Valuing Liberal Democracy? This Market Anarchist Doesn't


January 25, 2007

Liberal democracy is the 'well loved' political system presently used in nearly all Western countries. Liberal democracy is often championed for its 'tolerance' and 'freedoms.' The noted political scientist Francis Fukuyama even once stated that liberal democracy was the 'end of history,' meaning that liberal democracy might be the 'final' political system ever devised. Well, despite its 'positives,' liberal democracy is still force.

Tolerance and pluralism

Two of the defining aspects of liberal democracy are the concepts of tolerance and pluralism. These manifest themselves with the coexistence of differing political views. Such viewpoints then possess the opportunity to compete for political power when periodic elections are held within this system. So in the USA , the Democrats and Republicans compete for power. In the UK , the Labour Party and the Conservatives compete for power. In Germany , the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats continually compete for power.

In essence, this does lead to a 'free market,' so to speak, of views that are seeking to form a government, and a market of opinions which a voter in the electorate can choose from. Nevertheless, one is often choosing as to how much force is exerted against him or her and not choosing whether force should be eliminated. In virtually all liberal democracies, political parties advocate some kind of state. The presence of government is force, in part, since it denotes monopoly. Can you choose the nature of your police protection? Can you choose which military would safeguard you from foreign attack? No, you cannot. At most, one can only choose about the level of force that's applied. Some parties, for example, might favour lowering taxes or may deregulate the economy. Nonetheless, the force is always there. Few, if any, liberal democracies possess parties that advocate the drastic or radical reduction in the initiation of governmental force. Essentially all political parties within the "liberal democratic" system desire to maintain the statist status quo.

The perpetuation of liberal democracy

The general "reverence" for liberal democracy is ultimately perpetuated by the state itself. We are consistently told that we possess "freedom" within a liberal democratic structure. Some, like US President George "Dubya" Bush, even equate the concept of liberal democracy with freedom in general. (But of course, Bush believes Iraqis are free, even though many in Baghdad risk constant terrorist attacks. Some freedom, huh?)

Granted, liberal democracies are relatively "freer" societies in general (compare general personal and economic liberties in Norway vis-'-vis North Korea ). People may also have on average higher living standards and greater levels of happiness. Nevertheless, the perpetuating cycle of liberal democracy can be traced to the classroom. In school, we are seldom (if ever) taught of any rival systems to the liberal democratic order. Within schools, pupils are taught to value the liberal democratic order. We are also taught that the state is good and that the state is only out to aid us. Of course, politicians mandate such instructions to save "their own bacon." They know that a continuation of the prevailing order only seeks to benefit themselves. Most would recognise that politicians are power hungry and desire dominion over others. Due to this impulse, politicians would do whatever it takes to maintain their supposed supremacy over others. As usual, politicians are rewarding themselves, whilst not representing our interests. So much for "representative democracy"! Such a state of affairs is also a continuation of the presence of "the gun in room." In the linked article, Mr. Molyneux explains that libertarians should consistently point out the intrinsic force of government to all non-libertarians. Liberal democracy, by its very nature, has its finger on the trigger of "the gun" at all times.

Rights of the people

Liberal democracies are also characterised by upholding the rights of the citizen, so as to place a curb on governmental powers. Of course, libertarians would welcome such a thing, in principle. However, in many liberal democracies, it's not as inspiring as one may believe.

Article 7 of the Grundgezetz (i.e., the 'Basic Law' or constitution) of Germany outlines a right to education. More explicitly, it states that the 'entire education system' should be administered by the state! Even private schools are regulated by the German government. So the average German citizen doesn't possess the liberty to actively "opt out" of the state's influence in education The rights enshrined in a liberal democratic constitution clearly don't have to be limited to preserving negative rights only. If one examines the United States constitution, an amendment exists which brought into being the income tax. Even though the Founding Fathers desired the existence of a small "constitutionally limited" government, this plan failed to curtail and forestall the eventual growth of the federal government.

Liberal Democracy is government, and government is force

Think of how a liberal democracy must fund itself. It is funded via taxation, which constitutes force against the individual. Governments in liberal democracies often regulate businesses and industry, hence imposing force on business owners and entrepreneurs. As I stated earlier, choice doesn't exist in regards to governmental services. Liberal democracies don't offer a choice between police protection, armed forces or fire protection. German citizens possess no opportunity to opt out of the state sphere, especially in regards to education.

All in all, liberal democracy may "mean well" and attempt to secure citizens' freedoms, but it still taxes, spends and initiates force like all other governments. By logically adhering to libertarian principles, only market anarchy can provide a situation in which all human interactions are voluntary. Only market anarchy can ensure the complete non-initiation of force in human affairs.

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Christopher Awuku lives in the UK and works in the voluntary/community sector.  He runs a market anarchist blog at