… is from pages 171-172 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan‘s 1987 paper “Man and the State,” as this paper is reprinted in James M. Buchanan, Federalism, Liberty, and Law (2001), which is volume 18 of the Collected Works of James M. Buchanan:
The monumental folly of the past two centuries has been the presumption that so long as the state operates in accordance with democratic procedures (free and periodic elections; open franchise; open entry for parties, candidates, and interests; majority or plurality voting rules) the individual does, indeed, have insurance against exploitation, quite apart from any viable exit option. Modern states have been allowed to invade increasing areas of “private space” under the pretense of democratic process.
DBx: People whose understanding of democracy is no more advanced than what they learned in fifth grade believe that the democratic procedures listed above by Buchanan are both necessary and sufficient to ensure a free, open, vibrant, and prosperous society. And when such people – people such as Duke historian Nancy MacLean – encounter serious discussions of the need for constraints on majoritarian rule, these people leap to the conclusion that those who counsel such restraints are undemocratic enemies of the People. Whatever you think of democracy, such leaping is a sign of terrific ignorance of both intellectual and political history. And yet displays today of such ignorance are unthinkingly celebrated in “Progressive” circles as signs of deep wisdom and moral superiority.