ĎDemocracy Canít Be Fixed. Itís Inherently Brokení
by Frank Karsten
was interviewed by Aschwin de Wolf from the website Against
Politics about my new book Beyond
Democracy. It explains why democracy is an immoral and impoverishing
political system which leads to social conflict, runaway spending,
and a tyrannical government.
specifically motivated you to write this book?
As far as Karel,
my co-author, and I knew there was no easy to read, structured,
and concise book showing the inherent weaknesses and dynamics of
democracy from a freedom loving perspective. Of course many libertarians
have written on the subject and we are indebted to them, especially
Hans-Hermann Hoppeís Democracy,
The God That Failed. But Hoppeís book is a collection of
academic essays and touches on things we donít and vice versa. Our
book is for the average person but I also think seasoned libertarians
can learn lots from it.
still believe democracy equals freedom. And many libertarians still
believe the proper road to more freedom is through the democratic
process. Many non-libertarians are convinced democracy needs fixing
but find no problem with the fundamental democratic principles themselves.
Our book refutes those notions. Democracy is the opposite of freedom,
almost inherent to the democratic process is that it tends towards
less liberty instead of more, and democracy is not something to
be fixed. Democracy is inherently broken, just like socialism. The
only way to fix it is to break it up. You couldnít fix socialism
by replacing Lenin for Trotsky or the Russians for Cubans. And you
canít fix democracy by legally restricting payments to presidential
candidates, by barring felons from voting, changing the voting age,
or replacing Bush Jr. with Obama, et cetera.
for the book is that writing structures your thoughts and thereby
brings you to new ones. While writing we came upon new insights
that we of course included in the book. Fifteen years ago I was
an ignorant proponent of democracy, ten years ago I thought it had
serious drawbacks, and after writing the book I think itís much
worse than that.
To be clear,
we donít want to withhold democracy from people and we donít begrudge
others a democracy. Also, we donít claim that democracy is worse
or better than dictatorship and neither that the problems we describe
in the book are exclusive of democracy.
2. The first
myth about democracy that you seek to debunk is the idea that voting
in an election empowers the individual. But even many libertarians
vote. How do you explain this?
There are several
reasons I think. First, as a libertarian, you want to advance liberty
and voting seems a way to do it. Although I generally consider voting
immoral, voting for the least bad option can be a good thing. Note
that generally such a vote is rather impossible to cast since many
self-declared freedom loving candidates end up robbing you of liberty
too when in power. As the late Harry Browne has pointed out, voting
for the least bad party can be counterproductive since they know
freedom loving people have no other option than to vote for them
and therefore these parties have little incentive to improve their
political goals towards more liberty.
when your libertarian-leaning candidate seems totally unlikely to
rise to power or to have any significant political influence, getting
him or her in a parliamentary seat will provide a serious stage
to gain media coverage. Ron Paul certainly achieved that and through
his candidacies many people were confronted with libertarian ideas,
or at least with the term libertarian. I am a great fan of Ron Paul
and if I were an American citizen I would probably vote for him,
mostly symbolically, but such candidates are extremely rare. But
still, spending hours, days or even months studying politics and
finally casting your vote in the voting booth is a big investment
for such an astronomically small influence.
libertarians still see the democratic process as a way to gain more
freedom. But this is a fallacy. The democratic process almost inevitably
leads to less freedom.
3. You claim
that democracy is not politically neutral. What kind of political
ideology is embodied in democracy?
collectivism, the idea that we need to decide upon things collectively
Ė note that this could really be anything Ė and the outcome of these
processes need to be followed by everyone, also those who donít
In a democracy
every voter is inclined to collectivise his personal goals. And
politicians want more power and money and collectivisation of society
offers that. Civil servants, as the great economist Ludwig von Mises
pointed out, tend to vote pro-state and this is a self-reinforcing
mechanism. It leads to ever more people being dependent on the State
and thereby favorable of it. The same applies to the welfare system
into which ever more people are drawn. History has shown this. All
democracies suffer from it.
A good way
to look at politics is to view politicians and the State as human
farmers and citizens as the livestock. The human farmers (i.e. the
Republican and Democratic Parties) do indeed have opposing interests
but not towards the livestock, as the latter seems to think. They
both are in the business of exploiting citizens but disagree strongly
on who should collect the billions or trillions in proceeds. Both
Republicans and Democrats have greatly expanded taxes, expenditures,
debts and government meddling in the lives of companies and individuals
while both have regularly claimed to reduce government.
4. You quote
the American economist Walter
Williams who observed that many people firmly resist democratic
decision making in the areas they personally care about. Is advocacy
of democracy a mass exercise of hypocrisy?
I do not see
it that way, whereby I define hypocrisy as ĎRules for others, exceptions
for myself.í People have been given the idea that things need to
be decided upon democratically, they donít necessarily agree with
the outcome but do agree with the process. And also, many things
democratically decided upon seem free because the State will pay
for it, and the State raises many taxes stealthily. So people are
inclined to let the State run sectors like education, health care,
social welfare, et cetera. Itís apparently free and individuals
can conveniently delegate their personal responsibility.
is that people think they will belong to the majority and therefore
want to decide democratically on certain matters.
It might not
be hypocrisy but more like selfishness. Democracy is a system whereby
one can legally exploit others, you just need the majority vote.
lots of hypocrisy I think when people vote. They vote for stuff
like wars or Third World aid, but would never spend a dime on it
personally. They are in favor of allowing asylum seekers and vote
accordingly but would certainly not like to have them in their own
5. One of
the arguments in favor of democracy is that it permits the "peaceful
transfer of political power." What do you make of this argument?
This is indeed
one of the few advantages of democracy, in that way mankind has
grown and rulers, like during the Roman empire, are rarely killed
anymore during a power change. Also no wars are fought over it.
But it is a peaceful transfer of tyranny. Democracy is like a war
against the minority, and actually against the people itself since
many things happen in a democracy that very few citizens want, but
special interest groups do.
model we propose in the book, a market for governance, will very
likely also result in a peaceful transfer of power, without minorities
being oppressed. Corporations normally donít change power through
killing the CEO and some members of the Board of Directors.
6. In your
book you also identify the growing centralization of power as problematic.
Do you think political democracy and centralization are related?
Yes I do. Like
I explained earlier, democracy leads to everyone trying to collectivise
personal goals, thereby centralizing power.
In a free market
companies have a tendency to form cartels and monopolies since they
aim for profit maximization. But this hardly poses a problem since
every individual has the right to start competing businesses and
challenge the cartels. This essential safety valve lacks in governance,
resulting in continuously growing governments.
Are you just seeking to change peopleís minds or do you think there
are successful strategies to limit the power of democratic governments?
come before actions so these have to change first. Von Mises once
said that ideas are more powerful than armies and I think truth
will always win in the long run, so I am optimistic. But itís very
hard because democracy is the largest faith on earth, only eleven
countries in the world do not claim to be democracies, and these
ideas are so ingrained in peopleís minds, even freedom loving individuals.
I know not
of successful strategies for limiting government power except by
escaping government through secession or by citizens or corporations
moving to other countries.
of democracy are inherent. Itís like having dinner with a million
people and deciding up front the bill will be split evenly. Everyone
has a strong incentive to order more than he would individually,
resulting in a huge bill that everyone deplores but no individual
could do anything about. Democracy therefore has a very limited
self-cleansing capability. Our politicians have a natural short-term
outlook since they are only temporarily in office. They will overspend,
overtax and overborrow knowing their successors will have to deal
with the negative consequences. Besides that, they spend other peopleís
with permission from AgainstPolitics.com.
(send him mail) is
founder of the libertarian More Freedom Foundation in The Netherlands.
Together with Karel Beckman he wrote Beyond
Democracy, Why democracy does not lead to solidarity, prosperity
and liberty but to social conflict, runaway spending and a tyrannical
This new libertarian book debunks 13 great myths with which
democracy is usually defended. It also offers an alternative: a
society based on individual freedom and voluntary social relations.
Order the book from Amazon in paperback
edition. More can be found on beyonddemocracy.net
© 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.