Ralph Peters—retired Army officer, Fox News “Strategic Analyst,” and early supporter of President George W. Bush’s Mideast policies—has come to an important realization that all lovers of liberty should heed: Democracy doesn’t mean freedom.
With the very best intentions, we got it wrong. By elevating the establishment of democracy above all other priorities in states beyond Europe, we got elections—then had to watch freedom suffer.
Peters argues that the United States’s support for “democracy” has led not to freedom but to the suppression of individual rights by democratically elected governments in country after country in the Middle East, Russia, and elsewhere. “Mesmerized by elections,” Peters writes, “we forgot freedom.”
Although Peters laudably criticizes the “democracy at all costs” mentality, he unfortunately does not offer a clear alternative. He correctly notes that the United States was established on ”the rule of law and impartial judicial institutions” tasked with protecting individual rights. However, he calls this system a democracy rather than what it truly is: a constitutional republic.
“Freedom,” as Yaron Brook and Elan Journo explain in their article, “The ‘Forward Strategy for Failure,” “is fundamentally incompatible with democracy.” Though democracies and constitutional, rights-respecting republics both entail elections, that similarity is superficial.
Fundamentally, democracies and rights-respecting republics spring from opposite philosophic premises. Under democracy, the individual is regarded as having no rights and as subordinate to the majority or the state. Under a rights-respecting republic, the majority and the state are recognized as subordinate to the sovereign individual. The majority can elect representatives, but the power of representatives and of the entire government is strictly limited by the rights-respecting constitution. The government exists solely to protect individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property.
The choice is stark: democracy or freedom—collectivism or individualism. If we are to advance the cause of freedom, both at home and abroad, we must recognize that democracy is the antithesis of freedom because it is the nemesis of rights.
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