Politics

Who needs economic freedom when you can vote?

As the resident Parliamentarian amongst the Cobden Centre staff, I thought Learn Liberty’s Who Needs Economic Freedom When You Can Vote? was the right article this Friday:

Although everyone agrees that freedom is important, political freedoms are often prioritized over economic freedoms. Many believe that the best way to maximize personal freedom is to furnish each individual with an equal voice in the democratic decision-making process. After all, the logic goes, how can you be unhappy with a choice that you had a hand in making?

Professor Jason Brennan explains that an equal vote is not tantamount to personal freedom. In fact, he posits that many democratic outcomes are injurious to individual freedom. Unless it is limited by a constitution that protects certain rights, majority rule can make individual liberty all but illusionary. If we truly care about freedom, Professor Brennan argues, then individuals should be given the largest possible sphere of personal and economic autonomy. Only then will individuals be allowed to take full control by making choices about all facets of their lives – not simply which lever to pull on election day.

As Professor Brennan concludes, economic liberty is about much more than dollars and cents; it’s about allowing individuals to “lead the lives that they regard as authentically theirs.”

Those of us who believe liberty under the law is the best route to peace and prosperity owe a tremendous debt to everyone involved in the Learn Liberty project. If ever we are tempted to despair at the state of contemporary public debate, we need only remember that our generation is blessed with this fabulous communication mechanism, the Internet, and all the wonderful resources provided by fellow travellers who share our view that civilisation is best advanced by the voluntary cooperation of free people.

2 comments to Who needs economic freedom when you can vote?

  • Nice try but it doesn’t let voters off the hook. For decades voters have returned high-taxing, high-spending parties which have kept us in the EU (for which two thirds voted). At many elections they have had the choice of parties which would have done things differently, but voters haven’t voted for those parties. Recent local and by-elections suggest that voters aren’t changing that behaviour so they arguably deserve the mess they’re in (and we’re regrettably in too).

  • Paul Marks

    When people vote for smaller govenrnement they often get bigger government – giving people a vote does not mean that they have any influence on POLICY.

    However, Paul Damon has a point – majority consent is not the same thing as individual freedom.

    Indeed confusing majority consent with individual consent was John Locke’s worst mistake (the difference was once well understood).

    Alas not a wonderdful orignial observation by Paul Markes, Gough (Oriel Oxford) pointed it out more than half a certury ago.