Democrats, Republicans and republicanism

Copyright 2002, by Alec Rawls


Republicanism is the system of liberty under law. The securing of liberty requires, first of all, that the people be free to choose who shall govern them, so that they can throw off any would be tyrant. Thus democracy is not the founding principle of our republic, but is a means to the founding principle of liberty.

Because liberty is the higher principle, our Constitution places limits on what democracy may choose. Limited enumerated government powers and the establishment of individual rights are attempts to keep the means, democracy, from attacking the end, liberty. Now today, by some odd historical coincidence, the names of our political parties coincide with the priorities that they embrace.

The Republicans for the most part embrace the priority of liberty over democracy that his nation was founded on, while the Democrats treat democracy as the only principle and consistently use it to overthrow the priority of liberty. This contrast is manifest in California's race for governor.

Incumbent Democrat Gray Davis claims that his Republican challenger Bill Simon is "out of touch and out of sync with most voters in this state," because he is "pro-life, pro-gun, pro-voucher and pro-deregulation." Consider where liberty stands on each of these issues.

Choice on abortion is certainly a liberty issue, but the United States Supreme Court has declared abortion to be protected by the Constitution, and with a majority of Republicans being pro-choice (just don't say pro-abortion) that isn't likely to change. Thus the question, especially at the state level, is whether abortions should be funded by taxpayer dollars. The pro-choice answer here is the Republican one: "no."

Many people believe abortion is wrong. Such people should not be forced to pay for other people's abortions. Democrats who regard abortion as an untouchable personal choice are hypocritical in the extreme when they turn around and try to force involvement in it on people who do not believe in it.

On Davis's other issues, the Democrat positions express unambiguous abhorrence of liberty. In the case of gun rights, the dramatic crime reducing effect of protecting gun rights is by now one of the best documented facts in social science. Not knowing who is armed, the criminals are deterred from attacking anyone. Thus the anti-gun position is revealed to be what one might call a pure illiberalism.

To believe in liberty is to be willing to pay a price for it. In contrast, anti-gunners like Governor Davis are willing to pay a high price in order to get rid of gun rights, gladly forgoing the very substantial crime reducing benefits of this liberty. It is the liberty itself that they despise. Democrats don't care if enforcing gun rights would make us safer, they still don't think people should be allowed to keep and bear arms.

Another pure illiberalism is opposition to school choice. It is parents, through their tax dollars, who pay for our government monopoly on education. Why shouldn't they be allowed to spend their education dollars on the education they think best? We know from every other walk of life that choice, and the competition it creates, leads to improvement in the goods and services provided. Economic liberty works better than socialism.

Davis and the Democrats prefer to forego the improvements in education that parental choice would bring rather than allow parents choice over their own children's education. Instead of being willing to pay a price for liberty, the Democrats are again willing to pay a high price to get rid of liberty, the photo-negative of our nation's founding republican principle.

Deregulation is just as straight-forward. California made the bizarre mistake of deregulating the wholesale price of electricity without deregulating the consumer price. When there was a temporary shortage of supply the winter before last, estimates were that the consumer price of electricity would have had to about double to bring demand down into line with supply. But Davis (as chief regulator) refused to let the consumer price rise. Thus demand remained un-moderated, causing the wholesale price of electricity to rise by factors ranging from 10 to 100.

In the name of protecting consumers, Davis forced consumers (in their role as taxpayers) to pay between 5 and 50 times more for electricity than if markets (economic liberty) had been allowed to work. Get used to it. The Governor's antipathy to liberty has saddled California with multi-billion dollar budget deficits for the rest of your life.

On every issue the Republicans are the defenders of the republican priority of liberty on which this nation was founded. On every issue, the Democrats reject the priority of liberty and try to use democracy to overthrow it. If our republic is to be preserved, We the People must vote Republican.

This article originally appeared in The Stanford Review, 11/7/02. Contact


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