Posted by Charity on August 12th, 2008

Sorry that this week’s post is a day late, but at least it’s not a dollar short.

I have been dealing with some pretty heavy personal stuff, which, thankfully, is now over, so it is a little shorter than I would like. I am hoping, though, that this post will lead to some good discussion in the comments. (This is a good time to remind people that first time commentators will have their comments held in moderation, until I approve them.)

Last week, there was a post over at Green Mountain Daily in which Odum described the future he would like for his now-4-year-old son, a future where we all collectively provide for the economic needs of each other.

In one of my comments there, I said, that I “don’t think that you should be able to use the law to compel other people to support your own vision of a perfect society, whether or not they agree, by forcefully taking their private property.”

One contributer over there had a lengthy, quotation mark-heavy response that I was not able to get back to, so I thought I would take this opportunity to address it here.

Oh, yes; he played the why do you hate democracy card.

I think you have gone too far

we have been “forcefully taking” peoples “private” property for a very long time; or are you opposed to taxes of any kind? or zoning?

people in community have been making laws to control / influence behavior for ages; typically, such laws are based on the community’s vision of a better / more just society (admittedly, it doesn’t always work)

so it is not just Odum’s “vision” of a better / perfect society; it’s the collective wisdom of voters, elected officials, and judges over hundreds of years

seriously, I would not have thought anyone would argue against democratic institutions that create and enforce laws, some of which “forcefully” take property

and BTW, you seem to imply that “private property” has been created and enhanced solely by the sweat of individuals; as I hope you will acknowledge, a great deal of “private property” has been created by the efforts of the community and its members; many of whom get little or no reward; for example, zoning (hated by the Right) has helped increase property values; and so on

the law is constantly used to “compel other people to support [their] vision of a perfect society”; Bush and friends think it’s OK and appropriate for the wealthy to pay less in taxes; I don’t agree and am forced to either pay more to make up for the shortfall or lose services or necessary public investments as a result; but those laws are being imposed on me (as is the war in Iraq, which is diverting my tax dollars); that’s democracy (albeit not very functional)

so exactly what is it you don’t like about democratic institutions?

Ah, that’s it. I don’t like democratic institutions. Or is it that I don’t like democratic institutions that overstep the boundaries set forth in the Constitution?

Why is it that when liberals think the government has overstepped its bounds, they are protecting people’s rights, but when conservatives do it, they hate democracy?

I wonder if those of my fellow Americans who reside to my left on the political spectrum would agree to honor democratic institutions that create and enforce laws, based on the collective wisdom of voters, elected officials, and judges over hundreds of years, declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman? Or that blacks and whites should be segregated? Or that a woman doesn’t have the right to murder her unborn child choose what to do with her own body?

My guess is that they would say that there are limits placed on what we, as a democratic republic, can do when what we are doing infringes upon the rights of others.

I just happen to think that taking one’s property is a violation of one’s rights.

Does that mean that the government can’t tax its citizenry? No. That power is in the Constitution. But much of what the government currently taxes for is way outside of the constitutional limitations on the government’s power.

So, I have nothing against democratic institutions. I just don’t happen to agree that the government has the right to take from anyone to meet the individual needs of others.

Collective needs – those that are shared equally by everyone, ie law enforcement, road maintenance, etc. – should be collectively funded. As for individual needs – the basic needs of individuals who are down on their luck or otherwise in a bad way – I think those needs are best met by private charities.

And if the compassionate left spent as much time and money working to promote those organizations as they do on getting leftist politicians elected and lobbying them for more entitlement programs, they might be inclined to agree with me.

4 Responses to “Limits on Democratic Government”

  1. The fatal flaw in the argument for economic collectivization is that despite wishful thinking it just doesn’t work and never has. To think that taking private property for the betterment of the community will make that community more egalitarian is a fallacy that is proved by Soviet Communism. And while I am all in favor of relying on the precendent of law as set forth by voters, elected officials, and judges not all voters, elected officials and judges have right reason and a will defend the permanent things, such as private property. Just look at Act 60.

  2. the basic needs of individuals who are down on their luck or otherwise in a bad way – I think those needs are best met by private charities.

    And the Lord literally created a woman from a rib, too. On what evidence do you base your conclusion? The dramatic reduction in poverty we haven’t seen?

  3. jd,

    Wasn’t LBJ’s Great Society – brought to us by your beloved big government – supposed to effect that “dramatic reduction in poverty” that you mention? A lot of good that did, eh?

  4. Well, considering that, according to the Census Bureau, the implementation of the Great Society programs in the mid to late 1960s caused the amount of poverty to be roughly cut in half…I’d say that they did a pretty good job.

    You can even see these charts being used over at the Right-wing Hoover Institution of all places. Nothing seems to have had as big an impact on poverty since the 1960s.