Jan 4, 2004: Liberals of the World Unite

The committed individualists of this country, whether they call themselves liberals or libertarians or conservatives, have been shunned, and most rudely, by the political establishment. This was an inevitable occurrence. Although the soundest economic and cultural ideas have emanated from these camps and often saved the skins of the political parties (particularly the Republican Party) and the country itself, in terms of electoral politics, they are not especially valuable allies.

Genuine individualism punches above its weight in its historical power but does not garner many votes. The Republican political machine knows this and has gambled that it can maintain the grudging loyalty of individualist camps in the election while betraying them in order to secure centrist votes. The gamble may or may not succeed. At present, it appears that it will.

That can not be our concern, however. We must stop worshipping this false god of majoritarian democracy, hoping that we may find the magic incantation that will bring its smile down upon our desperate cause. The course of the next election will “make a difference,” as they say, but will not have much bearing on the future of liberty. The Democrats take with their left hands; Republicans with their right. The single glory of majoritarian democracy is that it has not yet permitted either party to learn to take with both hands, though the Republicans are doing their best to learn.

This loose “coalition of liberty”, if you will, of liberals, libertarians, and conservatives, takes too much satisfaction in attacking political parties and politicians and too little in attacking the system of government that gives birth to them. The old dying-if-not-dead constitution set some restraints on the excesses of majoritarianism, but majority rule has been in the ascendant for well over a century, because for all of the Founders’ fears of the tyranny of the majority, it in effect sewed the seeds of that very tyranny.

We must acknowledge that for all of its genius and beauty, the antebellum constitution, like the men who crafted it, is indeed dead. Neither these men nor their ways can provide sure guides to what action we must now take. These men blazed a trail of liberty, and now we must blaze a new one. The action they took against the most liberal regime that history had ever known had but little precedent; we would do better to summon their revolutionary spirit than to simply mimeograph their formulas and ideas. By merely aping them, we dishonor them.

It is now painfully evident, after over two centuries of majoritarian government, that the rule of the majority is not compatible with the liberty of the people. It is now time for a new liberal democratic revolution in which we claim our right to rule ourselves, to establish a new order in which the legitimacy of the government is indissolubly bound up with the consent of the governed.

Now may be the best opportunity we have to set about this task, for there is now a great hue and cry throughout the coalition of liberty, particularly among conservatives, but from libertarians and liberals, as well, about the great Republican betrayal. But, if we so choose, we can make this moment, this rejection by the political establishment, an opportunity to finally strike out on our own. They are confident that we need them more than they need us. They have told us that we may make bricks without straw. Let us tell them that they may make bricks without slaves.

It is time for this vague and diffuse coalition of which we have spoken to reject not only the Republican Party, but the larger political system altogether. The majoritarian system is and always has been fundamentally illiberal and now it has, in a Republican voice, told us as much, that it has no more room for those devoted to the cause of liberty.

The only proper response to this situation is to finally acknowledge the futility of majority rule and begin to work on a system to replace it. We have elsewhere suggested the broader outlines of such an order: that it is absolutely necessary to replace the rule of the many with the rule of all.

The implications of this simple declaration, we accept, are profound and demanding. This coalition has likely avoided an outright rejection of majoritarianism precisely because the only alternatives are to attempt to return to outmoded forms of government or to insist upon a course of action that would take us into uncharted territory. It is possible, too, that we are as tempted by the allure of power and electoral politics as are the parties and politicians we look down on.

But, if the Founders are deserving of any imitation at all, it must certainly be on this score. Although many have debated whether these men were, at heart, conservatives or radicals, what must stand out at a time such as this is not so much the particular principles that they fought for, impressive though they are, but the great risk they took to secure those principles. Not only did they risk their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, but they took a moral risk, as well, if you will. It was a risk that was arguably thrust upon them, but the same may be said of today. The deficiencies of the present order point to only one remedy, the establishment of the rule of all.

The price of our reliance on the Republican party and the system of mass majoritarian democracy is evident. We have become accessories to tyranny. We have failed to make any progress towards a more free society. What is more, in depending so heavily on the Republican party, we have become fractured and irresolute. In terms of theoretical endeavors, this diversity is natural and beneficial for a group of individualists. In terms of action, it is lethal. Although there are a number of disagreements between our various camps, there is also a striking amount of common ground. But, there is a palpable lack of coordination and cooperation or of any real interaction whatsoever. The reason is because we simply never get beyond talking to ourselves to consider engaging upon any productive action. Were these camps to develop an interest in pursuing actions that would advance the cause of liberty, the need to form organizations and possibly even a great congress of groups would become unavoidable.

Instead of clamoring to regain admittance into the Republican Party, we should accept this ostracism as unavoidable and overdue and begin to work on a new order conducive to liberty and democracy. We could expend our energy on taking out our anger on the Republicans or realize we have one of the best opportunities to begin a new campaign for freedom.

January 5, 2004


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