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Democracy, or the Antithesis to Individual Rights

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Such as I did with my BA thesis here, but this time prior to the actual defence of the paper, I submit here for peer review the introduction to my MA dissertation, titled The Analysis of a Flawed Concept: Democracy, or the Antithesis to Individual Rights.

 

At the advice of my academic coordinator, I integrated the Objectivist theoretical framework into my analysis, considering that Europeans are not at all familiar with who Ayn Rand is or what she wrote, perhaps outside remarks from liberal publications that they happen to read every now and then. At her suggestion I was more than happy to oblige, since my courses this year have been nothing but going back and forth between theories expounding a highly subjectivist epistemology (poststructuralism considerably has drawn my yawns, but I'm more eager to finish Windschuttle's book). I think I needn't mention the ever-present Marxist rallies of students in Belgium that have some of the most hilarious slogans.

 

I would like to make a note that the introduction is still a draft, as I have some elements I have not included for stylistic considerations or simply because it is too early and I expect to further develop and elaborate the paper before polishing up the introduction. Also, this is my first time writing formally about Objectivism after reading all I could put my hands on (I still haven't started For the New Intellectual and I still sift through ItOE for clarifications on some points more often than not), and therefore would welcome any pertinent criticism to both form and content as I believe it could mostly improve.

 

Thank you.

Draft Intro.pdf

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1. You mention the Founding Fathers as if they were a monolithic group, but they indeed had a wide range of opinions with varying views of democracy. Some were opposed, others not so opposed, and those that did oppose it had different reasons for opposing it. You seem to view them as all having the same rights-based opposition, but that isn't true.

 

2. It's true the Founders desired some legal limitations on the whims of the majority, but the US Constitution wasn't the first form of government the US had, so what about the time before the Constitution, what is the relation of that pre-Constitution era vis-a-vis democracy, and why did the Founders resort to the Constitution?

 

3. You seem to claim a republic is opposed to a democracy, but don't explain how so. Can't it be argued that republic is a type of democracy, a representative one, and it isn't at all necessarily standing in opposition to the concepts of democracy that you oppose? 

 

4. You ask is a democracy compatible with individual rights, but don't ask a more obvious questions that brings up, like: is a republic compatible with individual rights? Is the US Constitution compatible with individual rights? Is any kind of political structure that imposes collective representative structures on individuals without their consent compatible with individual rights? If we all go to the movies and we decide to vote on what movie to see, it's usually understood that the people that vote not to see the movie are able to go their own way, not that they can be forced to see the movie. So why is someone that votes for a representative in a republic forced to be represented by the winner of the election? Is this compatible for individual rights?

 

5. Any serious consideration of democracy and libertarian rights should make mention of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Democracy: the God that Failed) or any of HL Menken's criticisms of democracy. Or what about Roderick Long, Gary Chartier, and Charles Johnson have written supporting social democracy from a left-libertarian viewpoint.

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A representative Republic is not the same thing as a democracy. The difference is that a Republic is limited in what it can do: it must respect individual rights.

If we all go to the movies and we decide to vote on what movie to see, it's usually understood that the people that vote not to see the movie are able to go their own way, not that they can be forced to see the movie. 

Flawed analogy. Forcing someone to go to a movie would be a violation of his rights. What rights would a LFC government violate?

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1. You mention the Founding Fathers as if they were a monolithic group, but they indeed had a wide range of opinions with varying views of democracy. Some were opposed, others not so opposed, and those that did oppose it had different reasons for opposing it. You seem to view them as all having the same rights-based opposition, but that isn't true.

 

2. It's true the Founders desired some legal limitations on the whims of the majority, but the US Constitution wasn't the first form of government the US had, so what about the time before the Constitution, what is the relation of that pre-Constitution era vis-a-vis democracy, and why did the Founders resort to the Constitution?

 

3. You seem to claim a republic is opposed to a democracy, but don't explain how so. Can't it be argued that republic is a type of democracy, a representative one, and it isn't at all necessarily standing in opposition to the concepts of democracy that you oppose? 

 

4. You ask is a democracy compatible with individual rights, but don't ask a more obvious questions that brings up, like: is a republic compatible with individual rights? Is the US Constitution compatible with individual rights? Is any kind of political structure that imposes collective representative structures on individuals without their consent compatible with individual rights? If we all go to the movies and we decide to vote on what movie to see, it's usually understood that the people that vote not to see the movie are able to go their own way, not that they can be forced to see the movie. So why is someone that votes for a representative in a republic forced to be represented by the winner of the election? Is this compatible for individual rights?

 

5. Any serious consideration of democracy and libertarian rights should make mention of Hans-Hermann Hoppe (Democracy: the God that Failed) or any of HL Menken's criticisms of democracy. Or what about Roderick Long, Gary Chartier, and Charles Johnson have written supporting social democracy from a left-libertarian viewpoint.

 

You have some valid points and I concede that I will need to correct the perspective regarding the Founding Fathers's decision, to make it clearer, but also keeping it relevant to my point. Furthermore, the concept of republic was introduced in an opaque manner and I intend to correct that by giving it and the relationship between it and individual rights and democracy more space, both in the introduction and the first section, dealing with conceptualization (where I will also argue the compatibility of the republic with individual rights).

 

However, as far as contextualization for the pre-Constitutional US era, I found little to no reference that democracy was a major factor of contention. Rather, from my knowledge, the aspect was more one of federalism, and anyway the endeavour would be far from the purpose of the work.

 

In regards to the relationship between democracy and the republic, I argue from the same perspective as the Federalists and Ayn Rand did, on matter of principle. Thus, as Nicky pointed out, a republic is limited by rule of law, despite the fact that it employs the democratic method in some areas (the election of officials and in their deliberation on matters of proper government). On the other hand, the concept of democracy allows for no such limitation, and democracies nowadays submit (occasionally) to rule of law and principle only in such a measure that the balance between individual rights and majority passions isn't upset too much in detriment to the former. Despite sometimes operating like a republic, a democracy, because it subscribes to popular sovereignty as to a fundamental absolute, can be consistent with itself and violate individual rights, which makes life under such a form of government problematic (again, depends on degree of mixture), leading to such effects as popularity contests between elected officials and those that wish to become so to for how to best spend 'public' money, effectively patronizing majority whims; competition between groups of individuals that are beneficiaries of such acts, in what could be summed up as "the tyranny of the biggest minority" (which I also consider an aspect of democracy); and, in some cases, popular courts, just to name a few.

 

In my view, a republic cannot get away with such a thing, because it must uphold individual rights if it is to be consistent with itself, while the argument of democracy can be simply summed up: "but it's what the people want!", whilst in disconsideration [is this not a proper word?] for context. It can do so either directly or through representatives, so the form matters not. That is, at least, how I intend to structure my argument.

 

As for the authors you mentioned, Hoppe might be useful in the same manner I shall employ von Mises in helping to establish a proper context for some concepts, but a quick wikipedia look on Mencken revealed no major points that I can use without clogging down on discourse. Even so, I must mention two external factors in the realization of the dissertation. First, I chose (only) 3 major theorists on democracy, because even if the public isn't so much acquainted with them in Europe, at least some of the academia have a consistent good regard for at least one of them (depends on how they also favour Anglo-Saxon political thought; I had the benefit of only one such professor in 5 years, so not much was spent on that topic, beyond classical democracy and radical democracy, that would take me beyond my purpose anyhow). Second, most of the details you point out would be quite pleasant to research and to analyze given a wider work, but my paper is limited to 60 pages (called 'optimum length') and not that many theoretical perspectives can be cramped into such short a space. What I structured, even, is going beyond the narrow scope my coordinator advised me and I am really trying not to treat this like a PhD dissertation.

 

Nevertheless, I appreciate your feedback and thank you for the contribution.

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In regards to the relationship between democracy and the republic, I argue from the same perspective as the Federalists and Ayn Rand did, on matter of principle.

Well okay, but what do the Federalists and Ayn Rand have in common? It's true that the Federalists were also suspicious of democracy, but this hardly equates to having the same perspective as Rand. The Federalists were led by Alexander Hamilton, who basically wanted a dictatorship. The Federalists were a broad coalition comprised of mainly bankers and wealthy New Englanders that established federal taxes, tariffs, created a national debt and national banking system, supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, advocated the doctrine of "implied powers" in the Constitution and advocated centralization of power into the executive, hence they contended that the Articles of Confederation were too weak. Did not Rand have more in common with the liberals and radicals like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Samuel Adams, than the conservatives Hamilton, Franklin, Adams, Washington, et al?

Thus, as Nicky pointed out, a republic is limited by rule of law, despite the fact that it employs the democratic method in some areas (the election of officials and in their deliberation on matters of proper government). On the other hand, the concept of democracy allows for no such limitation

There is this sense of, well a republic is limited to rule by laws and respecting basic rights, whilst a democracy just sort of does whatever the people will. But that's precisely the distinction that I don't think makes sense. I know you want to say that a republic is superior, you even say "In my view, a republic cannot get away with such a thing, because it must uphold individual rights if it is to be consistent with itself" but the obvious question is: Why? Says who? What in the concept of a republic says it "must" do that? Isn't a republic just a type of political structure? Isn't a claim that it "must do X" a normative judgment on what a political structure ought to do? So then the two can be separated conceptually. A republic is a representative democracy, as you yourself seem to agree, so then all it refers to is a certain structure of choosing representatives. There is nothing in there conceptually that tells us what this representational structure is limited to doing. It could be limited to, say, protecting rights. It might also violate them. That depends on what the representatives choose to do. Similarly a direct democracy could be such that no one violated rights, it just all depends on what people consider themselves having the power to vote for.

 

This type of analysis suffers from the same conceptual errors you ascribe to mainstream treatments of democracy: by imposing your own normative value-judgments onto the concept of a political structure, you lose sight of those aspects of the political structure that you don't like, but are present nonetheless. It's like asking a modern leftist why Obamacare is valid and they say "cause the majority voted for it," and then you ask them if it's valid if the majority votes away freedom of speech, and the leftist will just go "but they can't do that, everybody knows that!" and just let the cognitive dissonance wash over them. So yes, a republic, that is to say, a representative democracy, can be "consistent with itself" (electing representatives to vote on laws) and still violate rights. You might not want one that does, but that has nothing to do with whether or not the concept is meaningful.

 

This also means that a republic is not the opposite of a democracy, but a type of it. You yourself seem to recognize that there are many types of democracy, a representative form is just one thereof. Sure, the Federalists thought direct democracy would undermine republican values, but the values they are refering to are values regarding centralization of power in the republican structure (ie., Congress, the President) rather than in the states.

 

So if movie-goers can't impose the choice of which movie to see on the dissenting voters, why can a represenative impose the choice of a representative on dissenting voters? And why is the representative structure itself imposed on voters? What if I want to elect a representative, say, every 4 years instead of 6? Or every 3 weeks? Why is 6 years in the Senate and 2 in the House the magic numbers? Who decides? Isn't this all arbitrary? Why do I have to submit to this structure instead of, say, another one? Isn't a constitution only binding on men insofar as it prevents them from violating rights? Then isn't anything else that goes beyond such respect for man's rights not binding on individuals, including whatever arbitrarily selected electoral system? So then, if by "consistent with itself" we mean "consistent with individual rights" how does representative democracy fare any more than the direct version?

 

And lastly, you state that you didn't see the relevance to the critique of democracy from the switch from the Articles of Confederation to the US Constitution, but this is one of the points Hoppe makes, that far from being some kind of liberal/Objectivist-like intentions to limit government, the Constitution was actually a coup by the centralist forces to expand the power of the government in Congress and the President, and that democracy was less harmful under the effects of the Articles, and that therefore the Constitution was a mistake, and is largely responsible for the very criticisms you levy against democracy itself.

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Well okay, but what do the Federalists and Ayn Rand have in common?

[...]

There is this sense of, well a republic is limited to rule by laws and respecting basic rights, whilst a democracy just sort of does whatever the people will. But that's precisely the distinction that I don't think makes sense. I know you want to say that a republic is superior, you even say "In my view, a republic cannot get away with such a thing, because it must uphold individual rights if it is to be consistent with itself" but the obvious question is: Why? Says who? What in the concept of a republic says it "must" do that? Isn't a republic just a type of political structure? Isn't a claim that it "must do X" a normative judgment on what a political structure ought to do? So then the two can be separated conceptually. A republic is a representative democracy, as you yourself seem to agree, so then all it refers to is a certain structure of choosing representatives. There is nothing in there conceptually that tells us what this representational structure is limited to doing. It could be limited to, say, protecting rights. It might also violate them. That depends on what the representatives choose to do. Similarly a direct democracy could be such that no one violated rights, it just all depends on what people consider themselves having the power to vote for.

 

This type of analysis suffers from the same conceptual errors you ascribe to mainstream treatments of democracy: by imposing your own normative value-judgments onto the concept of a political structure, you lose sight of those aspects of the political structure that you don't like, but are present nonetheless. It's like asking a modern leftist why Obamacare is valid and they say "cause the majority voted for it," and then you ask them if it's valid if the majority votes away freedom of speech, and the leftist will just go "but they can't do that, everybody knows that!" and just let the cognitive dissonance wash over them. So yes, a republic, that is to say, a representative democracy, can be "consistent with itself" (electing representatives to vote on laws) and still violate rights. You might not want one that does, but that has nothing to do with whether or not the concept is meaningful.

 

This also means that a republic is not the opposite of a democracy, but a type of it. You yourself seem to recognize that there are many types of democracy, a representative form is just one thereof. [...]

 

So if movie-goers can't impose the choice of which movie to see on the dissenting voters, why can a represenative impose the choice of a representative on dissenting voters? And why is the representative structure itself imposed on voters? What if I want to elect a representative, say, every 4 years instead of 6? Or every 3 weeks? Why is 6 years in the Senate and 2 in the House the magic numbers? Who decides? Isn't this all arbitrary? Why do I have to submit to this structure instead of, say, another one? Isn't a constitution only binding on men insofar as it prevents them from violating rights? Then isn't anything else that goes beyond such respect for man's rights not binding on individuals, including whatever arbitrarily selected electoral system? So then, if by "consistent with itself" we mean "consistent with individual rights" how does representative democracy fare any more than the direct version?

 

I'll try and address the first two objection together, and save the technical one for after.

 

As I see it, both the Federalists and Ayn Rand argued against democracy on principle, and I contend that their differing motives are nonessential to the discussion. Thus, in that case as well as in mine, the distinction between republic and democracy is not one of form, as you assert, but one of essentials, that basically boils down to epistemology. That's why I chose to structure my dissertation in such a manner on that the conclusions hinge on epistemology, more than politics.

 

Therefore, if you take the democracy and you start the differentiation process of conceptualization, what is the most essential characteristic you can name to set it apart from all the other forms of government? To me, it is the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty, which begs the question as to what is popular, and devolves into other extensions, such as legitimacy by majority rule and socio-political practices to sway the majority, or the largest minority into violating individual rights because it believes that the multitude, or 'might' makes right. This has been true of democracy in Ancient Greece and is true to the politics of contemporary democracies to varying degrees of implicit adherence (or explicit, in some cases).

 

[At least that's what I understood from cross-referencing Objectivist epistemology with the first two entries here.]

 

So in such a case you want a form of government that you can differentiate, epistemologically, from the others, by virtue of its reliance on another fundamental principle: the protection of individual rights. Of course, you could make such a term up (like Dahl did with polyarchy) to replace 'republic' but, that's not really valid and it doesn't take you anywhere.

 

Indeed, looking back at Ancient Rome, a republic was a form of government merely only to formalize a distinction vis a vis the system of the recently deposed kings, thus, monarchy. But because political concepts were limited (by which I mean to say, less extensive than nowadays) back then, even 'democracy' in Greece, the concept, open-ended as it is, could accrue a different understanding in a more extensive context. And that's what I contend, that some of the individuals involved in the creation of the United States and its constitution had in mind, because they too were faced with a choice against monarchy. So they extended the concept of republic, they defined it by a different essential characteristic, which is limited government placed under objective law, and in consideration with [or to?] the fact that this is so because, in politics, no principle supersedes that of individual rights and therefore no action can be taken, lawfully, in such regard.

 

Furthermore, in her treatment of politics, Ayn Rand focused more on a social system, and therefore capitalism. But in her (relative) few references to form of government, I think that her normative definition of government and subsequent references identifies with, though not explicitly, the concept of republic as was used in the foundation of the US. At least, that's what Peikoff explicitly argues in his lectures on Objectivism and in Ominous Parallels, both of whose content Miss Rand had no problem with.

 

So that is also where I'm trying to go with this connection between Objectivism and republic, and consistent with my epistemological argument above, I do not agree with you that the relationship between democracy and republic is a species-genus one. In the same way you may have a capitalist society and a collectivist society, and also a mixed society, just because the mixed society borrows from one while upholding another does not mean that you can make capitalism a species of collectivism or viceversa. And in so conceptualizing republic, I do mean that to be consistent with itself it must, first and foremost, safeguard individual rights.

 

To paraphrase another poster from the forum, even a constitution couldn't stop individuals from changing it and rendering it and whatever principles it upholds obsolete, and so, despite using a normative definition of the republic, I do not hint at an utopian 'no rights will be violated in a republic' view. Then again, based on that, you can still have a republic even if you/the government infringes on rights, just that it wouldn't be a consistent one and with repetition it could stop being so, because the context will have changed (in the same manner the capitalism of the 19th century stopped being so). So in that respect, I wouldn't say that a republic doesn't violate rights because I don't want it to, to fit into my framework nice and tidy, but to continue being a republic, as a consistent form of government, then it mustn't. Therefore my point hinges more on concept formation than anything else and brings to mind the similar example to when you try to have an epistemological argument about the temperature at which water boils and one party continuously modifies the composition of the water so he may show relativity in knowledge, when in fact what you end up with is no longer water, in the first place, so its not applicable.

 

In regards to your technical issue, the matter of representation is widely discussed in political science and, of course :)), there are a lot of differing viewpoints. What makes most sense to me is the argument that an elected official for a given circumscription (electoral district), despite being elected by a majority (or a plurality), must, as the duty of his office, represent the whole district, all the individuals, to the best of his ability. It is, however, a very large and nested discussion, and even if he does not, then really that is not an issue with the "structure", but rather with whom runs, and, more importantly, who elects. Really really far along this argument it does boil down to a certain political culture, but that's beside the point.

 

As to the other aspects, yes, they are arbitrary, because they're are applications made far from the principles and you can only determine at first to a fault. It is more a trial and error approach in that regard. And the aspect of a constitution that regulates such matters is no exception. That's why when you approach the formation of a constitution, in constitutional law, as in political science, you could either mention the principles by which government is instituted and no further, or, based on previous experiences, try (and possibly err) to, as objectively as possible, make provisions based on those principles and either hope you got it reasonably right, or you have some stipulations to modify those aspects in an easier manner. There's no really a one approach to this matter, as the variables are immense (and if I saw rightly on this forum, a much more heated debate was sparked by the issue of arbitrary speed regulations on private roads). There is nothing more I can add to this.

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2046 do you harbor as much resentment against the constitutions of the states that made up the confederacy of which the Articles were the basis, as you do the US Constitution as ratified?

Well I don't know if I would use the word "resentment," but I think that in some ways the state constitutions are better, in some ways worse. There are many statements of natural law in the various state constitutions that are in some ways far superior to the federal one. I particularly like the state constitution of New Hampshire, which guarantees the right to overthrow the government. But my feelings toward them in general stems from my feelings towards written constitutions in general, which I think are overestimated in terms of their capacity to limit government. What matters is not written constitutions (look at Britain, which has an unwritten constitution, and look at Soviet Russia, which has a written one that guarantees all sorts of things that don't mean shit), but only in terms of actual political structures that are effective at ensuring individual rights.

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As I see it, both the Federalists and Ayn Rand argued against democracy on principle, and I contend that their differing motives are nonessential to the discussion.

 

Well okay, maybe you weren’t interested in discussing motives, but suppose we were talking about slavery and asking the question of “is the institution of slavery compatible with individual rights?” And further suppose we had two groups that opposed slavery for two different motives, one because they thought it against natural rights, the other because they wanted to ethnically cleanse all the slaves instead of keeping them as slaves. Would it make sense to say, hey, they both oppose slavery on principle, their motives are non-essential! Well, non-essential to what? Obviously not non-essential to individual rights, and wasn’t that the question in the first place?

 

My guess is that “non-essential,” really means “non-essential to the point I’m trying to make because it would kind of undermine it.” But that’s an objection you’ll have to deal with.

 

Therefore, if you take the democracy and you start the differentiation process of conceptualization, what is the most essential characteristic you can name to set it apart from all the other forms of government? To me, it is the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty

Well I would disagree with this differentiation. I would say the most essential characteristic you can name is majority rule. Why is this a better choice than popular sovereignty? Because you can certainly imagine conceptually the “people being sovereign” without having majority rule, but you can’t really imagine democracy without majority rule.

 

So in such a case you want a form of government that you can differentiate, epistemologically, from the others, by virtue of its reliance on another fundamental principle: the protection of individual rightsSo in such a case you want a form of government that you can differentiate, epistemologically, from the others, by virtue of its reliance on another fundamental principle: the protection of individual rights

It seems that you want a term for the concept of “a political system which protects individual rights,” and you chose “republic,” but republic already means “A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives” which means “representative democracy.” I regard this as arbitrary ideologically motivated linguistic revisionism. You are taking a concept which stands for a definite political structure and imposing your normative judgment on what fundamental philosphic principles you want this structure to adhere to, and trying to define all such instances as that. But what is the justification for this? Why should we redefine “republic” to mean what you want it to mean rather than (or in addition to!) “representative democracy,” and what is the justification for this? (And wouldn’t your own argument require you to claim the Roman Republic, along with all the other historical and currently-existing republics aren’t really republics then? But why do this?) And why is not “libertarianism” or “laissez faire” or “capitalism” or “the free market” or any of those already in-use terms suitable for you to stand for “a political system which protects individual rights”?

 

Suppose you might object that these terms just specify adherence to philosophic principles, but don't specify a political structure. (In other words, what does the actual structure of a "libertarian" or "laissez-faire" etc., society look like?) But the question of adherence to articulated philosophical principles ("protecting individual rights") is separate from the question of political structure (do we vote for representatives, do we directly vote on laws, do we have a monarch, a parliament, if so what kind, etc.) You might ask what structure best achieves a system that will ensure or incentivize your articulated philosophical principles are upheld, and certainly the two (articulated principles and political structure) are jointly supplemental questions, but they are conceptually separate nonetheless. In arbitrarily redefining "republic" to mean "a political system which protects individual rights" my concern is that you are creating a packaged-deal fallacy, trying to smuggle in justification for one type of political structure (representative democracy) with justification for a set of articulated philosophical principles (individual rights as fundamental.) Certainly you can try to make the above argument and justify one type of structure is, in fact, best for adhering to these principles, but that requires an actual argument, not linguistic fiat.

 

 

Furthermore, in her treatment of politics, Ayn Rand focused more on a social system, and therefore capitalism. But in her (relative) few references to form of government, I think that her normative definition of government and subsequent references identifies with, though not explicitly, the concept of republic as was used in the foundation of the US. At least, that's what Peikoff explicitly argues in his lectures on Objectivism and in Ominous Parallels, both of whose content Miss Rand had no problem with.

And... therefore what? Isn't this paragraph missing something? Sure, it’s clear that Rand supported a representative democracy. But that does not answer the question you yourself ask of democracy “is this compatible with individual rights” unless you maintain that anything Rand said advocated is compatible with individual rights merely because she advocated it, but then I would say what is the justification or that, and I don’t think there is any, I don’t think you would even endorse such a claim.

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And further suppose we had two groups that opposed slavery for two different motives, one because they thought it against natural rights, the other because they wanted to ethnically cleanse all the slaves instead of keeping them as slaves. Would it make sense to say, hey, they both oppose slavery on principle, their motives are non-essential! Well, non-essential to what? Obviously not non-essential to individual rights, and wasn’t that the question in the first place?

 

My guess is that “non-essential,” really means “non-essential to the point I’m trying to make because it would kind of undermine it.” But that’s an objection you’ll have to deal with.

 

 

Comparing the issue to an analysis of slavery is a bad analogy. I might have spoken too fast when I said motives are irrelevant, but to further emphasize my point, when discussing the principle of an argument, you include the reasons made for or against that argument, and in this vein, they are similar. Without implying a generalization, the Federalists opposed the republic to the despotism as found in both monarchy and democracy, the latter identified by Hamilton with a number of qualities, among which was the unrestrained passions of the majority. Ayn Rand made the argument against democracy because of it being "unlimited majority rule" which is of a similar pattern to that established by Hamilton. Despite differing angles, the essence of the argument is the same, against a particular quality essential to democracy that makes it unfit as a form of government, in a society that seeks to protect individual rights.

 

In the slave issue, when taking into account the reasons for the arguments (which you provided), it becomes immediately evident that a essential distinction arises, one that could not be overcome in harmonizing the two viewpoints into one.

 

Ultimately, what I also referred to as non-essential was in reference to my work, as well. My goal is not a lengthy treatise that would exude every possible differentiation, but rather to show that 1. democracy is not compatible with the principle of individual rights (and cannot be consistently employed without being detrimental to them), and that 2. the republic is a better political solution than democracy in upholding and protecting said rights (and that it can be consistently employed without being detrimental to them). In my limited space I cannot afford to go very detailed on every aspect, but I do plan on touching on fundamentals.

 

 I would say the most essential characteristic you can name is majority rule. Why is this a better choice than popular sovereignty? Because you can certainly imagine conceptually the “people being sovereign” without having majority rule, but you can’t really imagine democracy without majority rule.

 

This is a point on which I will have to further reflect, because I have not entirely fleshed it out. However, I can argue the following: majority rule is an aspect of popular sovereignty. Sovereignty means ultimate authority, and the argument is made, both in politics and in theoretical defences of democracy, that it is either moral or practical (or both) to base it so. In effect, every time you hear groups of individuals or politicians defend acts that amount to violations of rights, they refer to the ultimate arbiter, which is not limited by law (i.e., it can circumvent in, in the right circumstances) or by the principle of individual rights (which they mostly regard as subservient, anyway), and which is the people, society, the 'great' majority, etc.; it is the epitome of subjectivism in politics and is regarded as the ultimate standard. It is used to defer any arguments and to justify any political action, ultimately (by which I mean that they might propose other arguments, but when those are shot down, they revert always to the same bromide). Majority rule is just the manifestation of the principle of popular sovereignty and derives wholly from it.

 

You are right, you cannot imagine conceptually democracy without majority rule, but neither can one imagine majority rule without appeal to the sovereignty of the people/society/the majority.

 

It seems that you want a term for the concept of “a political system which protects individual rights,” and you chose “republic,” but republic already means “A state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives” which means “representative democracy.” I regard this as arbitrary ideologically motivated linguistic revisionism. You are taking a concept which stands for a definite political structure and imposing your normative judgment on what fundamental philosphic principles you want this structure to adhere to, and trying to define all such instances as that. But what is the justification for this? Why should we redefine “republic” to mean what you want it to mean rather than (or in addition to!) “representative democracy,” and what is the justification for this? (And wouldn’t your own argument require you to claim the Roman Republic, along with all the other historical and currently-existing republics aren’t really republics then? But why do this?)

 

Not quite. Madison defined the republic (and I paraphrase) as meaning a government deriving powers from the people (but not subservient to it, as democracy necessitates), and that is administered by representation. Remember that concepts are open-ended. By no means do I attempt any revisionism and consider that the Roman Republic with other historical republics (in their context) and currently-existing ones do share, in various degrees, republican features. But Madison argued that such features do not necessarily constitute a 'genuine' (tho' I do not prefer this term) republic, and gives the examples of Holland, Venice, Poland and even England. Then, in the Federalists, you see addition, further clarification of what the concept of republic refers to. Therefore, by gaining knowledge, you would no longer say that a republic is 'a form of government where the heads of state are not hereditary', and go beyond a 'form of government where the people are represented by elected officials', to mean much more, such as 'a form of government constitutionally limited to protection of individual rights, where the principles of government, within the context of rights, are not subject to vote'.

 

Of course, I realize I may be simplifying here and that I am not exhaustive, but I mean this as an example of subsuming new concretes under the same concept, without revising anything. You do not contradict what was already part of the concept. The last example still retains the fact that the head of state is non-hereditary and the principle of representation, they're just not essential to identifying the concept anymore. I certainly did not arbitrarily chose it and by discussing the political structures I do contend that the one of democracy is undermined by its philosophical premises, with regard to individual rights.

 

I make note that I might err in some part of this concept-forming process, but I do not err in the direction you accuse me of. And whatever 'republics' are today, they are most definitely a mixture, in the form I have described in my previous post.

 

 
In arbitrarily redefining "republic" to mean "a political system which protects individual rights" my concern is that you are creating a packaged-deal fallacy, trying to smuggle in justification for one type of political structure (representative democracy) with justification for a set of articulated philosophical principles (individual rights as fundamental.) Certainly you can try to make the above argument and justify one type of structure is, in fact, best for adhering to these principles, but that requires an actual argument, not linguistic fiat.

 

Firstly, yes, that is the argument I am trying to make, in justifying that one type of structure is, in fact, best for adhering to these principles. That's why I include both the conceptualization of the republic and of democracy in relation to that of individual rights, and intend to exemplify this in the latter part of my thesis.

 

As for your other continued argument, I do not agree. Yes, a republic is representative, and a democracy can be representative, but that is not essential to either and is definitely not basis for conflating the two under one another. On such basis you could argue that even a totalitarian state might be representative (of the pervasive culture of society, for instance) and that it might employ both democratic and republican aspects of government. But you wouldn't argue that it's either, because the fundamentals would still be different.

 

Lastly, I do not intend to reiterate the argument from my previous post. A republic is not a species of democracy and I do not equate it with representative democracy. Certainly, you may find democratic republics in both form and substance in the real world, as per the idea of mixed systems I have described, but considering to what basic principle they would ultimately yield, they would certainly not be republics.

 

P.S. This just occurred to me. Alternatively, an argument could be made that a 'constitutionally limited republic' is a species of 'republic', and then relate to the concept of individual rights on another basis, but in the very discrete space I possess, I believe it would only serve to muddle and obviate my goal.

Edited by Xall
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