonly accepted human rights? So it seems we have them, but only when it isn’t profitable for elite families to take them away.
What about powerful families raising capital to degrade our liberties?
Some of the biggest financiers of groups in favor of censoring speech and fighting gun rights are millionaires. We cannot entrust them in ensuring our basic liberties are protected. And as we discussed above, they have more political financing capital to control the politicians. Luckily, we still have certain independent groups raising capital to combat their twisted interests. But how long can we hold out for until they come for more of our rights?
We are all indebted to bankers. Whether through debt, financial storage, or some other form of inevitable commitment. We can’t control them as discussed previously because they are not elected market participants. They are not directly accountable to the federal government, because they are independent organizations, not nationalized. A prominent researcher discovered that 50 of the world’s largest financial institutions control a third of the world’s assets. How can we claim to have freedom of financial security, when our own government has had to take over certain financial institutions when they completely collapse due to their own misdeeds, as in the case of the housing crisis?
The end result is the same. Human rights are taken down by elite families and politicians, who only look out for their best interests. If someone’s liberty impedes profit, they are swiftly dealt with. And thus, our last pillar of the ‘democracy is freedom’ initiative has fallen: The safeguarding of human rights over personal interest.
‘Democracy is Freedom’ Conclusion
Was this essay researched just to tell everyone that we are screwed and without hope? Absolutely not. We can never give up. Humans are adaptable and powerful when pushed to their limits. Change did not happen by sitting and waiting for things to occur, they happened because people desired a fix. Our ancestors didn’t break free from the control of monarchies by praying. They fought back. The change was slow, but beneficial. And likewise, we will also see a brighter day.
Democracy may turn into a socialist society or a plutocracy. This is because malicious voters will always vote for “free” stuff. Or powerful wealthy families will assume control of the politicians. Based on its structure, it may be inevitable. However, a better system of governance can be found and implemented. Not to overwrite democracy, but to expand on it and provide even better safeguards against these threats than the current version provides.
The idea of “democracy is freedom” has been sold to us all. It’s time for us to return it and pick up a better version.
This essay will have a part 2 at a later date, with potential solutions to these problems.