Saturday, 5 June 2010

Who Is Servant, Who Is Master?

Gerald Warner, in yet another well-written post, poses that question when he writes: 
"The state, in reality, is supposed to be the servant of the public. Its role should be rigidly limited and every power it exercises jealously scrutinised for overreach."
Unfortunately over the decades we, the people, have allowed the state to override our rights by accepting the unasked for advice and diktats of those we are unable to hold to account - and the irony is that such people have been created by those that we can hold to account! So much for democracy - as it has become.

Just another thought..............


TheBigYin said...

Just another thought..............

And a good one, one that we should all keep in mind.

Trooper Thompson said...

"So much for democracy"

It is democracy which enables the government to take away our individual rights. Under democracy, if the majority want to oppress the minority, that's fine, and it is no coincidence that the rise of democracy and the rise of gun control have gone together.

Witterings From Witney said...

TT, Sorry but disagree. It is not democracy that has enabled government to take awy our individual rights. It is, in fact, the disregard for democracy exhibited by our politicians that has meant they have just taken our rights - and I for one want them back!

I would also contend that it is the increasing lack of democracy that has gone hand in hand with the rise in gun control.

Trooper Thompson said...

I don't want to live under a democracy, but under the Rule of Law. Individual liberty is the most important thing. In order to safeguard this, we need the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law rests on certain pillars, of which one is democracy, but it must be kept within bounds. Government must be limited. To illustrate what I mean, I shall mention another pillar which supports the Rule of Law - the armed forces of a nation. I am in favour of this nation having armed forces, but they must be subject to the Rule of Law. It has been seen in many countries that the armed forces can overthrow the government and set up a military dictatorship. I would not want to see this happen here, but this doesn't mean I am against having an army etc. The same applies to democracy. It is important - if not essential - that the people should assent to their government, and that governments can be changed without resort to violent revolution. Therefore we must have democracy, but without democracy remaining subject to the Rule of Law, we will have just another form of tyranny or dictatorship. This is why democracy has been called 'two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner'. This is also why the far-sighted Founding Fathers of the United States were clear to set out 'inalienable rights'. There is no such thing as this in a true democracy, because the voice of (the majority of) the people is God.

What you see as the politicians disregarding democracy is actually the opposite. They are claiming, based on democracy, the legitimacy to do as they please, because they are the agents of the people, whose will reigns supreme. Therefore if they (the politicians) wish to ban the individual liberty to keep and bear arms, they have the right to do so. Indeed, if we put this to a referendum today, I would bet my shirt on the people voting against gun ownership. You may believe that an informed electorate would be argued round by our impeccable reason to support this individual liberty, but you must concede that the vote could very easily go the other way. This latter being the case, I ask you: do the people, in such a referendum, have the right to take away the liberties of the individual? Or does the individual have an individual right that doesn't rest on the will of the majority? Of course this question of 'right' needs clarification, as does my use of the term 'the Rule of Law'. In the United States they are fortunate to have such 'inalienable rights', but these could be changed by amendment if the correct procedures are followed.

I shall leave it at that for now, as I don't want to overstay my welcome! There's plenty more to say, no doubt, but I should perhaps do that chez moi!

Witterings From Witney said...


You make good points and whilst I would agree with the general thrust - one point of contention: at the moment we have what may be called 'representative' democracy, not 'direct' democracy, hence the political elite have decided to remove certain freedoms from us. They do not have that right.

Inalienable rights - yes would agree to that.

Lastly, never feel you 'outstay' your welcome. Your comments and time spent making them are more than welcome.

Trooper Thompson said...

Thanks for your hospitality, although I really ought to write a post on this. Nevertheless, the distinction between representative democracy and direct democracy doesn't alter the nature of the problem of democracy - that being whether the majority can deprive the minority of their rights and liberties.

The main concern for liberalism, as it rose in the 18th/19th centuries was aimed at securing individual liberty, which was threatened and curtailed by an over-mighty state. So liberals tried hard to limit the power of the state.

The concept of a higher power, of individual liberty, natural law, inalienable rights and so forth, which were victorious for a time (shall we say from the Glorious Revolution to the American Revolution?) were assailed by Bentham's uber-rationalists and later by the many-headed socialist monster, which rejected this concept of any higher power. Instead democracy would be the highest authority, this being a rational answer no doubt. The ideas above, inalienable rights etc are not rational, but this wasn't and isn't a problem to an empiricist, and the English-speaking people were traditionally more empiricist than rationalist - summed up in the mockery of the latter by the joke; 'never mind if it works in practice, does it work in theory?'

So, democracy is necessary, no doubt, but without limited government, democracy will very likely overthrow liberty by assuming to itself the highest authority.

Now, you and I can point to certain things where the government (or the political elite) act contrary to the will of the people, two examples being the hand-over of power to the EU and the abolition of the death penalty. You would possibly say that these are examples of how we are not democratic, or perhaps we are increasingly undemocratic, and insofar as the democratic institutions of our nation should be subject to the will of the people, I agree that they are not. So our disagreement, if we have one, relates to the role of these institutions within our nation's constitution.

Witterings From Witney said...


Interesting response.

"that being whether the majority can deprive the minority of their rights and liberties." Whereas, at present, the irony is that we have a minority (in which each political party falls, in respect of votes cast) imposing their views on the majority.

It must be accepted, I believe, that in any association by agreeing to membership one must accept the will of the majority. However the smaller the 'association' the more likely it is that disagreement with the majority view will be minimal. That is the attraction of 'direct democracy' in that central government is kept to a minimum and, importantly, all local matters are decided by a smaller 'association'.

I don't actually feel that we are in 'disagreement' on your last sentence!