Guest Post: Democracy And Its Contradictions

Tyler Durden's picture

The next in a continuing series (most recently: Evil and the State).

Submitted by Free Radical

Democracy and Its Contradictions

Democracy, as Churchill said, “is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” the assumption being that because the state is the only conceivable form of government (and therefore necessary for civil society to exist), the democratic state is the best state, even if it is merely the best among bad ones. This flies in the face, of course, of the godlike esteem in which democracy is held around the world, both by those who are ruled by such states and by those who yearn to be. Democracy, after all, is based on “the proposition that the legitimacy of all political power arises from, and only from, the consent of the governed, the peoplei  – the assumption being that the democratic state embodies this noble proposition. 

The problem, however, is that while the people’s consent in a democratic state is supposedly expressed through the right to vote – through the so-called “ballot” – consent has little if anything to do with the process:

Doubtless the most miserable of men, under the most oppressive government in the world, if allowed the ballot, would use it, if they could see any chance of thereby meliorating their condition.  But it would not, therefore, be a legitimate inference that the government itself, that crushes them, was one which they had voluntarily set up, or even consented to.

What does it mean, in other words, to vote within the confines of that which one had no vote in creating and when those confines, therefore, cannot legitimately – i.e., in a morally justifiable manner – rule over one? Even assuming that those confines are minimal (though none are, of course, even if they were so conceivedii), what moral authority or obligation can such confines have?  What authority or obligation, that is, can political constitutions have?

The answer, simply put, is none.  The United States Constitution, for example,

… has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living [long] ago. … Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. … And the Constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them.  They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to be an agreement between any body but “the people” then existing; nor does it, either expressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition, on their part, to bind anybody but themselves.


As taxation is made compulsory on all, whether they vote or not, a large proportion of those who vote, no doubt do so to prevent their own money being used against themselves; when, in fact, they would have gladly abstained from voting, if they could thereby have saved themselves from taxation alone, to say nothing of being saved from all the other usurpations and tyrannies of the government. To take a man's property without his consent, and then to infer his consent because he attempts, by voting, to prevent that property from being used to his injury, is a very insufficient proof of his consent to support the Constitution. It is, in fact, no proof at all.

Just as representative democracy is a farce, then, so is the constitutionalism that attends it. For what constitutions are based on is not self-determination but pre-determination, which, under the best of circumstances, merely provides the means by which such consent as is presumed to have been given can accordingly be withdrawn.

Even so, the nation founded on this supposedly unalienable right no longer recognizes it. For notwithstanding the fact that there is no actual law prohibiting self-determination – up to and including secession – the United States Government has made it clear that it will pursue secessionists to the point of genocide on the presumption that preserving the Union is paramount to all other concerns. A “Civil War” was fought over this very point, after all,iii at a cost of over 600,000 lives and an untold destruction of property, at the conclusion of which the selfsame government was forced to abandon its prosecution of the secessionists’ leader, realizing that to do so would be to expose the fallacy of its argument: “The federal government knew that it could not try [Confederate President Jefferson] Davis for treason without raising the constitutional issue of secession.” iv

Nonetheless, a century and a half later, the U.S. Government staunchly maintains its position (without having to openly defend it) and does so with full knowledge that its erstwhile adversary, the former Soviet Union, and its present one, China, each cited the Civil War as their authority for using force to keep their own governments intact:

Perhaps the most dangerous legacy of the war was the Northern claim that it could use force and go to war to prevent any state from withdrawing from the Union.  This has haunted us in the past decade and will continue to do so, as the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev claimed the right to use force to hold his union together and cited Abraham Lincoln as good authority for doing so.  In 1999, the Chinese premier reminded President Clinton that he had the right to use force to hold China together, to go to war to reclaim Taiwan, and he too cited Abraham Lincoln as good authority. v

But such is the logic of the state that it seeks to perpetuate itself at any and all cost, and thus does the democratic state fall victim to its own hypocrisy. For any state that denies its people the right of self-determination is totalitarian, the more so in accordance with how far it will go to deny that right. And while 600,000 lives are but a small fraction of those lost in the lie that was the USSR, insofar as the USA fell victim to the lie of forced union, its atrocities differ only in degree, not in kind.

Moreover, insofar as forced union in America enabled the rampant statism that soon included the fraud of centralized, fractional-reserve banking, the death toll from decades of government-induced poverty might well be in the millions. After all, the Great Depression – which, contrary to the received truth, was both perpetrated and perpetuated by the U.S. Government’s own policies – caused the premature deaths of countless Americans, to say nothing of how many lives will be needlessly foreshortened and otherwise ruined by the time the present economic calamity – also a direct result of the U.S. Government’s own policies – finally exhausts itself.

To its credit, the government of Canada did not prevent one of its constituent provinces from holding a referendum on secession. And no matter that the referendum failed (except, that is, to the 49.42% who voted in favor of it), the fact that it was allowed at all is commendable. Ask any official of the United States Government whether its citizens have this right, however, and they will be at a loss for words,vi  knowing that to deny the right is to deny the nation’s founding principle, while to affirm it is to open the floodgates of the Government’s demise and thereby jeopardize the official’s sustenance through “the political means.” 

Many will argue, of course, that the contradictions of any particular democratic state are insufficient to deny the validity of the democratic ideal. And while the cynic might reply that just because the democratic state doesn’t work in practice doesn’t prove that it can’t work in theory, let us eschew cynicism and simply ask the question that Thoreau asked: “Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last possible improvement in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man?”

Of course it is, and it begins with the recognition that the right of self-determination is just that – a right of the self and thus of the individual, the real, present, and perpetual acknowledgement of which is the only constitution that has any moral authority or obligation.  For only then does “the consent of the governed” have any genuine meaning; only then can “the action of the organs of the state” be held in check; and only then can the stage be set for what would otherwise be impossible – “The Transition to a Free Society” – which we will address in my next submission.


i  Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order & Freedom, ICS Press, 1990 (Oxford University Press, 1953), p. 220.
ii  “It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power. ... Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go. ... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798.
iii  There is no denying that slavery was an important issue, nor is there any defending the institution itself. Neither is there any denying, however, that the nation’s new president held slavery inviolate in the states where it was still practiced or that he was as racist as any other American of his time, Northern or Southern.
iv  Charles Adams, When In the Course of Human Events, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, Chapter 12, “The Trial of the Century that Never Was,” p. 178.
v  Ibid., pp. 228 and 229.
vi  With one notable exception, of course.

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Racer's picture

In the UK, the way the voting system is, the Labour party have to get very few of the votes to control, in comparison to a massive, massive need for a majority for the Liberal Party, so by default the Lib Dems will never get in full power even if a lot of the people vote for them... that is NOT democracy at all

TBT or not TBT's picture

This is government capture of a democracy.   There are so many people entirely dependent on and beholden to government largesse, that this single block of people vote always for the (or one of the) "government party(/ies)," whatever they happen to call themselves.    In a parliamentary system, this yields a permanent majority for left of center and leftoide parties to such a degree that the moderate right ends up looking extreme.  

The conservatives aren't any such thing in most such places on the planet, and even the "extreme right" parties are actually just statist, socialist parties with a nationalistic or xenophobic flair.    Those fringe views exclude the moderate right from making coalitions with them, and it is probably just as well because the so called far right parties are also just big government parties.

This phenomenon is of course not limited to Europe.  California is already there.   It is run by the government for the government, so large and so coddled have become the mass of state employees and their objective allies the permanent welfare class.

New_Meat's picture

Here's a citation, but most widely known, e.g."

"When Benjamin Franklin exited the Constitutional convention, he was asked by a woman, “Sir, what did you give us?” 

Franklin replied, “A Republic ma’am, if you can keep it.” 

Most Americans today are persuaded today that our American system is a Democracy and not a Republic. The difference between these two is essential in understanding Americanism and the American System." - Ned
New_Meat's picture

us grunts gotta stick together ;-)

03? 11? or just another knuckledragger?


- Ned

G-R-U-N-T's picture

Our own individual freedom is the proper limitation of government.

Those of us that have a true critical sense of what true freedom represents have always risen to the occasion and have understood either innately or through recovery from oppression exactly what Mr. Franklin means and what a republic represents.

'night ;-)


NOTW777's picture

Many Americans would be surprised to learn the word “Democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. Nor does it appear in any of the Constitutions of the 50 states. The Founders did everything they could to keep us from having a democracy.

AnAnonymous's picture

Franklin replied, “A Republic ma’am, if you can keep it.” 


As if the priority of threat in the 18th century was socalled democracy.

What people want to believe...

sunkeye's picture

t/y for this

im smarter for reading it

Devout Republican's picture

Should'a gone with Nixon's health care bill instead of this crazed leftist nobamacare.


jeff montanye's picture

obama's not a leftist.  he is a toady of the rich and the corporations.  he has extended the police state established/enhanced by george w bush.  he may be a muslim born in kenya (i doubt it) but he is not a progressive/liberal/socialist/marxist/leftist.

MachoMan's picture

The distinction between liberal and conservative is simple: liberals want to expand the size and scope of government and conservatives do not.  The entirety of our congressional lot (and executives) are liberals... 

slewie the pi-rat's picture

mebbe californication iz run by pi-ratz and the goobermint stoolies are our slaves.  things got really baaad here after "they" re-called gov. jefferson "grey" davis, b/c of uhhhh,...enronesque fukaroni via pacific graft and extortion (PG&E). 

the permanen-toes rule. 

the goobermen-toes have gotz nothin' coming, except their own turds, baked into the pi.  and, they're even starting to figure that out, themselves!!!  we can now hear the sound of one sphinXtor clapping.  yours.  they are about to becum permanen-toes, 2, docha see, brainiac?  well, 80% of dum.

i don't have any idea where you live or whatcha do, sir, but i suspect ya mighta OD'd on the MSM abt 40 years ago, and heaven't bin rehabilatittied, yet, asswipe.  if ya ever get out for some fresh air and exXxercise, why doncha stop by the catholic church nearest the hispanic mark-ette nearest yer freaking gate-tred commuministry, ok?  notice any BEanerz?  wtf is going on w/ that shit?  anywho?

well, sir, an organization known for its subversive tendencies, and whose last name rimes w/"parodies" has been contolling immigration since, well, 1975 and the fall of sai-gon, sir.  Nothing more cosmic than a pissed-off nun, is there?  let's see what happened to jake and elwood, ok? YouTube - James Brown- blues brothers

and, they seem to like mexicans, possibly b/c if anybody fuks one of their kids in those cute little but-toX, he will get his balls cut off, if he's lucky.  and, perhapz even a shitforbrained moron like you, sir, can understand that there just might B some polit-i-cal and relig-iou-s dimensionz involved here, aussiz.  maybe those generallissimo-toes (bishopz?  on the chessboard?) are gonna try to get them to kill chinese, someday, for j.c.  who knowz? 

you have heard the ONE about how can you tell when the chinese are moving into the neightborhood, haven't you, sir?

well, in case those MSM cunt puppetz you get yer "news" from haven't toldya the "punch" line, it goes like this:

how can you tell when the chinese are moving into the neighborhood, eh?

the mexicans start buying car insurance!


you have now bin rehabbed, sir.  welcome to the waking weak!YouTube - Elvis Costello -"..Working Week/...Go To Chelsea" Letterman

here'z yer re-hab cert, bro.  carry onzo!  got cash?

Jus7tme's picture

I think TBT missed the point. The post (by Racer) he replied to was (indirectly) talking about the lack of proportional representation in Britain's and the US our congressional voting system.

TBT, your thesis that government employees vote themselves or their lackeys into power is also rubbish. The government is controlled by the financial elite (< 1% of the population). The only reason they let Obama win was to set up a scapegoat to blame for all the things that THEY (the elite) had engineered in the previous 8 years (or 30 years, but who's counting?).



TBT or not TBT's picture

Oh, OK, so it isn't the outcome of elections, you know how people vote on election day, that determines who votes in our laws and appoints our judges.   It's some secretive illuminatiesque 1% shooting the electorate with eeevil mind rays. 

Red Neck Repugnicant's picture

The problem with a democracy is that individual voters are counted as equal among each other, no matter how knee-buckling retarded someone might be. The best way to remedy this problem is to give different voters different powers, just as some states are given different electoral weightings.  

For instance, your vote should be given an automatic deduction for any of the following:

  • You drive a Camaro with an bald eagle stenciled on the hood
  • You're a libertarian redneck who thinks America should return to its "Gunsmoke" roots. 
  • You have a mustache, and you think women are impressed by it 
  • You're completely obsessed with which "token" a country uses to denominate its currency, and you miss the fact that the plutocrats will always transfer your labor into their wealth using any "token" they want
  • You think that weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico are caused by homosexuals in California
  • You think a machine gun is an appropriate defense against burglars
  • You high-five your wife when you hear, "Gentlemen, start your engines"
  • You think that an exchange of one US government debt instrument for another US government debt instrument affects cotton prices in Egypt
  • You think that increasing gross profit margins at the world's largest retailer and the world's largest fast-food restaurant is immaterial when discussing price inflation
  • You think the Gilded Age in American history is an example of how America experienced prosperity under the gold standard
  • You think the cruelty of survival-of-the-fittest that you see among animals in Nature should be applied to humans in civilized society
  • When your neighbor get cancer and looses everything, your reply is "tough fucking luck, but God works in mysterious ways and the world is too populated for this year's corn crops whatever..."
  • You think the Earth is 6,000 years old and fossils are tricks 
  • Your grocery store calls you when they run out of canned hams
  • You jizz in your pants every time silver is projected to hit $500/oz, especially when coupled with the idiotic catch-phrase, "price doesn't matter"
Etc. Etc. Etc...     So basically, if you believe in all points listed above, your vote would counted as a -15 for your candidate. Please note that I didn't even mention Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or other conservative "super-retards" because, quite frankly, I didn't want to alienate everyone here.    


nmewn's picture

But's it's still a good thing that a ward of the state get's a full vote on what their next paycheck will be.


Red Neck Repugnicant's picture


If your mother gets a medicare check, she shouldn't be allowed to vote - especially if she has a $250,000 liver transplant pending.  

Is that the "ward of the state" you're referring to?

New_Meat's picture

another country heard from.  Good attempt to change the subject.

Welcome back RnR-let's play!

- Ned

nmewn's picture



So, according to the "progressive" mind, the "right" to vote is contingent on how much the state has invested in you?, "democratic" ;-)

New_Meat's picture

RnR: Here's something that you can buy (aligned with your pov) and skosh money: e.g.

In your system, well ... meet your better person.  Of course, he won't meet you, since you are beneath himself.


Red Neck Repugnicant's picture

My better person?   

By the way, here's a picture of me at a recent Republican fundraising event entitled, "Hurricanes and Avalanches:  God's wrath against Homosexuals and Scientists"


Sean7k's picture

If people only understood that Plato felt democracy was for the elite only, we wouldn't have this misunderstanding. Great list.

Astute Investor's picture


You think that increasing gross profit margins at the world's largest retailer and the world's largest fast-food restaurant is really an illicit scheme by the respective management teams to defraud their customers by raising prices and claiming "inflation" as an excuse when none exists.

WaterWings's picture

I already have all the canned ham I need buried in my backyard.

-15? You still vote?

I was the #14 junk. We're almost there. 

Democracy is a bitch. 

Red Neck Repugnicant's picture

I already have all the canned ham I need buried in my backyard....

Based on some of your posts, I figured you probably have a few dozen hidden around the yard. 

When you invite your family over for Thanksgiving, is this your method:


WaterWings's picture

That was weak. Does the late hour waver your smarts?

Azannoth's picture

Keep it simple stupid, onlya Net Taxpayer should be able to vote

slewie the pi-rat's picture

league 0' the iroquois, BiCHeZ.

longhouse4longhoserz.  brewery included, of course.

slewie the pi-rat's picture


hoserz, quebec hoisted the maple leaf.  along w/QEII, eh?  at least on the do-re-mi...

New_Meat's picture

'ha ha ha, frite a l'huile, frite au beure et a l'ongnion!"

zhandax's picture

It should be pointed out that the founding fathers did not create a democracy in the US.  They created a Republic "if you can keep it".  We couldn't.

AnonymousAnarchist's picture

Not just "we", no one could. Once the state is created (regardless of type), there is no mechanism to contain it. Sure, early on, when the virus hasn't had a chance to do much damage, it might seem better but the virus is still there. The point is, supporters of the state don't know they're infected (part of the intro to a stateless society).

destiny's picture

I second this excellent comment...and thanks for the link.

Nikao7's picture

Hence there needing to be a revolution and abolishment of The Government every 25 years.  Jefferson,  I believe.

AnonymousAnarchist's picture

The question then becomes, why give a group of people the authority to commit crimes in the first place?

Of course, this question is rhetorical. It's because too many people still believe a group of people with the authority to commit crimes is necessary for social order. If enough of these people ceased believing the myth (that the state is necessary or legitimate), there would no longer be any state to revolt against. That's why I put so much importance on attacking that myth. Because once one stops believing it, the fact that it's a myth becomes obvious (pdf).

Who says anarchy, says negation of government;

Who says negation of government, says affirmation of the people;

Who says affirmation of the people, says individual liberty;

Who says individual liberty, says sovereignty of each;

Who says sovereignty of each, says equality;

Who says equality, says solidarity or fraternity;

Who says fraternity, says social order;


Who says government, says negation of the people;

Who says negation of the people, says affirmation of political authority;

Who says affirmation of political authority, says individual dependency;

Who says individual dependency, says class supremacy;

Who says class supremacy, says inequality;

Who says inequality, says antagonism;

Who says antagonism, says civil war;

From which it follows that who says government, says civil war.


Anselme Bellegarrigue - Anarchist Manifesto, (1850)

nmewn's picture

Sadly, true.

Democracy is anti-individual not pro-individual. All it takes is 51% and the other 49% must bow to majority will. A perpetual state of misery & infighting for all.

zhandax's picture

When the current state was created, we had just won a war and had time to contemplate what type of societal structure we wanted.  When the current state collapses we are unlikely to have that luxury.  Watch how things develop in Egypt.

nmewn's picture

"When the current state was created, we had just won a war and had time to contemplate what type of societal structure we wanted."

Years of contemplation, by people who were a helluva lot more respectful of the people they served than our current crop.

It's completely upside down now.

New_Meat's picture


"Watch how things develop in Egypt."

Yep, been doing that and sparring a bit with GW, since he thinks that 3 weeks of "peaceful" protests by less than 1.5% of the population is sufficient for a) military coup, b) abrogation of their constitution, and c) getting rid of their legislature, and d) ... well, ... the next declaration has not yet eventuated.  But he's good with the process so far.

GW (and perhaps you, please let us know) thinks that the restructuring has to be ... faster ... faster.

I know others who wish to avoid wasting a 'good crisis' so 'this situation will never happen again.'

When the current state collapses (as you say) then I'd say to have it collapse into 1789 (as ammended).

but please let us know where you think things should collapse.  If they are sufficiently hot, then I have these whole large piles of snow that I'd like to dump, 'cuz they are interfering with traffic around here.

- Ned


zhandax's picture

OK, perhaps I left too much unsaid in that post.  It wasn't until a day or so ago when someone here pointed out the definition of anarchy as opposed to the popular conception of the term that I considered a 'stateless society'.  I doubt that anyone here believes that we can just go to the polls and vote ourselves some change in that direction.  It will require a collapse of the current state.  However, if and when that collapse occurs there will likely be no time to contemplate what type societal structure we want because of the immediate attempted power grabs which arise from the chaos and the necessity of fending off the most objectionable of them.

Personally I think the Republic served us pretty well but it was yet another casualty of the Civil War.


New_Meat's picture

back in sorta' like sixth grade, I had this great teacher, now I'm recognizing Joan as a 'progressive'.

'No, the majority doesn't rule, all minority opinions must be considered'

'The Consitution is so old, we need to consider our current conditions'

'The UN needs to reconcile the interests of all states.'

I'll revere the lady to the last, but, well, I'm kinda' glad that counter-examples of above have entered into my view, so I can look at a decision.

- Ned

New_Meat's picture

you, sir, beat me to this truth.  But I have more faith that we 'can.'

near run thing, imho.  (But I've played with some of the amazing kids.)

- Ned

NOTW777's picture

tell our president and MSM

SwingForce's picture

I only read "Contradictions", and bullshitery at that. Try again.