Freedom vs. democracy

May 16, 2014




Freedom should not be confused with democracy. They are not the same thing, and you can have one without the other. This is illustrated by Michigan's minimum wage battle. The Republicans in the legislature are pushing through a bill that "would repeal the current minimum wage law and replace it with a new hourly wage that gradually increases to $9.20 an hour. . . [It] would make moot the ballot proposal collecting signatures for a broader minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour. . ." (Gongwer News Service)


The Republicans should be ashamed. If they had any respect for democracy, they would have kept their hands off, let the proposal reach the November ballot, and allow the people to decide. A ballot proposal is as close as we come to pure democracy.

They've also pulled the rug from under a voter initiative to ban wolf hunting in Michigan, passing a law giving the Natural Resources Commission the authority to designate game species and set hunting seasons for those species.


And back in 2012, House Speaker Jase Bolger's was involved in (as characterized by Kent County Prosecutor William A. Forsyth) "a scheme . . . clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetuate a fraud on the electorate." Bolger conspired with Representative A. J. Schmidt to change from Democrat to Republican on the last day to file for re-election and to set up a stooge candidate to run as the Democrat. (Lansing State Journal, 7/22/2012)


And then there was the redistricting done by the Republican-controlled state legislature in June 2011. As a result,

Republicans won nine of 14 [U.S.] House seats [in 2012], even though Obama carried the state by more than 9 percentage points and the combined vote for Democratic House candidates totaled about 2.3 million compared to 2.1 million for the Republicans. (Source)

Not that the Democrats would not have drawn the map to their advantage had they been in charge. But the events of the last few years do suggest that it is the Republicans who most fear majority rule and will do anything to thwart it.


Government by the people - democracy - is what the American revolution was fought for. Anyone who interferes with the democratic process is a traitor to the principles on which this country was founded. Any true patriot would be fighting for democracy, not against it.


The Republicans are, no doubt, stinkers, but they are correct on the minimum wage issue. If they had their way, there would be no minimum at all. Employers would be free to pay as little as possible to get the workers they need. And workers would be free to accept any wage offered. The operative word here is "free" - free from government interference. We would not allow the government to set prices on the goods we buy; how is setting the price of labor any different?


An increase in minimum wage may help low wage workers, but it will be at the expense of the rest of us. In that way, it is like a welfare program, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But since a higher minimum will certainly reduce the availability of minimum wage jobs, it will increase unemployment. Fewer people working means less production, and less total income. Although the decrease may be miniscule, the U.S. standard of living will go down. The most harm will be felt by those who lose their jobs due to the new minimum. To advocates of a higher minimum wage, that's just collateral damage.


In a real democracy where decisions are made by majority vote, mistakes will be made. Stupid laws will be enacted. Freedoms will be voted away. But the only alternative to majority rule is minority rule, and that is even more dangerous. In the end, our greatest hope for freedom lies with democracy.