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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Progressives’ Warped View of Democracy and Freedom


Liberals/Progressives have a fascinatingly warped and perverted view of democracy and freedom.  They believe that what people do with their own money should be subject to majority vote. If people are free to choose what to do with their own money, these statists say, that would constitute a severe threat to democracy.

Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous in your entire life?

In fact, not only is such a view warped and perverted, it’s also highly hypocritical. Let’s examine how.

Consider what people read. Should it be subject to democratic vote? Liberals-progressives correctly respond: “Of course not, Jacob. People should be free to read whatever they want, even if the vast majority of people disagree with what is being read.”

In other words, what people read is beyond the control of the majority. We don’t put those particular choices up to a vote of the populace.  That’s because what people choose to read (or not read) is an aspect of liberty, which is a fundamental, natural, God-given right, one that preexists government and that is not legitimately subject to control or interference by government, democratically elected or not.

This principle is enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Notice something important about the First Amendment: It does not give people freedom or any other rights but instead prohibits government from infringing on such rights. That’s a critically important distinction. Our ancestors understood that liberty and other rights do not come from either the federal government or the Constitution.

Liberals-progressives get that. They have no problem recognizing that people’s freedom to choose which books to read is not a threat to democracy even though it deprives the majority from dictating what books people can read. They understand that even though public officials are democratically elected, government nonetheless lacks the legitimate power to determine, through majority vote, what people read and don’t read.

The liberal-progressive blind spot comes into play with respect to people’s money. They cannot see that what people do with their honestly acquired wealth is no different in principle from what books people choose to read.

Yet, it’s plain to see that the principle is exactly the same: What people choose to do with their own money is no different in principle from what they choose to read.

Suppose John has $1,000 that he has received at his job. It’s his money. It’s his right to do what he wants with it. Let’s say that a local minister approaches him and asks for a $100 donation. John has the right to say yes and the right to say no. If he says no, the minister cannot rob him. That’s partly what freedom is all about — the right to decide what to do with your money.

Liberals-progressives (and, for that matter, conservatives) agree with that but also believe that what a person does with his money should be subject to the vote of the majority. So, if the majority decides that John should donate $100 to the minister, even though he doesn’t want to, they see nothing wrong with using the state’s taxing power to forcibly take the money from him and give it to the minister. They say that this is what democracy is all about. In fact, for statists “freedom” is measured by the extent to which the state is empowered to control and dispose of people’s wealth. In the liberal-progressive mind, the more power the state has to control the disposition of people’s money, the “freer” that society is.

So, in the liberal-progressive mind, freedom is a democracy in which the majority lacks the power to determine what a person reads but, at the same time, wields the power to determine what a person does with his own money. Like I say, it’s a warped and perverted view of democracy and freedom. Hypocritical too.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.