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Democracy: Democracy And Objectivism

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Under democracy, the individual must submit to the whims of the majority.

Is democracy a form of collectivism? How does democracy fit in with objectivism? Would a perfect system of capitalism (the kind espoused by Rand) be democratic?

Thanks in advance.

Edited by softwareNerd

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United States isnt a democracy! I assume that is the country you take your stance from. And as for the specific question. Democracy doesnt fit in with Objectivism. I believe a Constitutional Republic like america is much more towards the ideal i would shoot for.

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Speaking of, I have my theories, but I was wondering if anyone knew exactly how the leaders would be chosen in a laissez-faire system. I know for a fact that it would be by vote, but I was curious as to more details on the process.

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I beleive the American system (not in its entirety) is very close to ideal. If we could just get rid of those campaign regulations, and a few other ugly parts, it would be great.

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I am in England. I am an 18 year old student, about to start university in October.

I have never come across the difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic before.

Please explain the difference between the two.

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simply put a democracy is where majority vote rules all. There are no rights, if the majority votes it okay to kill a person then thats what goes. Another fundamental difference is that a republic elects representatives for each state, which maintains a certain level of sovereignty from the nation as a whole. Basically, the concept that the united STATES uses. There are some mixes of the two like, a representative democracy. Which isnt a true democracy but much like alot of countries use. If a country were a true democracy there would be a massive vote on every political issue to decide the action to be taken. In our republic, states maintain sovereignty, and our constitution limits what actions a government can take and protects our rights.

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In a perfect constitutional republic, is the system of ammendments possible?

For example in the US Constitution -

Amendment XVI (1913)

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration.

If this happened in the perfect constitutional republic, it would appear that the "constitutional republic" is more like a democracy. For example you have the constitution of rights, but these rights can be changed according to the whims of the majority (or whoever ammends the constitution).

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it allows errors to be corrected. However, if it were "perfect" there might not be mistakes to correct. I dont agree that that is a good amendment, but I still support the amendment proccess.

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Under democracy, the individual must submit to the whims of the majority.

Is democracy a form of collectivism?

An unlimited majority rule is every bit as collectivist as those systems more usually associated with collectivism.

How does democracy fit in with objectivism?
It does not fit at all.

Would a perfect system of capitalism (the kind espoused by Rand) be democratic?

There is a big difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic, the latter being the foundation of the United States. Here is an excerpt from Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, pp. 368-369.

"The American system, as has often been stated by conservatives, was not a democracy, whether representative or direct, but a republic. (I use these terms as the Founding Fathers did.) 'Democracy' means a system of unlimited majority rule; 'unlimited' means unrestricted by individual rights. Such an approach is not a form of freedom, but of collectivism. A 'republic,' by

contrast, is a system restricted to the protection of rights. In a republic, majority rule applies only to some details, like the selection of certain personnel.

"Rights, however, remain an absolute; i.e., the principles governing the government are not subject to vote."

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In a perfect constitutional republic, is the system of ammendments possible?

For example in the US Constitution -

Amendment XVI (1913)

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration.

If this happened in the perfect constitutional republic, it would appear that the "constitutional republic" is more like a democracy. For example you have the constitution of rights, but these rights can be changed according to the whims of the majority (or whoever ammends the constitution).

Since people are not omniscient an amendment process is a way to deal with the unforseen. However, even a perfect document is only as good as the system that adheres to it. If the prevalent philosophy of a society permits a legislature to enact unconstitutional law, and if the law courts themselves do not properly adhere to the principles of the constitution, the the seeds of intellectual decay may take its toll.

Note, however, that a proper government, once formed, has such little power that the safeguards of the system, and the vigilence of the citizens, will keep things in check and running properly. But, philosophy trumps all, and bad philosophy is what enables the main destroyer of rights, the use of force.

Lesson to be learned: We all, individually and as a culture, desperately need a philosophy such as Objectivism to guide our lives.

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Speaking of, I have my theories, but I was wondering if anyone knew exactly how the leaders would be chosen in a laissez-faire system. I know for a fact that it would be by vote, but I was curious as to more details on the process.

Okay, how do you know that for a fact? I am more or less of the opposite view, that the "leaders" should be appointed based on some kind of objective qualifications. That will tell you how much I think mob rule sucks :lol:

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I am more or less of the opposite view, that the "leaders" should be appointed based on some kind of objective qualifications.

There should be some basic objective qualifications--such as age, citizenship, clean criminal record--but I suppose you have much more restrictive ones in mind. (University degree? Business experience? Military experience?) I see manifold problems with such an approach:

1. The requierments would have to be defined in the constitution, but the more restrictive the requirements are, the more difficult it will be to get them accepted by the constitutional convention. Everyone will easily agree that a minimum age of 25 should be required for the Presidency, but if you propose that a Ph. D. be required for the same office, you will be faced with a deluge of objections.

2. No matter how restrictive you make the requirements, there may always be two or more candidates who meet them. You would still need a way to choose among them.

3. If your requirements are too restrictive, it may be that no one meets them.

4. Over time, the requirements may become obsolete.

I think the best solution is still to elect the leaders by voting, but the circle of voting citizens should be kept relatively small. Voting rights should only be given to a person who satisfies a set of basic objective requirements AND has the recommendation of, say, seven people who already have voting rights.

Edited by Capitalism Forever

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Okay, how do you know that for a fact? I am more or less of the opposite view, that the "leaders" should be appointed based on some kind of objective qualifications. That will tell you how much I think mob rule sucks :P

Appointed by whom - and who decides who gets to do the appointing?

Fred Weiss

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There should be some basic objective qualifications--such as age, citizenship, criminal record--but I suppose you have much more restrictive ones in mind. (University degree? Business experience? Military experience?)

I wasn't thinking of mechanical credentials, but more the knowledge that the person has the ability to perform the proper function of government. Basically, this comes down to devising a "test" (72 hour takehome, closed-book or something like that :P.) I would be quite opposed to a credential-based system that required e.g. a PhD. On occasion, I entertain the idea that possession of a PhD could be an absolute bar to holding governmental power. But that's only temporary annoyance, not an actual position of mine.

Your points about putting the requirements in the constitution are correct, and above all I believe that a good constitution should articulate the purpose of the document. The fundamental problem in objective law is that the words tend to become a mantra over time, and law is seen as ritual obedience to a set of words rather than as a means of achieving a specific goal. The US constitution does not set forth a clear statement of the purpose of a proper government, and we're in trouble because of that. So, as has been suggested here (and elsewhere) a number of times, any law should be rigorously held to a specific purpose: the protection of rights.

So the test of the man would be, does this person understand what the government's monopoly on force is about; will he mandate its use properly? The takehome exam (I don't really mean that literally) is a means of determining whether the person has the moral character and knowledge needed to implement the stated function of the constitution. Remember too that a proper government, which exists only to protect rights, will not have a division of Traffic and Parking Enforcement, Health and Social Services, Parks Department, Building Codes, Interstate Commerce Commission, The Mint, FDA, IRS, FCC, DEA, ATF and so on. At the domestic level, all you need is the courts (including the manpower to enforce decisions). The qualification most needed there is knowledge of (objective) law.

Appointing a new judge is a significant event (as is removing a disfunctional judge), and you can rightfully ask questions of implementation. My stock answer is that a 2/3 supermajority should be required to change the makeup of the courts, and that all deliberations must be carried out with explicit reference to the fundamental principles of the constitution. The "initial bootstrap" aspect of the system would basically be however we actually get a laissez-faire capitalist constitution in the first place.

The basic requirement, that government exists solely to protect the rights of man, will not become obsolete over time. The fundamental requirement is that a government official recognize that function and respect it, and if you can't find someone who can satisfy that requirement, we're all scrod. As for the problem of selecting the best candidate given two or more equally capable candidates, well, people manage to decide (the "arbitrary decision" problem exists no matter what system you use).

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David Odden:

I will simply quote Ayn Rand, cause she explained it very well,

"The Theory of representative government rests on the principal that man is a rational being, i.e., that he is able to perceive the facts of reality, to evaluate them, to form rational judgments, to make his own choices, and to bear responsibility for the course of his life. Politically, this principal is implemented by a man's right to choose his own agents, i.e., those whom he authorizes to represent him in the government of his country. To represent him, in this context, means to represent his views in terms of political principles. Thus the government of a free country derives its 'just powers from the consent of the governed.'

see Representation Without Authorization by Ayn Rand

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I have a question: What government would objectivism use?

Read the essays "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government" in The Virtue of Selfishness. The book is widely available at your local library and bookstores.

I can only say briefly that it would be very similar to the one originally established by the Founding Fathers--in fact, it would be exactly the same in its essential structure. Only the details would change (such as specific powers of Congress, an explicit statement of the purpose of government, and perhaps the presidential election process).

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I have a question: What government would objectivism use?

Others might disagree with me, but I don't think that Objectivism does (or should) stipulate what form a government should take. As long as the government has no role other than protecting the rights of citizens, it's actual structure should not be a matter for philosophy at this level. I don't think that a democracy (or a constitutional republic) is at all necessary; it would certainly be possible for other forms of government such as monarchy or aristocracy to govern a laissez faire society, and as long as they did not step outside their jurisdiction, I would not have a problem with this.

edit: I realise that Rand personally leaned towards a Constitutional Republic, but I would hold that this was her opinion rather than a requirement of her politico-philosophical premises.

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Philosophy's role is to define the role of government, not the particulars of its organization. The sole role of the government is to protect, rights - so we know it must be a limited government.

How to elect officials? How much to pay them? How shall they be called? That's the role of political science, not philosophy.

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A moral government does not initiate force, but it does have a monopoly on the retaliatory use of force. A constitution limits government, not its citizens. Amendments to the US constitution met that test throughout the 19th century, but in the 20th the constitution was amended to give rights(power) to government itself, precipitating all the the ills we endure today. The 16th amendment was particularly troubling. Once government had the power to tax, a progressive loss of liberty was inevitable. The 17th amendment is responsible for the chaos we now face with funding elections.

The founding fathers erred, principally in two areas, a clause allowing the government to "provide for the general welfare" and the interstate commerce clause. These were the root of the problem The income tax, paper money and ‘far fetched’ interpretations of the Interstate Commerce Clause, Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution are the major dificulties.

In 1913, with malice of forethought, Congress created the Income Tax and the Federal Reserve, ostensibly to tame the business cycle of boom and bust, but with the full realization that it would increase by infinity their ability to tax, or less charitably, buy votes.

Taxes have never been popular in America. The first federal income tax was imposed during the Civil War. It proved so unpopular, however, that it was soon repealed. Congress tried it again in the 1890s, but the Supreme Court came to our rescue, declaring it unconstitutional in 1895. Referring to the explicit prohibition against direct taxation in Article I, the court argued that “an income tax would excessively enhance federal power in relation to state power”. Precognition?

Ever the patriots, Congress would not take no for an answer. They nullified the ruling by an overwhelming majority and proposed a 16th Amendment. Three-fourths of the state legislatures, inspired by Theodore Roosevelt and flushed with the thought of empire, ratified the villainous deed.

Then, in the same prolific year, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act giving the government the right to print paper money unbacked by gold. Later in the 1930s when FDR realized there wasn’t enough gold in Ft. Knox to finance his grand vision of a New Deal the final barrier was removed. Worthless money became a fait d’accompli (at least officially) in the repeal of the Gold Standard in the 30s.

Abusive interpretations of the Interstate Commerce clause began almost before the ink was dry on the Constitution. Most statesmen recognized a need for uniform interstate commerce between the various States. Under the Articles of Confederation, some states had treated others as foreign countries, levying all manner of discriminatory taxes, licensing provisions, port regulations, and the like.

James Madison argued: "We are now obliged to defend against those lawless attempts from the interfering regulations of different States, with little success...New York levies money from New Jersey by her imposts. In New Jersey, instead of cooperating with New York, the Legislature favors violations on her regulations."

To prevent trade wars among the states, the Constitution gives Congress the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." The word "regulate", at the time, meant to make regular or uniform. The clear intent was to give Congress the power to prevent discriminatory trade practices among the states. Jefferson remarked: "The power given to Congress by the Constitution does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State (that is to say, of the commerce between citizen and citizen) which remain exclusively with its own legislature, but to its external commerce only; that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes." (Opinion on Bank, 1791

Controversy, even in Colonial times, makes it clear that Politicians have always been scoundrels looking for loopholes in the Constitutional safeguards against the growth of federal power. They happily ignored the ample warnings by the Founders.

Jefferson cautioned that, "Whenever the words of a law will bear two meanings, one of which will give effect to the law, and the other will defeat it, the former must be supposed to have been intended by the Legislature, because they could not intend that meaning, which would defeat their intention, in passing that law; and in a statute, as in a will, the intention of the party is to be sought after." (Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1808)

He felt that, "When an instrument admits two constructions, the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe and precise. I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless." (Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Nicholas, 1803), but Congress was not dissuaded. The Supreme Court tried to stem the tide by holding legislation to the limits defined by the enumerated powers. But, pressure from Congress and Presidents gradually overcame the resistance of the courts.

Congress hit the jackpot with the commerce clause. The floodgates opened in 1889 when the Supreme Court ruled that the commerce clause was a positive grant of power to regulate the economy. "The reasons which may have caused the framers of the Constitution to repose the power to regulate commerce in Congress do not...affect or limit the extent of the power itself," they arbitrarily reasoned; and once the intent of the framers of the law was ignored, any interpretation became possible.

From 1889 to 1941, the Court maintained some restraint on Congress, allowing them to only regulate activities that directly involved interstate commerce. The laws they upheld still did not conform to the enumerated powers, but the justices were diligent in looking for some real connection with interstate commerce. In 1941, when our ‘beloved’ FDR threatened to stack the court with Justices who would see things his way, the Court capitulated.

The precedent involved a farmer named Filburn who was fined by the federal government for growing 461 bushels of wheat in violation of FDR’s Agriculture Adjustment Act which allowed him only 222. Even though Filburn used the surplus for feed on his own farm and for his family, the Court ruled that he affected interstate commerce and came under Congress’ regulatory jurisdiction.

With the capitulation of the courts, government control over the economy and other aspects of American life have grown like a ‘Topsy’. The Justice Department actually cited the Commerce clause in its arguments before the courts in defense of the Patriot Act. Clearly, there is no connection between the Patriot Act and commerce, but precedents set by the FBI during the 40s, make the uglier aspects of the Patriot Act possible.

At the start of the Depression, Government consumed 3 percent of the economy’s output; it now consumes about 25 percent, which will swiftly rise to 40 percent after passage of the new Medicare bill. The genie of big government was released from the bottle after 150 years and the stopper has not been seen in 60 years.

There is no way to throw a switch and take American back to the 19th Century short of a new American Revolution, and that will not occur. If there were a lever to pull, I would be the first to throw it. Instead of fussing about everything under the sun, let’s narrow the focus. The mess was over a 100 years in the making and won’t be solved overnight. We should not lose hope because devolution will not be immediate.

Clearly, a frontal assault on the 16th Amendment can not succeed. The issue does not inspire public support. It frightens too many who realize that the move would end social programs, including Social Security and Medicare. They are not wise or informed enough to realize they would be better off without these programs. For example, how they would handle Grandma and Grandpa becoming part of family again? There is little confidence that private or religious philanthropical institutions would fill the void.

But the general public would support a national sales tax or a flat tax, and so could Objectivists and Conservatives, as long as the IRS is eliminated. (Nothing can remain to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes.) A sales tax with an income tax or a flat tax with IRS provisos would be the worse of both possible worlds. Objectivists would need to support this as an intermediary step and not allow the good to be sacrificed to perfection. Conservatives and Republicans would need to insist that Bush accomplish this in his second term or refuse to vote for him in ’84.

Once a sales or flat tax is in place and government no longer ‘clouded the minds of men', Americans would see how much the government spends. With transparency in place, we can begin the process of cutting taxes and swapping federal for local control.

With a more rational tax, we could tackle reverting to the Gold standard. Undoing this evil will require effort and coordination with foreign governments. But foreign nations willingly followed us into this cul de sac in the 20th Century, so they should be willing to follow us out in the 21st.

Court challenges limiting the interpretation of the Commerce Clause couldn’t be more timely with the battle against the Patriot Act and its progenitor FISA.

We should do these three things and stop obsessing over the rest. With these battles won, the rest would take care of itself. For extra credit, make a contribution to reforming politics by organizing for the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Success is highly possible because liberals are not organized against it, and many may even join us.

Here in a nutshell are a few active steps we could take as citizens to start rolling the government back. Working to achieve these goals would take our minds from all the doom and gloom we see on the web pages.

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aynfan: Thank you for your post. You've given a direction to go in, rather than merely grouse about the present or talk about a "perfect" government. This method is exactly the way to start the war against the socialization of American politics. It isn't necessary for the whole country to become Objectivists before something positive can be done. The majority of Americans simply need leadership, not degrees in philosophy.

Words without deeds are just so much hot air. When I could do so, I worked against the passage of bad laws. I'm no longer able to do the work necessary for such fights, but you guys are. You're young and you have the basics. Learn what you must to identify the problem precisely, the way aynfan has done, and then go to work. Otherwise, you're going to find yourselves at an advanced age still grousing about how everything's a mess.

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