Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Freedom From Democracy

For forty years, the buzzword on the Right has been "freedom." George Monbiot writes:

Propaganda works by sanctifying a single value, such as faith, or patriotism. Anyone who questions it puts themselves outside the circle of respectable opinion. The sacred value is used to obscure the intentions of those who champion it. Today, the value is freedom. Freedom is a word that powerful people use to shut down thought.

Freedom. Sounds good, Who, for instance, could be against freedom of thought? But when those on the Right -- the Trumpists and Brexiteers -- use the word, freedom has a very specific meaning --  the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor:

When thinktanks and the billionaire press call for freedom, they are careful not to specify whose freedoms they mean. Freedom for some, they suggest, means freedom for all. In certain cases, this is true. You can exercise freedom of thought, for instance, without harming others. In other cases, one person’s freedom is another’s captivity.

When corporations free themselves from trade unions, they curtail the freedoms of their workers. When the very rich free themselves from tax, other people suffer through failing public services. When financiers are free to design exotic financial instruments, the rest of us pay for the crises they cause.

Above all, billionaires and the organisations they run demand freedom from something they call “red tape”. What they mean by red tape is public protection. An article in the Telegraph last week was headlined “Cut the EU red tape choking Britain after Brexit to set the country free from the shackles of Brussels”. Yes, we are choking, but not on red tape. We are choking because the government flouts European rules on air quality. The resulting air pollution frees thousands of souls from their bodies.

Red tape, they say, makes business uncompetitive. And, when business can't compete fairly, that's bad for everybody. The way to cut red tape is to shut down public institutions:

Ripping down such public protections means freedom for billionaires and corporations from the constraints of democracy. This is what Brexit – and Donald Trump – are all about. The freedom we were promised is the freedom of the very rich to exploit us.

And so, Donald Trump is still trying to tear down public health care in order to "cut red tape" and leave Americans "free to choose" the healthcare they can't afford. But all this really isn't about an individual's freedom to choose. It's about freedom from democracy, which:

Friedrich Hayek celebrated in The Constitution of Liberty, or as John Galt, who led a millionaires’ strike against the government in Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. Like Hayek, they regard freedom from democracy as an absolute right, regardless of the costs this may inflict on others, or even themselves.

Freedom from democracy -- that's what it's all about.

Image: Pinterest


Steve said...

Freedom from vs freedom for. Freedom from is the human one.

Owen Gray said...

Freedom from is much more popular than freedom for or to, Steve.

John B. said...

My libertarian associates inform that all should be free to participate unhindered in the marketplace and that the degree of personal freedom to which one is entitled will proceed from the economic freedom one achieves or fails to achieve through that participation, while the political freedom that exists generally within a society will derive from the economic success that members are able to achieve as individuals. It's a kind of extension of the foundational ruminations of many of their iconic dreamboats: there's no political freedom without economic freedom; economic freedom is the foundation of all freedom; the basis of all rights is economic rights; blah, blah, blah ... . That is Market Law. Democracy is irrelevant.

I've heard variations of this drivel repeated so often that I read about it in my sleep. I may be off on the time frames but it seemed to start sometime in the early 1970s when Randian milksops and other misfits from the "Let's Free Enterprise" cult began to get positions in the economics departments and then took off in the mid 1980s after sufficient hordes of social scientists so inclined had begun to network and otherwise worm their ways into the business schools, and as some of the earlier grads sought personal solution to their societal uselessness by seeking opportunities in politics.

Owen Gray said...

It seems to me that this kind of thinking became popular after Milton Friedman received the Nobel Prize in Economics, John. I can remember watching a series on PBS titled "Free To Choose," which he hosted.

John B. said...

Ah, yes! Mr. Freedom and Loudership: the last of the libertarian dreamboats.

Owen Gray said...

His ghost haunts us still, John.