Liberty, Equality, Democracy

Liberty. Equality. Democracy.

For most Americans the three are triplets.

Liberty is equality is democracy. Democracy is equality is liberty.

There you have the holy trinity — the holy trinity of America’s civic religion.

Its secular holy texts have convinced Americans of their divinity.

Do you call this divine trinity into question?

Then you declare yourself heretic.

You simply cannot do it… lest you be seized by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation… and jugged without trial on charges of sedition.

Yet this holy trinity itself harbors an infidel!

The Great Illusion

For most Americans, the three are triplets, we claimed. Let us then return to our sibling analogy.

Liberty, equality and democracy are not triplets whatsoever.

One “sibling” — in fact — issues from separate parents altogether.

The alien sibling is liberty.

The other two are leagued in eternal conspiracy against him. They are at war with him.

You can have equality. You can have democracy. They are nearly perfect twins, it is true.

What democrat does not embrace equality? What equalitarian does not embrace democracy?

Now shoehorn liberty into the mixture. Now introduce this third sibling.

You will discover that you cannot have equality, democracy and liberty — not at once.

You may have two. You may not have three.

That is because liberty concedes the existence of inequality. It even exults the glories of inequality

Democracy does not. It cannot.

Fantasy vs. Reality

Is an Einstein the equal of a dunce? Is an Aristotle the equal of a Krugman? Is a Babe Ruth the equal of a Little Leaguer?

“Of course not,” yells the democrat. “We mean equality before the law, equality before God, not equality of ability.”

Just so. Yet scratch the surface paint from him.

Beneath his exterior the democrat is uncomfortable with the natural human hierarchy. It disturbs him.

There are the Alexanders of this world. There are the Caesars of this world. There are the Napoleons of this world.

That is, there are men stamped from a nobler metal.

The democrat resents and fears them — with the heat of a hundred suns.

For they are the living and breathing exemplars of human inequality.

Such men are ill-suited for life under democracy. Much of the democratic apparatus — in fact — arrays powerfully against them.

Thus democracy… despite its official claims… is itself a vast concession to inequality.

It prevents the eagles from lording over the sparrows.

But imagine the sparrows lording over the eagles!

A Natural Aristocracy

Great men thrive under a system of liberty in which their abilities enjoy the freest rein.

Mr. Jefferson labeled such men the “natural aristocracy.”

That is, they are aristocrats by virtue of their innate talents and abilities — not by birth or circumstance.


There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents… There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class.

The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society.

May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government? The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent it’s ascendancy.

This natural aristocrat is alien to the democrat.

Grant him his ideal world and it would be a world of perfect equality (with himself perhaps slightly more equal).

All genders, all races, chaff and wheat alike, dreg and cream alike — all are equal in this world.

Thus the democratic zealot is the heir to old Procrustes…

Now You’re Equal!

In Greek mythology this Procrustes fellow resided along a route between two settlements. In his residence he harbored an iron bed.

He offered weary passersby the overnight use of this bed.

Yet this fellow had a highly peculiar fascination. He insisted that each visitor conform to the precise vertical dimensions of this bed.

If the visitor was too short?

Then Procrustes would stretch the poor man’s legs — with implements of torture — until the man’s feet and the bed’s feet were in a state of perfect alignment.

If the bed was six feet in length and the man stood 5’6” in height… when Procrustes was finished with him he measured six feet.

And if the visitor was too tall for the bed? If the man stood, say, 6’6” in height?

The job was somewhat easier. Procrustes would merely saw away the excess height, at a location beneath the knees… until he too measured six feet.

If the visitor stood a perfect six feet, he was in clover. Procrustes spared him the equalization process… and his dimensions went unaltered.

Thus all visitors were equalized.

Thus Procrustes was the perfect democrat.

What? Me, a Communist?

Let us now ruffle feathers… flutter dovecotes… and fluster fish…

Many “conservatives”enjoy pounding their tom-toms for democracy. They are for it heart and soul.

Like most Americans, they kneel before the holy trinity of liberty, equality and democracy.

They believe they are conservatives, men of the right. Yet they are not. They are men of the left.

Men of the left? But we believe in liberty! We’re not like them!

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is a man of political philosophy. He authored the work, Democracy: The God That Failed.

From whom:

Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.

(We doff our cap to Morning Reckoning editor Sean Ring for reminding us of this passage in today’s issue).

Kind heaven, is it true? It is true, yes.

Throughout history democracy has been largely a project of the political left.

The American Founders — as noted Mr. Ring this morning — lamented democracy.

Yet today even conservatives cherish it.

I Believe in the Constitution!

They will counter by yelling about a democratic republic. They insist they do not embrace infinite democracy but a constrained democracy checked and balanced by republican structures.

These checking and balancing structures originate… as they will remind you… with the Constitution of the United States.

Yet as Hamlet might have argued: These checks and balances are “more honored in the breach than the observance.”

That is, they are honored in theory… yet largely dishonored in practice.

As 19th-century individualist Lysander Spooner moaned — to devastative effect:

Whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it…

This he said in the 19th century. They were merely beginning to dynamite holes in the Constitution.

This was before Wilson’s First World War… before Roosevelt’s New Deal… before Johnson’s Great Society… before Bush’s Patriot Act.

What would old Lysander say about the 21st century Constitution?

Is it more the Constitution of liberty — or more the Constitution of equality and democracy?

We believe it is more the latter than the former.

And only a very energetic state can enforce its concepts of equality.

This state must therefore sacrifice Lady Liberty on equality’s altar — or at least give her a good roughhousing.

Liberty, equality, democracy.

You may choose two. You cannot choose three.

The Daily Reckoning