My next few posts will address the questions of political participation, democracy and liberty.
These questions are very important to libertarians, they are a source of regularly resurfacing conflicts within the movement.
In last year’s Liberty NOW event Dave Meslin gave a presentation to advocate the cause of electoral reform. He is a passionate promoter of the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto.
Another speaker at the same event was Stefan Molyneux, who represents (although not at that particular event) a very different position on the subject.
He is actively advocating to his followers NOT to participate in the democratic process.
I believe that both Dave and Stefan are wrong. We do not need more democracy, but we cannot hope that by some miracle the majority of people will start agreeing with our ideas and reject the state as we know it either.
The more democracy position
The problem, according to the promoters of more democracy such as Dave is lack of engagement. He sees apathy, the lack of political participation as the major source of the problems democracies have. He believes that better representation and more involvement in the political process will create a better expression of the will of the electorate, a better democracy and thus a better world as well.
He came to a libertarian event as a proud socialist. He argued that his ideas do not represent political partisanship because his initiative will help small parties of any political persuasion.
The no democracy position
The problem, according to the anarcho-capitalists, is the coercive nature of the state. The system of representation, the electoral process and the parliamentary system are just tools to legitimize it.
What Stefan says in his videos, (The truth about voting #1, #2 & #3) is that voting is bad because it legitimizes the state, the status quo, the system. It does in effect, legitimizes oppression and immorality.
Voting is bad because it is dehumanizing, the voters are, in effect, begging the government to get pennies back from what was taken from them by force.
He advocates complete rejection of the system and urges his followers to strive toward personal betterment, so that “love and pride and virtue in our private lives will spread the strength we need to outgrow our slavery”
The consensual freedom position
My position is that they are both wrong. More democracy is not good, it will not create a better world, it will not create more engagement, it will not lead to better policies. It will create more politics. More deal making, more compromises, a bigger state, and more powerful, more meddling-into-our-business nanny state bureaucracies. The only way to improve democracy is through limiting its scope to the absolute minimum.
No democracy (meaning the complete lack of consensus in this context) on the other hand is an open invitation to dictatorships and violence. Somalia, which was lauded as a libertarian paradise just a few years back would be a great example. The only way to arrive to a libertarian reality is a wide societal consensus that can only be achieved through hard, creative political work. We have to find ways to push the state back, to increase our freedom from it gradually. Pretending that we can ignore the state and the political machinery, refusing to deal with our reality, will not take us anywhere. Least of all to freedom.
Debating the above would be not just interesting, but quite important to the whole libertarian movement, so I made proposal to Dave and Stefan to have a three-way debate at the next Liberty Now event.
Dave’s response was quick and enthusiastic, Stefan did not acknowledge my e-mail to him. When the event organizer asked him, he was told by an assistant that Stefan is not available.
I very much like the idea of the three way debate and would not want to debate Dave alone. All three positions should be represented. What should be debated, however, are not the persons, but the ideas they represent.
Although I believe that nobody can articulate Stefan’s position as persuasively and passionately as he can himself, I had to start looking for an alternative debater to represent the anarcho-capitalist position.
So far I was not able to find one.
Maybe, the question should go to Stefan directly:
If you are not available at the time when the event will take place, you could help us out by suggesting someone whom you consider able to represent your position in a debate well enough to your liking.
I would also like to ask both Dave and Stefan to confirm that I represented their positions fairly. If I did not, I would be more than happy to post a correction.
The invitation is also open to anybody. Name a person who is willing, ready and able to represent the anarcho-capitalist position in a debate about democracy.
My next three posts will lay out my three arguments, but before I get to it, I would like to ask everybody reading this post to state your position on the subject:
- I believe more democracy, better participation is the answer to our problems.
- I believe that the refusal to participate; the refusal to legitimize the coercive system is the answer.
- I believe that liberty can only be found through a large scale social consensus gained through a gradual process.
…and of course, ask anybody you know to answer this question. I will repeat them after making my arguments on all three options.