[OT] Are we a democracy or a republic?

Andy Bradford amb-plug at bradfords.org
Mon Sep 5 16:25:15 MDT 2005


Thus said Michael Halcrow on Sun, 04 Sep 2005 09:59:28 CDT:

> (WARNING:  Do not  read  this if  you are  easily  offended. Just  hit
> ``delete'' now.)
>
> Therefore you need a government structure to enforce contracts. Unless
> you are comfortable making contracts with friends of Don Corleone, who
> will be happy to take care of the pesky ``enforcing'' details.

Funny you should mention this:

http://www.mises.org/story/1879

> > and if  we find  that one  service doesn't suit  our needs  we would
> > could easily vote with our wallets as consumers often do.
>
> This is  an ideal  free market fantasy.  Now try to  apply it  in some
> real-world contexts.

Rather than try to  put out all the details myself,  here are some ideas
that have already been presented:

http://www.mises.org/story/1855

http://www.mises.org/story/1874

http://www.mises.org/story/1734

http://www.mises.org/story/1778

> So we  need a unified  national government sustained by  federal taxes
> for  at  least two  functions  --  contract enforcement  and  national
> defense. These  things are absolutely  crucial to sustaining  our free
> market economy.

If this were the sole function of government, we would definitely have a
much better society than we now have in my opinion.

[cut discussion of separation of school and state which I do agree with]

> Politics corrupts, but it is a necessary evil.

I do  not believe it a  necessary evil, but  rather one of the  evils we
suffer because we are loathe to change.

Here is one of the necessary evils of politics:

http://www.mises.org/story/1782

> Nowadays,  I  worry  about both  (a)  and  (b).  And  I see  it  as  a
> self-perpetuating  spiral --  politics  is  now corrupting  education,
> which  results in  more corrupt  politics. I  think one  of our  great
> challenges today is  breaking that cycle. Privatization  of our school
> system may  be the only  feasible solution  at this point.  The people
> must get fed up enough with the  system as it not stands and they must
> demand their freedom to have school vouchers.

Most  people wouldn't  be able  to see  and understand  the reasons  for
becoming  fed up  with the  system. I  agree that  the school  and state
should be separated, but I couldn't have  agreed to this a few years ago
because I  lacked the foundation  for understanding  why and how  such a
separation could actually be beneficial.

Also, school vouchers don't really help:

http://www.mises.org/story/1399

http://www.mises.org/econsense/ch43.asp

> A near-100% free market economy is one  of the best ways we know of to
> generate aggregate  wealth. So we  need to  ask ourselves, what  do we
> strive for as a society?

I would argue that most people don't  ask themselves ``what can I do for
the society'' or ``what can I do to make the society better.'' Most only
care about what  they can do to  make their own personal  life better or
how  to  get from  day  to  day without  too  much  trouble, stress  and
distress. Very few even care about what happens in the government except
when the government interferes with their lives:

http://www.mises.org/story/1850

> Is generating  wealth and preserving individual  freedoms (i.e., right
> to obtain  and hold property) to  the maximum extent possible  what we
> value above all else? Is this really the best that we can aspire to as
> a civilization?

A society  based on property  rights, individual freedoms and  just laws
certainly  provides the  best environment  for a  civilization. Such  an
environment  provides  for freedom  of  religion,  freedom to  contract,
etc... Do you think there is something better? Something nobler?

> Is  it the  best  way  to alleviate  human  suffering while  promoting
> scientific and technological advancement?

I believe the free market is. Consumers have a problem. Producers have a
solution. They  exchange goods under mutually  beneficial circumstances.
If the consumers  aren't getting what they want from  the producer, they
change their preferences or work with  the producers to provide it. This
gives rise  to entrepreneurs who see  a need that isn't  currently being
met and  hope to profit  from it and in  turn provide the  very solution
that meets the needs of the suffering.

> As it turns out, there are no easy answers.

No, there  certainly aren't. Now imagine  trying to explain all  this to
the majority  of the people who  haven't as strong a  background in such
matters...

> > limited. The Constitution was  written to bind government officials,
> > not  the people  of the  United States.  The Bill  of Rights  is our
> > shield against bad governmental policies (or at least it should be).
>
> And what if many  of those in power could give a  rat's ass about that
> these documents say?

I would say this statement is already true; there is no ``if'' about it.

This is  a long  email and difficult  to put together  on a  holiday, so
there are bound to be errors. :-)

Andy
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