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Liberal Versus Jacobin Democracy

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PostPosted:     Post subject: Liberal Versus Jacobin Democracy Reply with quote

Via Bernhard

Liberal Versus Jacobin Democracy:

“[The close relationship between mass society and mass democracy] was expressed with the utmost clarity long ago by that classical writer….Alexis de Tocqueville. I have in mind especially the famous passage in his great work [Democracy in America], where, groping his was on untrodden ground, he tried to show how egalitarian democracy was bound to develop into a new form of despotism.

The essential point becomes clear if we consider the difference between liberal democracy of the Anglo-Saxon and Swiss kind on the one hand and the Jacobin brand of democracy on the other. The latter has increasingly become the dominating form of democracy in our times precisely because it is appropriate to mass society.

If we say that liberal democracy places the accent on liberty and Jacobin democracy on equality, this means in practice that the former rests on government with the consent and under the control of those governed and the latter on the principle of the sovereignty of the people, ascertained by majority decision and intended to realize the identity of people and government.

Now while this Jacobin sovereignty of the people is a fiction, it is a highly dangerous one because it opens the way to the worst despotism and makes it possible for a majority decision to establish a totalitarian government. Liberal democracy is a source of freedom because it is liberal, that is, respectful of the individual’s right to liberty, and because it is, at the same time, democracy, that is, makes government the subject to the consent of those governed.

Jacobin democracy, however, is the ultimate ruin of freedom. [Mass] society fosters Jacobin mass democracy by paralyzing and destroying the countervailing forces of federalism. Even where these still survive they are clearly on the defensive, and their prospects of victory are constantly deteriorating.

In Germany….federalism seems to have no live roots anymore. Witness the case with which recently….Wurttemburg and Baden were wiped out as historical entities and, like two factories, merged in the name of administrative convenience.

It is therefore hardly surprising that some years ago a socialist minister…declared, in all seriousness, that federalism, autonomy, and local government were quite unnecessary in a democratic state because, in contrast to the old authoritarian state, there was no longer any division between people and government.

One is reminded of the Communists, who, when reproached with the total absence of independent trade unions in Soviet Russia, reply ingenuously that in a state where government and working class have merged into one, there is no need for any independent trade-unions to safeguard the workers’ interests.

This is, in fact, what goes on in the mind of the Jacobins, and they are under the spell of a myth whose pseudo-religious content is unmistakable – even without the recent incident when an election poster of the Swiss Communist party blasphemously put the “sovereign” people in the place of God and parodied the Bible by declaring: “The fear of the people is the beginning of wisdom.” It is ominous that much the same used to be said by the leaders of National Socialist Germany.”

(A Humane Economy, Wilhelm Ropke, Henry Regnery Company, 1990, pp. 65-68)
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