Democracy vs freedom Which do we have ?
by Kyle Cuniberti
Freedom is so often confused with democracy and more so in recent times. I would rather use the word “liberty” as in “give me liberty or give me death”. Patrick Henry’s famous utterance did not contain the word freedom nor democracy but precisely the word liberty and I put forth there exists a definite difference between the three words.
Democracy can be said to be majority rule and that didn’t work out so well for many a minority group throughout history. Its deficiency is best illustrated in the case of two wolves and a lamb deciding by democratic vote what to eat for dinner. Democracy doesn’t work out so well for the lamb as dinnertime arrives. Freedom gives the lamb the ability to leave, but only if he can.
Liberty however means you have the right to do what you want as long as it doesn’t infringe on another’s rights. Freedom in this case is a subset of liberty. Exercising liberty in place of democracy, the lamb is free to go, as the wolves desire to eat is their right, but the act of eating the lamb infringes on his right to life.
Liberty and freedom are said to go hand in hand but they do not. To establish and clarify the opaque areas of the two, the Bill of Rights was established together with the U.S. Constitution and herein lies the essence of the explanation and interpretation as set forth by the authors of both documents.
The right to bear arms, the right to vote, the right to trial and many other rights we humans deem basic and necessary were detailed by our forefathers.
The ongoing assault on these sacred documents exhibits the essence of their weakness. Although perceptually written in stone, they are anything but permanent. Pummeled by continuous assaults from those wishing to replace rights with “fairness” (or at least their perception of such) the democratic vote assaults the very essence of freedom and liberty. The assault takes on the guise of what is fair to “promote the general welfare”, often described as “for the good of the people”.
When replacing individual liberty, with “the good of the people”, we lean into the exact opposite of freedom and liberty which is then towards socialism or worse, communism.
Both ideologies remove liberty and freedom of the individual by leaving the interpretation open to a select few, or more distinctly, to someone else besides that individual, and therein lies the problem.
The good of the people can only be arrived at one individual at a time, by each individual having liberty as its beacon. By insuring the liberty of the individual, only then is the good of the people is fairly administered.
For each man is his own island with his own rights. Together, the sum of each individual’s rights in society then results in the most ideal form of liberty and freedom for the group, and no other method or group interpretation preserves that right so purely.
By insuring ones liberty to act freely constrained by the prohibition of infringing on another’s rights does liberty and freedom truly reign. All other attempts are folly. No one group can determine the rights of another. Not in taxes, freedom of movement, financial affairs or any other of the myriad of mechanics that a society entails.
Simply put, by adhering to the right of the individual we arrive at the sweet spot of liberty and freedom for the group.
Defending such a stance is a daunting task as exhibited throughout history and into today. The perceptions by many are that one person or group has a better idea than the next, that one has a more compassionate plan then the other and that determining how that plan is implemented is left to those with the democratic vote in their favor is a dangerous precedent.
Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813) said; “a democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years”.
Is not there enough of a warning here, indeed a prognostication, that seems to encompass most of the attacks we see on our reverent Constitution?
Defending our country from foreign enemies is often quoted as the price of freedom, but democracies, or should we call them nations of individual liberty, are more often destroyed from within.
Those that exist within the borders are more dangerous than those outside of them for outsiders can be clearly defined and defended against. Those that dwell within the borders however, can destroy by subterfuge, propaganda or by appealing to the masses, promising everything yet in the end delivering very little.
Defending liberty and freedom is so much more than guns, ships and tanks. It’s the ability to recognize threats, no matter their origin, no matter how they are veiled.
The enemies of liberty are both outside our borders and within them. We can defend our way of life with blood and spilled guts abroad, and indeed domestically if it comes to that, but the real threat is the clandestine yet stealthy attack on our rights as laid out in our founding documents from those within. Defending these rights from those that would subdue them will prove to be a battle much more difficult than any fought on the open sea or on the fallow grounds of democracy.
Kyle Cuniberti is a senior at Forest Lake Christian School, plays varsity sports and maintains a 4.14 GPA. He was a board member of the Food Bank of Nevada County for 3 years and completed a senate internship with California Senator Ted Gaines. He currently has applications at several colleges and hopes to be accepted to Stanford University.