(Neil’s Note: This is a small part of a larger essay on the subject of bottom up versus top down thinking. I’m re-publishing it here because it makes a point about an event happening in a few weeks’ time…)
The bottom up thinker wants to empower everyone. That is, he wants each individual to have maximum possible power over his own life. He sees peace, honesty, justice and respect for human rights as the only valid reasons to restrict anyone’s freedom in any way. Beyond this, he desires government of each person, by that person, for that person.
In contrast, top down thinkers advocate and admire a charade they call democracy; or in US-speak, Demahcracy. They like to set democracy up on a pedestal, and to make of it an idol to be worshipped.
In democracy, individuals may vote on which of a number of criminal gangs (political parties) they wish to direct a state for the time being. Then, there is a more or less complicated process of totting up the votes. This process determines which gang (or gangs) will have licence to “legally” oppress and exploit everyone for the next several years.
It’s obvious that this system entirely ignores the wishes of the minority. It does nothing at all for those who are alienated from politics, and feel that none of the political parties have any concern for them. And, the way the system operates, it usually ends up ignoring the desires of the majority, too.
And yet, top down thinkers talk of democracy as if it was (in Abraham Lincoln’s words) “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But to them, the word “people” is singular – really meaning “the populace.” So, they believe that democracy delivers a government that reflects “the will of the people.” That elected politicians in some way “represent” this will. And that this gives the rulers an all but divine right to do what they want to the ruled, without concern or consideration for rights or anything else.
The bottom up thinker, on the other hand, is mindful of Benjamin Franklin’s pithy saying: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” He knows that there is no such thing as “the will of the people.” For, indeed, only individual people – that is, persons – have wills. He knows that it’s all but impossible for a dishonest, collectivist politician to represent, in any meaningful way, any honest, individual human being.
Furthermore, he understands that many people who vote – perhaps, even, a majority – do so, not for the party they want most, but for the one they hate least. And he knows that any individual’s vote in any election that matters is utterly worthless. It’s rare enough for a politician to be elected by a margin of only one vote. But further; when was the last time one vote made a discernible difference to any policy or legislation?
It gets worse. On many if not most issues, all the parties and politicians want the same. What they want is more and more state power. So, far from empowering the individual, democracy falsely makes it appear legitimate to subordinate innocent people to the Causes currently favoured by those in power and their hangers-on.
It’s worse yet. For, on fuller consideration, the bottom up thinker sees that a vote for any of the criminal gangs – or at least, for one that has a realistic chance of winning – is an act of cowardly aggression. It’s an assault against everyone who has been, is being, or will be, harmed by the policies of that gang. It’s morally equivalent to punching on the nose, hard, people you have never even met; and then running away.
Thus, democracy divides. It inexorably pulls societies apart. The victims of bad policies feel harshly treated, and become disaffected. They come to view politics and politicians with contempt and loathing. And, slowly but surely, they lose all fellow feeling with those that support the criminal gangs by voting for them. Yet, top down thinkers agonize over why the “social cohesion,” which they expect to see among the populace, is increasingly becoming unglued.
Yes – it is a simple matter.
Does 51% of the population (or those they elect) have the right to, for example, end Freedom of Speech?
If someone replies “yes” no further conversation is useful with such a person.
Democracy, in the sense of the “Divine Right of the 51%” or the “Divine Right of Parliament” is not compatible with such things as the Bill of Rights – British or American.
Of course may people vote for X, Y, Z representatives – but it must be understood that the power of such officials is NOT unlimited.
Um, so no particular person’s vote makes the slightest difference, but the person who votes is hitting everybody else smack in the nose, hard. Have I got that straight?
Julie, you have put (part of) the problem very well!
It really comes down to a large extent on your view of people. Authoritarians tend to have a very negative view, while liberals tend to have a positive view. To an authoritarian, without oppressive power over them, the majority of people would collapse into barbarism and evil (the Hobbesian catastrophe) whereas liberals tend to see most people as good, and requiring of some sort of law only to deal with the minority of miscreants.
This also kind of dovetails to a little discussion currently over at Tim Worstall’s about democracy; authoritarians (currently the Progressives) use the word to mean a synonym for “representation”, rather than as “rule by the people”. So long as you’re “represented” by somebody- which increasingly they interpret to mean some sort of pressure group, etc, that’s “democracy”, while “The Will Of The People” means whatever the “representatives” think “the people” ought to want and would want if they were as wise and good as the representatives (supposedly) are.
Democracy is a pretty good system for making group decisions. The problem is really that we don’t have it. We have “representation” which is something quite different.
I think it goes deeper than that. At the most fundamental level, I have a problem with the idea that some collective demos – call it Britain, England, Europe or whatever – even exists.
Maybe because you’re being too theoretical. Humans are natural collectivists who form groups bonded, often by a sense of kinship which is often not genetic, but a story of a shared history. The Jews are the most well known illustration, a group who coalesced after the collapse of the city states in Palestine and created for themselves a history dating back to a mythical common ancestor, Abraham.
Collectives exist. What matters for liberty is the rules the collective operates. Unless you go and live in a cave as a hermit, you’re going to be part of some collective, and that’s going to have rules of behaviour, and libertarianism is basically the proposition that there should be as few rules as possible, whereas other systems seek as many rules as possible. Anarchism is in my view flawed as it is a pretence that collectives can be abolished, but once you study anarchist proposals, they always end up just proposing new collectives and you’re back where you started.
Nobody should be forced to be in a collective they don’t want to be in. THey should be free to go and join another one. But I, like most other English people, and British people (except half the Scots apparently) consider myself English, and British, and I really am happy with that. I just object to the rules that the English and British collectives have, and that’s what, as a Libertarian, I want to change.
I found Neil’s original words refreshingly direct and clear to understand and reading them prompts further clarification, all of which must, in my opinion, lead to one thing.
As I say on my website, “as soon as we stop playing their (party) game the sooner we shall cease to be our own executioners”. All the oppressive mechanisms of the party system (and subsequent voter disillusionment) fall apart as soon as the party system is dismantled and then our constitution starts to heal itself.. Isn’t that worth hoping and aiming for? It dismantles by voting for a genuine Independent. When no government arrives inside the House of Commons it has to derive again from outside and the powers re-separate automatically. By all the constituencies holding constitutional assemblies to select their Independent representative, from “the bottom up” as opposed to the party “top down” it becomes much harder for the centralisers to operate.
Not only do the parties implicitly claim the right to decide and therefore legislate on every matter under the sun but also may I suggest that the very idea of a vote is a transfer of power from the individual to the collective. Diane James( UKIP) struggling to confirm that even UKIP too will look after Women’s Affairs was just such an example.
The “will of the people ” surely, as Neil said, is the sum of the individual free choices, which when totted up amount to a total will. Party “democracy” has been responsible for removing our self-government to Brussels and imposing multi-racialism upon us by legalised force. Our once homogenous country is now riven with factions like the ME.
How do we wean people off the party system because most people vote for the party which gives them most. In so doing they empower the government (their gang) to do something for them but unfortunately the side effect is that they can be a victim too, if they lose the election. In other words the voting system becomes a reflection of who can bribe who the most.
I have been watching learned professors in a seminar all explaining the convoluted interactions of the parties with dismay. I had been forced to withdraw from Thirsk & Malton as an Independent as I may be ahead of my time, but hope many more of us will be ready for the failure of the coalition. United in Purpose, not divided by party.
Neil Lock’s all good stuff but may I advise a bit further? It really is very simple, put like this.
ALL political parties have the same effect on our constitution (see http://www.camrecon.demon.co.uk) in that they ALL merge the government with the body supposed to control the government, the Commons. i.e all parties are the revolution (Left Centre or Right) against the constitution and the separation of powers. ALL parties have manifestos which are “package deals”. You have to have the whole package, there is no opt out of the bits you do not like. Failure to vote is not an option.(Russell Brand NB). Indeed, it is implied that even if you voted for a party that supports the NHS you have consented to the whole package, however toxic other bits may be. A vote for a PARTY candidate goes straight to the government because that candidate is sworn to toe the party line. The ONLY SAFE antidote is an Independent in that your vote is not surrendered and disappears into the government pocket but is held in trust by that person to be used with discretion and judgement and to control the government’s power. It really is as simple as that. This is because “liberty is the ability to accept or reject one policy at a time”. (the complete opposite of the collectivist or totalitarian party “package”) The party system is a deliberate system of divide and rule, pitting one section of society against another and so only if you vote for a party do you empower the government to do as it wishes, if it gets a majority. Even a coalition is little better, it is just another gang getting a look-in. You can stop all this by voting for or being an Independent who understands his role and is not just a freaky individual trying to be a one-man political a party..