Sunday, May 15, 2005

Democracy and Great Art

I have written much about democracy's insidious effect on liberty. For example, in Part V of "Practical Libertarianism for Americans" I said:
[P]ublic opinion, elite opinion, and the media have combined to undo the great work of the Framers, whose Constitution prevented tyranny by the majority. Unchecked democracy has become the enemy of liberty and, therefore, of material progress. As Michael Munger says, "The real key to freedom is to secure people from tyranny by the majority, or freedom from democracy."

The last best hope for liberty and prosperity lies in the neutralization of public opinion through a renewal of constitutional principles.
To which I added, in Part VI:
Unchecked democracy undermines liberty and its blessings. Unchecked democracy imposes on everyone the mistakes and mistaken beliefs of the controlling faction. It defeats learning. It undoes the social fabric that underlies civility. It defeats the sublime rationality of free markets, which enable independent individuals to benefit each other through the pursuit of self-interest. As "anonymous" says, with brutal accuracy, "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on lunch."...

Human nature has overcome constitutional obstacles. The governed and their governors -- locked in a symbiotic relationship that is built on a mistrustful worldview, economic illiteracy, and baser instincts -- have conspired to undermine the Constitution's checks and balances. People, given their mistrustful and ignorant nature, have turned to government for "solutions" to their "problems." Government, in its turn, has seized whatever power is necessary to go through the motions of providing "solutions." For rare is the legislator who doesn't want to legislate, the executive who doesn't want to act, and the judge who doesn't want to exercise his judgment by interpreting the law rather than simply apply it...

[L]iberty has been vanquished in the mistaken belief (or hope) that government can effectively and efficiently make us better off, salve our woes, and put an end to social and racial divisions. To those ends, the governed and their governors, walking hand in hand, have taken liberty for a stroll down a slippery slope. Every step they have taken down that slope has made more problematic our journey back up the slope.
Think of the Constitution as a great work of art that has been altered through the operation of public and elite opinion. The result is analogous to this:

That's da Vinci's Mona Lisa, in case you don't recognize it.