One of the questions I keep returning to on this blog is whether there’s a better alternative to democracy.
Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government apart from all the others that have been tried. But as I explained in Part 1, those others are all part of the same general class of political systems in which one group gets to impose its views on another group, explicitly against the will of those people.
It’s true of democracy. The majority gets to decide everything, no matter how loudly the minority screams. Go to war; raise taxes on the poor; raise taxes on the rich; imprison homosexuals; cut public services; raise the deficit to crippling levels – democracies do all these things and worse. That’s OK when your party is in power, but as soon as it turns, you’ll be screaming as loudly as the rest of them.
Can there be a system of government that doesn’t leave people screaming? Can we break out of this way of thinking and find something new?
Let’s start with the basic premise – all of these classes of government (democracy, dictatorship, fascism, communism, etc) explicitly endorse one group imposing its will on another. So let’s try to imagine a form in which this is expressly forbidden. Nobody is allowed to force someone else to do something unless that would in turn infringe somebody else’s rights.
So, for instance, I would not be allowed to steal from someone because that would infringe their rights.
Such a system would seek to maximize the total amount of freedom available to all – explicitly not allowing one person’s freedom to reduce another’s.
Can we imagine such a system? It takes a leap of imagination, but there’s a clue to be found in the shopping mall. If you and your friends go shopping for shoes, you don’t take a vote and then all buy the same shoes. You each get to choose your own shoes (or to not buy shoes at all). In other words, the free market is such a system. It’s a system where we are allowed to do what we want, not what others decide for us. There are rules of a free market of course, and that’s what makes it work so well.
Could free market principles be used to run a country? Could it, for instance, be used to decide whether or not to go to war with another country? Perhaps not. But maybe the obvious solution is to not go to war. Maybe that’s exactly the kind of thing we ought not to be doing in a truly free and civilized world.