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L. Neil Smith's
Number 531, August 9, 2009

"Hadn't I made it clear that Ambrose is a cat?"

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The Tyranny of Democracy
by Sean Gangol

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Whenever I hear someone call America a democracy, I inform that person that we are actually living in a republic. I usually get a blank stare in return. Sometimes that person will ask what the difference is between a republic and a democracy. I explain that a republic is an indirect form of democracy where elective representatives vote on certain legislation. Most of the time I get another blank stare, but there are occasions where that person asks "why aren't we a direct democracy, where everybody in the United States gets a vote?'' These questions make me feel like I was the only one who paid attention in social studies. For starters, America is too massive to include everybody in the legislative process. There are towns that practice direct democracy, but they usually take place in areas with small populations. We also have to make sure that our rights are never compromised by the majority. To paraphrase Mel Gibson's character in the Patriot, "An elected legislator can trample on a man's rights just easy as any king."

This has proven to be the case in San Francisco. About two years ago, the residents voted for two of the worst bills ever conceived. One of them was a ban on handguns within the city limits. The other bill barred military recruiters from setting foot on college campuses. Keeping military recruiters off of college campuses seemed more absurd then oppressive. The banning of pistols on the other hand, was a blatant violation of the Second Amendment. People who defend these laws say that they are legit because they represent the will of the majority. Whether it was a majority that brought about these laws or just a select few is irrelevant. Bad laws are never legit, especially when they violate constitutional rights. The right to keep and bear arms is a god given right (natural right if you're an atheist) and cannot be overruled by a majority vote.

On the other side of the coin, conservatives try to justify the bans on gay marriage by claiming that it is the will of the people. In California, the opponents of gay marriage would have the masses vote a bill into the state constitution that would permanently ban gay marriage. Personally, I believe that the government should stay out of the issue of marriage. They shouldn't have the power to decide the legality of any union between consenting adults. I had a constitutional law professor who said that if you allow the government to define marriage, then it can define almost any other aspect of your life. That is why the government shouldn't be allowed to define any union between consenting adults, even if it is following the will of the majority.

There was another instance where people tried to use democracy to impose their will on others. In Riviera Beach, Florida, the people voted for a ban on saggy pants. This law would be tested when a seventeen-year-old kid was jailed overnight for wearing jeans that exposed the top of his underwear. This prompted a Circuit Judge to overturn the law. Many people in the town were outraged by the judge's decision. I would hate to be the one to break it to these people, but the judge was right. It was a bad law.

I don't like saggy pants myself. I hated that style even when it was considered fashionable back when I was in high school. I always hoped that style would die out. To my dismay, there are people who still like to wear saggy pants. There is one thing I hate more then saggy pants. It is the idea of any government telling me what I can or can't wear. What else would they ban? Piercings? Tattoos? Thong underwear? Miniskirts? Cleavage shirts? I wouldn't be surprised if the prudish people of Riviera Beach decided to ban the wearing of white after Labor Day. While they are at it, why don't they create a special task force and call it the "Fashion Police?" One of the main problems of this law is that it falls under the same flawed logic as speech codes on college campuses. They are based on the premise that people have a right not to be offended. I hate to be the one to burst their bubble, but that right doesn't really exist.

I can't remember the last time that I wasn't offended. I get offended every time I see the Obama administration getting brown nosed by the mainstream media. I get offended whenever the TV networks pollute the airwaves with some lame reality show. I get offended every time I see a Will Ferrell movie on top at the box office. Most of all I get offended whenever I see some idiot wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. Every time I see this, I want to slap the fool over the head and ask him if he even knew who Che Guevara was. I am more offended by the notion that people are ignorant enough to walk around with the face of a mass murderer on their shirts, then I am of saggy jeans. As much as these things offend me, I still have to tolerate them. Like I have said before, part of living in a free society is tolerating the things that you don't like.

What people don't seem to understand is that our government was never meant to be a direct democracy. The founding fathers hated the idea of direct democracy because they knew that it could be used to oppress the minority. This can happen on any level of government. People seem to forget that Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. Venezuela's own little tyrant, Hugo Chavez was also brought to power through democracy. Without limitations, democracy can lead to oppression just as easy as any dictatorship.


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