The whole issue of "freedom" boils down much deeper than the surface levels where it is usually discussed. Let me try to explain.
For 2,000 years the enemies of democracy, led by that infamous so-called “philosopher” Plato, have tried to undermine the Periclean experiment by couching the debate in terms that work to the detriment of freedom. In order to do this, they pulled many tricks. Foremost, they emphasized and concentrated on the LEAST important and least honorable aspect of democracy -- majority rule -- while downgrading the most important aspect (the one emphasized by Pericles) which is open and knowing reciprocal accountability.
As a matter of fact, majority rule has always been distrusted, even by the greatest innovators and thinkers of the democratic enlightenment! Read the Federalist Papers and you will find that the founders worried deeply about capricious mob passions -- of the same kind that helped to ruin Athenian democracy after Pericles was gone. According to the reasoning of Locke, the people must own ultimate sovereignty. But true freedom depends on something far more fundamental than “the people.”
It depends upon people. Individual people, taken one at a time. Empowered one at a time.
Think about it. You may live your entire life as a citizen of the republic and NEVER ONCE vote for a single candidate who wins election to high office. And yet, you remain an empowered citizen, if you are surrounded by tools that help you to hold everyone -- from neighbors to officers of the state -- accountable. Especially should any of them try to abuse you.
To KNOWINGLY complain. Because, as I said, not everything about freedom boils down to majority rule. Redress in the courts may happen, even if you are deeply unpopular and all alone. Moreover, there is always the possibility of slowly, persistently, speaking out until your neighbors change their minds. (Ask the suffragettes about this.)
Fundamentally, freedom is about an individual -- every individual person -- feeling empowered to know what is needed, in order to worry. And then feeling empowered to speak knowledgeably about those worries, applying accountability upon even the mighty. It is the empowerment that allows each of us to START down the road of persuading our neighbors to change their minds, and eventually to form new majorities, that vote in new directions, for new leaders.
The neocons used this process well, gradually hauling their movement back from the political wilderness after calamities in 1964 and 1974. They took pride in that fact.
And yet now, expressing a towering hypocrisy that is rooted all-too deeply in human nature, they seek to demolish the methodology that was available to them, when they were in the minority.
Think about it. Those who are trying to destroy democracy have very little fear of majority rule. History shows countless ways to subvert and suborn it, ways that Machiavelli described in The Prince and that Alcibiades and other demagogues used in wounded Athens.
On the other hand, reciprocal accountability is the part of Freedom that is most despised, undermined and feared by our new would-be masters. Indeed, it has little or nothing to do with liberal-vs conservative or right-vs-left. (Want irony? The neo-right is today replicating many of the techniques once employed by revolutionary communist parties of the past, in Russia, China and Cuba. Proving that both the left and right can nurture monsters.)
This trend manifests, within the present administration, in countless ways, such as its use of the “freedom” as a mantra -- debasing the word into little more than a verbal icon representing “our side” and “people like us” -- even as it dismantles every institution for has made freedom a reified and palpable tool of human life. All of the processes of citizen-empowered accountability, ranging from freedom of information to balance of powers, to press access, to secrecy policy, have been relentlessly suppressed -- doing it purportedly for the public good.
Or take the administration’s relentless insistence that its narrow victories at the polls - (under highly questionable circumstances) - nevertheless translate into utter and pure political mandate, on a winner-takes-all basis. Mandate to rule without accountability to a people who do not need information as much as they need protection during time of war.
(What war? Oh, but that’s another topic.)
A people who are allowed to vote, ineffectually, but who are better off not knowing.
==On Gerrymandering and Freedom==
Indeed, many aspects of freedom are under discussion in the news.
American Democracy: More Fragile Than We Think.
See: The Gerrymander Moment: Democrats discover this incumbent protection racket," in the Wall Street Journal.
One thing about this article is especially encouraging to me. At last someone else points out the aspect of this dismal plot that is most Constitutionally relevant. The aspect that most undermines the Founders’ intentions.
”Armed with these tools, incumbent politicians can design House districts that more or less guarantee their re-election short of some political tsunami. As a result, most races for the House--the body our Founders designed to most reflect changes in public opinion--are over long before the first vote is even cast. This is bad for democracy, and if liberals have suddenly figured this out we're glad to see it, whatever their partisan motives. “
Of course, the nation could be saved from this monstrous demolition of our right to legislative representation, at a stroke. If only the Supremes choose to act in service to the people and the Constitution. (Don’t bet on it!)
But even if this miracle happens, there will be much to discuss. For example, I do not like “impartial” commissions as a solution. A godawful bureaucracy in every state, rife with influence peddling, would only reduce the horror of gerrymandering to tolerable levels, at great cost. There are better options. In my article I offer an alternative that could solve the problem in a single sentence!
See more on Politics for the 21st Century.
and The Myth of Majority Rule.
If some of you would like to see my ideas influencing a movement to reform the Libertarian movement go see: Libertarianism: Seeking a New Path.
These ruminations are actually far more general than you might expect, and not very specifically aimed at a libertarian audience. (The Reform LP group asked for a modified version for their site.) Here you'll find my best take on an alternative to the left right political axis, trying to overcome the faults of that egregious sin-against-thinking. In any event, it is encouraging to see a movement by modernist-pragmatists to shift the dogmatic romanticism of those currently controlling libertarianism. For such people to be anti-modernist is the worst hypocrisy imaginable.