Why Democracy?

by Don Boudreaux on September 19, 2017

in Philosophy of Freedom

In my most recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column I argue that the American founders regarded democracy as a means and not as an end in itself.  A slice:

Even passing familiarity with U.S. history and the Constitution makes crystal-clear that the Framers were no gung-ho enthusiasts for majoritarian rule. They feared it because they feared government. Democracy — checked, balanced and limited — simply supplied the least-perilous ground upon which to erect a government able to perform what few tasks the Framers believed it should.

This historical reality is lost on many modern-day fans of democracy. They talk and write — and sometimes scream — as if it is criminal even to suggest that today’s majority ought not be allowed to do whatever it votes to do. For these naïve democrats, democracy — or, worse, majoritarian rule — is not a means of enabling government to do what it should and keeping it from doing what it shouldn’t. Instead, democracy is an end in itself, individual freedom be damned. This attitude is dangerous.


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