Libertarianism and Representative Government

A thoughtful Libertarian: You noted “Who is the “we” who “outsourced” decisions on taxes to politicians? Whoever it is, it’s a group of people that doesn’t include me. I never did that. In fact, I don’t see that it includes anyone.”

The response: The decision on whether to have direct democratic control or a representative form of government was made 220 years ago You and I were born into this system of representative government. Either we like it or we don’t. If we don’t – if we think that direct democratic control is better, for any number of different reasons (less chance of coercion, of abusing right to tax, better scrutiny of expansion of government authority, protection of individual liberty, etc.) – then in our democratic system we have right to push for moving to direct democratic control. But to do so, we have to convince enough of our fellow citizens of the benefit of the change to get them to vote for it.

It’s not going to happen. It’s easy to blame this on the leaders, suggesting they contort the system to keep people from being able to directly participate. But most people don’t want to spend that much time thinking about government, any more than they want to spend time thinking about how their electricity is delivered. At the end of the day, government is a utility, something that is there to let people do what they want with their lives. We want our utilities to work, we want to make sure they aren’t too expensive and we want to know they aren’t going to cause us harm. We don’t want to make decisions on where to upgrade power lines or how best to insure the water we drink doesn’t kill us.

So if one believes that direct democratic control is the best but that it is unlikely to become the law of the land, what is the response? Give up on representative democracy? Try to apply the principals of limiting coercion and protecting individual freedom within the representative system? Leave the country?

This is my frustration with Libertarianism. I agree with the principals of Libertarianism. But Libertarians don’t seem intent on applying those principals within the framework of the system we have – they just use them to criticize the shortcomings of the current system. While perhaps satisfying and great armament in any philosophical conversation, nothing really gets changed or improved.

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