Recently by Jim Fedako: Protecting the Right To Bear Arms, OnePurchase at a Time
The concept of democracy — a vote that resolves questions or issues, whether through referendum or representative — can be justified under certain condition. But those conditions are only found at the margin. Consider a golf league.
A group of golfers decide to create a league in order to facilitate friendly competition. They organize and agree to certain bylaws, including the provision for a popular vote of all members on any change to those bylaws.
For the first few seasons, things move along swimmingly. But over time, the same golfers keep winning the league championship. Envy being what it is, a few golfers object to the established rules. Since the league is after-work and just-for-fun, these golfer suggest a tweak to the rules to allow one mulligan (a free do-over) per round. Look, they argue, this will allow the weaker golfer a chance to compete for a prize.
Per the bylaws, the change is submitted to popular vote and it wins by a large margin. The club rolls on for the next few seasons.
Since envy is something never satisfied, the weaker golfers soon suggest unlimited mulligans. The stronger golfers object: such a change would destroy the integrity of the game. Nevertheless, the bylaws allow for the submission of changes at the next league meeting, so the weaker voters put the mulligan question on the agenda.
The outcome of the vote is unimportant. What is important is to note that such an issue cannot be decided by a popular vote. It can only be decided by secession. Those who do not care about the integrity of the game can secede and create another league. Or, alternatively, those who desire to keep the integrity can secede and form their own league. Secession is the only justifiable solution.
To use a vote as the rationale for the exercise of force against others is unjustifiable — it is unethical.
Democracy is fine as long as it addresses issues at the margin (e.g., the time and place of the annual awards ceremony, the logo on league paraphernalia). However, when issues arise that strike at the core, the only legitimate solution is secession. And this is even more so when the entity making the decision has the power of coercion and compulsion.
Can popular vote decide what appears to be the defining issue in Egypt: Islamist rule? Regardless of the outcome, the losing side will be forced to accept the position of the winning side, with continued violence the likely result.
What about a popular vote on the changes to the right to own and dispose of private property? Is a vote on such a change ever legitimate? Of course not.
The solution is straightforward: secession. Let those who do not want to be forced to obey the laws of others leave. Not necessarily in a physical sense, but in the sense that they are no longer yoked to previously agreed upon contract — a contract made null and void due to changes to core principles. Let them instead form their own union based on mutual agreements.
Though it has been claimed that democracy reduces the need for coercion and compulsion, I would argue otherwise. And I submit that a simple review of the political landscape in the US would prove my point.
A counter argument is that such a system would lead to anarchy. But, would it? Does anarchy arise as the pervasive condition any time folks meet without the state? Or, as I suggest, do folks create spontaneous order whenever they meet under the terms of mutual agreements?
Throughout my life, I have spent many hours on beaches and have never witnessed the need for the state to solve property rights, so to speak. Never. Instead, I have witnessed folks inherently applying the libertarian concept of homesteaded property without incident.
What about the man who does not want to be molested by rules and order? Near where I grew up, a man effectively seceded from society, living alone in an old, abandoned railroad car. We knew he was there and he knew we were here. And we all got along together, as long as you kept off of his property and he kept off of yours.
Now, of course, the man was not a total island. He worked odd jobs to buy food and other necessities. But he lived outside of society in peace with all.
A question may arise as to what constitutes core principles — in other words, what differences are valid reasons to secede? The answer is simple: any reason that an individual deems sufficient in his subjective opinion. Of course, to withdraw, the individual must perform that which he agreed to beforehand. It may be the case that to secede carries some burden, similar to breaking a cellular phone contract early. But the cost of secession was agreed to when the original contract was signed — the cost of secession being part of the mutual agreement.
Returning to the man in the railroad car. Under all but a few circumstances, men and women must engage others in commerce. And the tacit rules of commerce require folks to live peacefully — it is in the best interests of both sides of an agreement to behave. So the end result of islands of men and women would be peaceful agreements and mutual respect, certainly not lawless anarchy or state-influenced fights over power.
If we all seceded from the state, we would all have to reestablish bonds — though bonds based on mutual agreements, not dead letters from so-called Founding Fathers. And these bonds would be ones of peace and prosperity.
Jim Fedako [send him mail] is a business analyst and homeschooling father of seven who lives in Lewis Center, OH.