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Post No.: 0068liberty


Fluffystealthkitten says:


A lot of liberals (‘supporters of individual choice’ definition) and economic libertarians support democracy and the majority rule (where the electorate or ‘political market’ collectively decides the candidates or outcomes for all) – but there is a problem here. For instance, the majority could vote for there to be a law for everybody to wear a hat everyday, but a minority may not wish to wear a hat everyday – both the majority will of the people and complete individual rights for all cannot simultaneously coexist here. Therefore democracy can be at odds with liberty.


Pareto efficiency (a condition where, in a group context, there is no way to improve at least one person’s position without harming at least one other person’s position in any way) conflict with liberal values (research Sen’s ‘liberal paradox’ for more about this logical yet contentious conflict). Something has to therefore give in the real world – should it be the majority rule or should it be everybody being her/his own dictator? Meow.


Constitutions may help – but they themselves only tend to ‘help’ by limiting democratic scope and/or individual rights potentially i.e. by stipulating what can or cannot ever be done by a polity (including in ways that curb the evolution of governance that, if there were fewer curbs, would possibly allow constitutions to be updated and improved for modern times in a productive way. In other words, constitutions can protect the rights of citizens and limit the power of incumbent governments but they can also codify and solidify rights that fail to keep up with the times).


Many people want individual liberty yet are intolerant or judgemental if others don’t want or do the same things as they want or do. Majoritarian rule also only seems to work satisfactorily for an individual if that individual happens to get his/her own way. People have a habit of blaming elected members of parliament rather than blaming the electorate for electing those politicians in the first place. And much of the electorate often expects to be pleased all the time too, as if governmental resources are unlimited – this is unrealistic and thus unreasonable to ask for.


Equality and liberty is also another example where there can potentially be conflicts when trying to achieve both simultaneously – when in order to attain equality would mean restricting the liberty of a subset of people, or when too much liberty exacerbates inequality in a way that creates wide and deep societal problems. And how would fraternity/community fit compatibly with individuality too?


I know from experience that one topic that tends to generate a lot of heated discourse is politics! I am neither against democracy nor individual liberty, nor greater equality nor community cohesion in some contexts, and I’m not stating whether one goal is always more important than another, but I am just pointing out some things to think about and understand when trying to put these goals into practice in the real world. Maybe my stance is that one would be naïve to be hard-line black-or-white regarding protecting or prioritising any one of the above goals, and that an attitude of compromise and taking things on a case-by-case basis is sensible (whether I’m considered politically ‘left leaning’ or ‘right leaning’ will depend on the case rather than some overarching axiom or loyalty to a political ideology), whilst understanding why people who disagree on how a compromise can be achieved simply have a different subjective order of priority for the above goals for a given case because we cannot always satisfy them all (probably the only way all the above goals can be fulfilled simultaneously is for everyone to democratically vote under their own liberty for equality measures that strengthen the community?)


So if you wish to post a comment via the Twitter comment button below or discuss these issues in any other forum then please remain respectful to all – listen without interrupting (i.e. really listening rather than itching to interrupt and respond), pause, and then reply with an emphasis on informing rather than directly trying to convert or impose stances (inform participants to the point they can come to their own conclusions rather than directly and forcefully pushing your own conclusions onto them. People will only further entrench in their existing stances if spoken to without social intelligence – you’ve surely felt the same reaction when you’ve been treated without courteousness in the past). Thanks.




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