13 March 2005
Freedomandemocracy II

Brian is kind enough to comment (profusely) on my critique of his Samizdata piece.  At very least, I now know how to spell freedomandemocracy.

He asks:

I agree that I didn’t say much about how democracy is good for freedom, but I do say that civil wars are bad for it. Do you disagree with that?

Indeed, I don’t.  Should have made that clear.  Civil wars, nay all wars are bad for freedom.

Brian then draws a distinction between freedom during war and freedom afterwards.  He was thinking mostly of the former, though it occurs to me that it is the thought of the latter that keeps the former going.  We put up with the horror of war because we believe that the world will be a better place afterwards.

It occurs to me that democracy (or other cracies and isms) are not the only answer to the question: how do you prevent violence?  Another option is law.  Another option is property.  Of course, they are related.  Democracies produce law (though they are not the only source).  Property rights cannot exist without laws to defend them.  But the point is that where you have the rule of law everyone knows where they stand.  Although we tend to think of the law as something that only deals with its transgressors, its role in telling us what we can and can’t do is probably far more important.  Similarly, where you have private property that tells us what bits of the world we can play around with and what bits we can’t.  The point is that where people know what is theirs and what isn’t you get less violence.

I am not quite sure if this is related but often when we have a chat, Brian will talk about the importance of debate.  It is at least one of Brian’s theories (and I agree with him on this one) that debate has been key to the West’s military successes.  If debate is good for the fighting of wars then it is probably good for other things to including the political system.  It is difficult to think of a political system that enshrines debate better than democracy.

UPDATE.  So law means that you know where you stand?  Tsk, tsk, Crozier.  Not anymore it doesn’t.

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