Free online reading
Brief introduction to Trinidad & Tobago
Concept of Democracy
Perils of democracy
Increasing powers of the state:
The burden of Taxes:
Corruption and Violent Crime:
The Problem of Majority Rule
Alternatives to improve democracy and the Libertarian ideal
Voluntary disbanding of the state
There have been many shortcomings of democracy as has been readily identified by some of our well renowned thinkers of political philosophy and theory. Attempts and research have been made to provide a solution to the true concept of democracy; a libertarian society. This paper seeks to highlight aspects of democracy and to critically examine its merits and demerits of the concept of democracy with a view to introducing key ideas of a libertarian movement supporting individual rights, rights to self-ownership and property rights which, over the years, have appeared to be infringed upon by the state in the many legitimate but morally compromised incarnations such as through monarchies and democracies.
Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.[i]
Man is not free unless government is limited. [ii]
This paper examines the concept of democracy and the current problems faced by Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), a developing economy located in the Caribbean. Some of the significant concerns are crime, an inadequate health-care system, corruption in the public service and governments, inequality, burgeoning welfare dependency, increasing tax burdens, increasing powers of the state, high debt and little accountability and transparency.
This paper will introduce the concept of democracy and examine some of the perils faced by a democratic state such as T&T. One key feature of a democracy, that is, the majority rule will be addressed and alternative solutions will be proposed to limit the powers of government and introduce a libertarian view which seeks to provide a developmental framework in anticipation that it can address the problems of democracy. Concepts such as majority rule, proportional representation, direct democracy (referendums, rights of recall, initiative etc.) will be briefly reviewed in the context of its impacts in a representative democracy.
The paper aims to show that the only alternative to democracy is a libertarian ideology which aims for individualism, self-ownership, self-determination and property rights. This is the alternative solution that can create the conditions to achieve high standards of living, high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per captia, eradicate or minimize as far as possible, poverty, crime, corruption, unemployment, racial discrimination, build a world class health care system and inculcate high standards of integrity and trust in politicians.
Reconstruction of some of the views of a few selected libertarian authors on the effects of democracy, as defined, on self-ownership and property rights will be considered.
Brief introduction to Trinidad & Tobago
T&T is a twin-island republic that gained independence from the British in August 1962. T&T became a republic in September 1976. Both Africans and Indians were brought by boat to the island between 1830 – 1845, Africans as slaves and Indians as indentured labourers. Race and Ethnicity has become a serious issue because, despite there being guaranteed freedoms and rights for each group, political power by one race over the other has on many occasions compromised those freedoms and rights enshrined in the constitution. The proposed constitution, in particular, electoral reform should at least consider these differences.
T&T is around 5,128 square kilometers in size. The population is approximately 1.3 million and is made up of Indian (South Asian) 40%, African 37.5%, mixed 20.5%, other 1.2%, unspecified 0.8%.
T&T is a parliamentary democracy and is also referred to as a mixed economy. It is a developing nation.[iii]
Concept of Democracy
Democracy can be viewed as a procedural method of society to bring about political decisions, following the majority rule premise, i.e. either bare majority (50% plus one vote) or an alternative majority ratio.
There are many types of democracies[iv] but the key approaches fall into three concepts. These are the direct, presidential or parliamentary.[v]
The modern definition of democracy is absolute and unlimited majority rule. Modern democracy is viewed as majoritarian democracy. A well-grounded modern version of democracy that conveys deeper deliberation is that it is voluntary or compulsory. It is considered compulsory in the sense that a class of persons forming the state has imposed the right to tax citizens.[vi]
A voluntary democracy would embody self-ownership and property rights of its citizens and the right to secede. Without having the right to secede therefore and the imposition of taxes has transformed voluntary democracy to compulsory membership making it no different from a monarchy which under either system both possesses the right to tax.[vii]
Mises view of democracy was “self-determination, self-government, self-rule” not majoritarian rule or “compulsory democracy” under the state.[viii]
If we start with the premise that the state’s role is important as it relates to protection of property rights and that of the individual, then the role of the state must be limited to that of protection of its citizens and self-determination of its’ citizens is a must. This is therefore also bound by the fact that the state will continue to tax its citizens, an infringement of rights, nevertheless. On this basis therefore the development of this paper will proceed with that in mind and that recoupment of citizens’ powers will be a move in the direction of reinstating some of those rights that have been lost under presidential and parliamentary democracies (which will be referred to in future in this paper as representative democracy).
If the state remains, then the only argument is to improve representative democracy by either direct democracy or the introduction of libertarian concepts which seek to enforce individual and property rights. Direct democracy and discussions on libertarian views in relation to reducing/eliminating the tax burden, welfare, crime/corruption and increasing powers of the state in those areas will be evaluated.
Perils of democracy
In order to understand some of the problems of democracy it is insightful to compare it against a monarchical dominance. Though democracy is defined throughout the world in many different ways, it is also viewed by some as a replica of a monarchy, in particular as it pertains to the clear delineation between those who rule and those who are ruled. There are common threads that run through democratic states such as matters around corruption, accountability and transparency and constitutional issues. Murray N. Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, two influential libertarians, find additional ills such as increasing welfare dependency, increasing taxes, violent crimes, some of which will be discussed in detail.
In a monarchy properties were owned by rulers and were passed on to family members. No one outside the royal family could become king and the entrance to the family was highly restrictive and still is today. Marriage usually takes place within the group and there is a high level of class consciousness. There is limited upward mobility and princely government does not generally want to tax, the tax burdens therefore being low or even non-existent. A monarchy seeks territorial expansion and as the monarchy has a direct interest in increasing and/or expanding his capital base he would be both present and future-oriented.[ix] My residency in Qatar (a monarchical state, where the Sheik, a member of the royal Al-Thani family) has provided me with some exposure to this type of rule which still exists as of today surprisingly. However, citizens and residents pay no taxes.
In a democracy, ideally everyone but the ruler and his family is excluded from benefitting. Persons are democratically elected and the democratic ruler can use government apparatus to his personal advantage. Anyone in theory can become president and equality before the law is important.[x]
In a democracy, the state is likely to incur debt and not likely to be held accountable for debts incurred in its time which means that present government consumption will rise at the expense of future government consumption leading to future increases in taxes and all private employees and public servants are affected sacrificing future saving and long term investment for the present consumption. Case in point is the current deficit financing that the government of T&T is anticipating that it will incur and is currently exploring options of increasing the public debt even further.[xi]
[i] Source unconfirmed but one source seems to infer that it’s “attributed” to Benjamin Franklin.
[ii] Quote obtained from farewell speech of Ronald Regan on January 11. 1989. See link http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1989/011189i.htm to speech.
[iii] Statistical information taken from CIA World Factbook at website: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/td.html accessed on March 17, 2010. Economic growth for the past seven years has averaged slightly over 8%, significantly above the regional average of about 3.7% for that same period; however, it has slowed down this year to about 5% and is expected to slow further with the global downturn. Growth has been fueled by investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG), petrochemicals, and steel. Additional petrochemical, aluminum, and plastics projects are in various stages of planning. Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, and its economy is heavily dependent upon these resources but it also supplies manufactured goods, notably food and beverages, as well as cement to the Caribbean region. Oil and gas account for about 40% of GDP and 80% of exports, but only 5% of employment. The country is also a regional financial center, and tourism is a growing sector, although it is not proportionately as important as in many other Caribbean islands. The economy benefits from a growing trade surplus. The MANNING administration has benefited from fiscal surpluses fueled by the dynamic export sector; however, declines in oil and gas prices have reduced government revenues which will challenge his government's commitment to maintaining high levels of public investment.
[iv] "List types of democracy,"Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_types_of_democracy (accessed 12 March, 2010).
[v] Democracy Building, "Systems of Democracy,", http://www.democracy-building.info/systems-democracy.html (accessed 12 March, 2010).
[vi] Hans-Hermann Hoppe, "3," in Democracy, The God That Failed. (New Brunswick, New Jersey USA: Transaction Publishers , 2001), 80 - 81.
[vii] Ibid., 80 – 81.
[viii] Hoppe, 79.
[ix] Hoppe, 77 – 94. On Monarchy and Democracy, Hoppe evaluates the princely government and representative government and provides an analysis of its similarities and differences.
[xi] Ramcharan Kalicharan, Chief Operating Officer, "Budget 2010: An Investment Perspective,"CMMB, Budget 2010: An Investment Perspective (accessed 13 March, 2010).
- Quote paper
- Anand Heeraman (Author), 2010, How can we improve democracy?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/203581