May 16th, 2004

freedom is slavery

I recently started reading Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom, which looks like a good book so far, despite the fact that it has an endorsement from Henry "Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf" Kissinger on the back cover.

Zakaria's basic point is that democracy by itself does not guarantee freedom (despite the neocons' cavalier equating of the two). You need to have checks and balances on majority rule--things like constitutional guarantees of rights, separation of powers, etc.--in order to protect the liberty of individuals in the minority. Obvious examples of democracy-without-liberty are the many democratic countries who routinely elect dictators, and democratic theocracies like Iran.

Of course, you don't have to look that far afield for other examples. In fact, you don't even have to look abroad at all. Consider this lovely quote from an article (free registration required) on gay marriage in Massachusetts, which just became legal today at midnight:

Critics say allowing same-sex couples to marry in the face of overriding public opposition is a betrayal of the state's democratic heritage -- and hope a state constitutional amendment, not possible until 2006, will bring them to a halt.

"By transforming itself from the Bay State to the Gay State, Massachusetts has rejected its freedom history," said Randy Thomasson, executive director of the Campaign for California Families, a statewide organization that has sued to stop gay marriage in California.

In other words, we aren't free if we aren't free to take away someone else's freedom. Democratically, of course.

You have to admire that kind of logic.

Actually, you don't.