Sunday, January 04, 2009

Pol. Ideology 11: Liberalism, Democratism & Authoritarianism

In periods of foreign occupation and colonization, launching a political movement for national independence and collective freedom was easy because the enemy – the foreign conquerors – were very clear. Thus, launching an anti-Spanish, then anti-American, then anti-Japanese colonization in Philippine history was a bit easy. What was difficult was launching a successful armed uprising as colonizers always have military superiority.

In periods of internal tyranny and local dictatorship, however, launching an anti-authoritarian movement is difficult because not only are there more enemies – the local tyrants, they are also more established locally and are of the same skin color and genes as the oppressed. Police and military harassment is also more extensive.

In periods of no explicit dictatorship but nonetheless extensively corrupt administration, launching an anti-corruption, anti-authoritarian movement is even more difficult as the enemy because the culture of corruption is less tangible compared to say, abusive and imposing armies under a dictatorship. Also, the culture of corruption tends to be "democratically dispersed" from national to local bureaucracies, and from the Executive to Legislative and Judicial branches.

So various political parties vying for political power and control of the State would position themselves as advocating for democracy and good, non-corrupt government. And almost all political parties, old or new, would consider themselves as "democrats" to hopefully get political acceptance and support from many voters and citizens.

The challenge to competing political parties that consider themselves as democrats, is how to distinguish themselves from other parties, aside from the political personalities that head them. So the liberals would call themselves as "liberal democrats", the nationalists as "nationalist democrats" or "Filipino democrats", the welfarists as "social democrats". Some would add religious adjectives and call themselves as "Christian democrats", "Muslim democrats", even "Evangelist democrats". Even the communists in the country fighting against "imperialism and feudalism" would call themselves as "national democrats".

So what do those political adjectives and ideological labels signify? For instance, what is "liberalism" , "nationalism, "democratism" , "authoritarianism" ? How are they different from each other? One very important test to define and to differentiate these and other political concepts and/or ideologies, is how and where they would put liberty in their scheme or vision of a social order.

Authoritarianism and its cousin ideologies or practices (totalitarianism, dictatorship) have deep-seated beliefs that people are irrational and are not capable of personal and collective improvement if left on their own. A strong and enlightened political leadership can guide and navigate the energy and resources of people towards achieving a particular social ideal and political order as envisioned and decided upon by the authoritarian political leadership. In short, liberty is concentrated in the hands of the few political leaders and people, as individuals or as a collective, will be stripped of a big portion of their liberty and freedom.

Democratism despises the above idea because of the great danger that it will lead to abuses and large-scale corruption that can push a society towards economic underdevelopment and political persecution and tyranny. Thus, the political will of the majority over the minority, the desire and aspirations of the many should prevail in society. In short, collective liberty should prevail over individual liberty.

Liberalism, while it shares with democratism in rejecting authoritarianism, does not believe that individual liberty should be sacrificed at the altar of national or collective liberty in many cases. The primacy of individual liberty and responsibility is at the heart of this political philosophy. Now, will liberalism later morph or evolve into authoritarianism because of its rejection of the dominance of the collective over the individual?

Not a bit. The big difference between liberalism and authoritarianism, despite their shared belief in not bowing to the "will of the majority" at all times, is that the former does not prescribe coercion, whether by the individual or the collective, over other people. There is deep belief in the principle of subsidiarity, volunteerism and the role of civil society, and non-role of big and intrusive government in the lives of people.

The big danger of "majority rule" and democratism, is the use of coercion by the majority to pursue their desires and aspirations. For instance, if the majority will desire socialism or expensive welfarism to legislate and institutionalize social equity, then this will result in large-scale confiscation of the income, savings and liberty of the hardworking and efficient people, the tax money and resources to be distributed to the majority. And a big portion of the majority can afford to be lazy and irresponsible because even if they will not work and drink everyday, the State will assure them of "quality" health care, housing, education, nutrition, and so on.

So if hard work is to be penalized by high income confiscation and laziness is to be rewarded with endless subsidies, society will see less work and more irresponsibility. And this is a perfect formula for social stagnation if not disorder. Pretty soon, democratism and "majority rule" can slowly morph into authoritarianism.

Liberalism or whatever political philosophy that promotes individual liberty and responsibility, and despises the use of institutional and political coercion to attain certain social ideals, is the best antidote to authoritarianism and its silent and creeping ally, democratism.

(For more discussions of the principle of subsidiarity, civil society, dangers of majority rule, rule of law, and related concepts, see the author's various papers at www.minimalgovernme

* See also:
Pol. Ideology 7: Individualism, Entitlement and Freedom, April 30, 2007
Pol. Ideology 8: Ideas on Liberty, September 15, 2007
Pol. Ideology 9: Liberty and Choice, Atlanta and HK Conferences, June 09, 2008
Pol. Ideology 10: Joe Stiglitz and the Market, December 16, 2008


Terry Daly said...

You confuse 'democratism' with 'democracy'. Fatal error.

As you say in your essay, 'democracy' is always prefaced by the words 'liberal', 'social', 'Christian', 'Moslem' et al. There is one major consequence to this. These ideologies and theologies always take precedence over 'democracy'. The 'democracy' element consists merely in individual citizens having one vote every five years - to elect a dictatorship (liberalist, socialist, Islamist, Christian et al), which is then at 'liberty' to act in blatant defiance of the will and wishes of the democratic majority in each and every piece of legislation it enacts and in each and every action it undertakes. Impressed? I'm not.

Take the present Obama health care legislation being rushed through the US Senate. All the polls show that the majority of the American people are against it. It's still being forced through. Take fundamental UN 'climate change' legislation. All the polls show the democratic majority of the people in America, Europe and many other places don't think such legislation is necessary. It's still being forced through. I could go on.

Now let me define 'democratism' for you. It's the will and rule of the democratic majority in all things at all times in every institution in every country. That's democratism. It hasn't happened yet. We're in the pre-democratism age.

Democratism as defined here, I'm sure you'll agree, bears no meaningful relationship to 'liberal democracy' or 'social democracy' or 'Islamic democracy' or 'Christian democracy'. These latter are all liberal, social, Islamic or Christian dictatorships, nothing more, nothing less.

I'm a democratist. I suggest you embrace democratism in place of your present classical liberalism. Classical liberalism has long ago lost the battle to social liberalism. Even if it hadn't lost the battle, classical liberalism in its heyday was never anything more than elective dictatorship - the antithesis of democratism - and therefore no different to contemporary social liberalism diktat and dictatorship.

Democratism as I have defined it here is a living, dynamic organism that gives each individual citizen a vote and a debate on everything, continuously, not merely once every five years to choose a dictatorship. Modern technology and the internet make all this possible. Everywhere.

Get ready. 2010 is about to witness the birth of democratism in Britain, America, Canada, Australia, Europe and elsewhere. From the bottom up.

Happy days.

Bienvenido Oplas Jr said...

Thanks Terry. I will repost this comment of yours in another blog entry as other people may not see your comment since I wrote the original article one year ago. Then I will make additional discussion about it. Watch for it soon here.