Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rose Wilder Lane on Democracy

A compelling reason for the long hesitation of these men—
Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams, Madison, Monroe—
was their fear of democracy.
They were educated men. Excepting Franklin (self-educated),
each one had the education of an English gentleman.
That is, the philosophy and the history of the whole European
past had been pounded into his head before he was twelve
years old. Therefore, when he was old enough to think for
himself, he had thousands of years of human experience with
every form of Government, to think about.
This knowledge was then regarded as necessary to every
man whose birth entitled him to take any part in the government
of his country.
They also knew the meaning of every word they used;
they knew its Greek, Latin, or Anglo-Saxon root. Until forty
years ago, this knowledge was still considered of first importance
in American schools. Every pupil, at thirteen and
fourteen, learned etymology as he had learned spelling since
the age of six, by dogged repetition until the facts were fixed
in his mind.
Today the confusion of the meaning of words in these
United States is a danger to the whole world. Few American
schools any longer require a pupil to dissect his words to their
roots, and to know what he means when he speaks. And
for twenty years the disciplined members of the Communist
Party in these States have been deliberately following Lenin's
instruction, "First confuse the vocabulary."
Thinking can be done only in words. Accurate thinking
requires words of precise meaning. Communication between
human beings is impossible without words whose precise
meaning is generally understood.
Confuse the vocabulary, and people do not know what is
happening; they can not communicate an alarm; they can
not achieve any common purpose. Confuse the vocabulary,
and millions are helpless against a small, disciplined number
who know what they mean when they speak. Lenin had
Today, when you hear the word "democracy," what does
it mean?
These United States, of course; and England, the British
Commonwealth, the British Empire, Norway, Sweden, Denmark
and Belgium, part of France, Finland when Russians
attack the Finns but not when Finns attack Russia; Russia
when Russians fight Germans but not when Stalin signs a
pact with Hitler; the kingdoms and dictatorships of the
Balkans; and economic security and compulsory insurance
and the check-off system of collecting labor union dues; and
friendliness and neighborliness and the unique American
sense of human equality, and a vote for everybody, and
socialism and communism and the Spanish cause for which
republicans, democrats, socialists, syndicalists, anarchists and
Russian and American communists fought, and freedom and
human rights and human dignity and common decency.
That is, the word has no meaning. Its meaning has been
It was once a sound word. It is a necessary word, because
no other has its real meaning. Demo-cracy means, rule by
The People; as precisely as mon-archy means, rule by one
Demos, The People, was a fantasy imagined by the ancient
Greeks, in their search for The Authority that (they imagined)
controlled men. To this fantasy they attached the meaning
of God, which always attaches to every form of Authority,
and there are still persons who believe that "the voice of The
People is the voice of God."
The People does not exist. Individual persons compose any
group of persons.
So in practice, any attempt to establish democracy is an
attempt to make a majority of persons in a group act as the
ruler of that group.
Consider this for one moment, not in fantasy, but as applied
to your own experience in groups of living persons whom you
know, and you will understand why every attempt to establish
democracy has failed.
Of course there is no reason to suppose that majority-rule
would be desirable, even if it were possible. There is no
morality or efficiency in mere numbers. Ninety-nine persons
are no more likely to be right than one person is.
In the Federalist Papers, Madison stated the reason why
every attempt to establish a democracy quickly creates a tyrant:
"A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of
faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority,
and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice
the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies 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."
The gentlemen who took responsibility for saving the
American Revolution were fearful that democracy would end
it. The unknown Americans, the Ebenezer Foxes, for years
had been fighting Authority; each was determined "to do
what was right in my own eyes." But they had no Latin or
Greek, they knew nothing about all the previous efforts to
make democracy work, and they were shouting for democracy.
On the other hand, the large landholders, bankers, rich
merchants, and a thick-springing crop of rapacious grafters
and land-speculators, led by Alexander Hamilton, the illegitimate
adventurer from the West Indies who was also a genius,
were demanding an American monarchy.
The real revolutionists, when they signed the Declaration of
Independence and of individual freedom, were undertaking
not only to win a war against impossible odds, but to create
an entirely new kind of Government.
They faced the armed power of the British Empire, with
thirteen disorganized, quarreling colonies at their backs, and
two dangers threatening them: monarchy, and democracy.
They said nothing about The People. They repeated no
nonsense about Science and Natural Law and the Age of
Reason. They did not gush about the noble nature of Natural
Man. They knew men. They were realists. They had no
illusions about men, but they did know that all men are free.
They stood against both monarchy and democracy, because
they knew that when men set up an imaginary Authority
armed with force, they destroy all opportunity to exercise their
natural freedom.
Educated men, they had studied the many attempts to
establish democracy. The results were known twenty-five hundred
years ago in Greece. Democracy does not work. It can not
work, because every man is free. He can not transfer his inalienable
life and liberty to anyone or anything outside himself.
When he tries to do this, he tries to obey an Authority that
does not exist.
It makes no difference what he imagines this Authority to
be—Ra or Baal or Zeus or Jupiter; Cleopatra or the Mikado; or
Economic Necessity or the Will of the Masses or the Voice of
The People; the stubborn fact is that there is no Authority, of
any kind, that controls individuals. They control themselves.
Anyone in a free group can decide to give up his own idea
and go along with the majority. If he does not want to do this,
he can get out of the group. This is a use of freedom, an
exercise of self-controlling responsibility.
But when a large number of individuals falsely believe that
the majority is an Authority that has a right to control individuals,
they must let a majority choose one man (or a few
men) to act as Government. They will believe that the majority
has transferred to those men the Majority-Right to control
all individuals living under that Government. But Government
is not a controlling Authority; Government is a use
of force, it is the police, the army; it can not control anyone,
it can only hinder, restrict, or stop anyone's use of his energy.
As Madison says, some common passion or interest will
sway a majority. And because a majority supports the ruler
whom a majority chooses, nothing checks his use of force
against the minority. So the ruler of a democracy quickly
becomes a tyrant. And that is the swift and violent death of
the democracy.
This always occurs, invariably. It is as certain as death and
taxes. It occurred in Athens twenty-five centuries ago. It
occurred in France in 1804, when an overwhelming majority
elected the Emperor Napoleon. It occurred in Germany in
1932, when a majority of Germans—swayed by a common
passion for food and social order—elected Hitler.
Madison stated the historic fact: in democracy there is
nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party.
There is no protection for liberty. Hence it is, that democracies
always destroy personal security (the Gestapo, the concentration
camps) and the rights of property (what rights of property
ownership are there in Europe, now?) and are as short in their
lives as they are violent in their deaths.
(The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane)

1 comment:

Free Speech Czar said...

Breathtaking analysis here. I want to keep reading and reading. Great post.