Political pundits, theoreticians, politicians and demagogues all fail to understand that democracy is not about freedom or much more concerned in securing individual rights. Rather, democracy is a rule-making process centered on what should be the law based on the approval and consent of the majority of the people in the community, village or city-state.
The term demos kratos or the power of the people was first conceptualized by the Greeks. As a rule-making process, democracy should be interpreted and viewed as a limitation to our freedom. To interpret it as a process to expand our freedom or treat it as immutable would render the process dysfunctional. Essentially, early societies were characterized by absolute freedom. The Marxists gave their inverse interpretation of that society as the stage of primitive communism.
Frederick Engels interpreted that system wholly from an economic point of view of sharing the nature’s bounty found within the territory in which they roam. Primitive communism was akin to what Thomas Hobbes called the state of nature. It was the age of plenty, and men have no idea of being left out to die of hunger or of being deprived of his basic needs. The system of equality and sharing was our first and foremost freedom. We failed to appreciate that freedom because nature’s bounty prevented us from distinguishing scarcity to justify the imposition of limitations. Greed caused by insecurity was still absent in our consciousness.
Scarcity came about because of increased population. While the Marxists concerned themselves in analyzing the transformation of societies from that stage called primitive communism characterized by absolute equality, men forgot to analyze why power, which is the art of controlling others, became indivisible to scarcity. Scarcity then found its functional purpose until men forgot the original purpose of democracy as a political process of instituting laws approved by the majority as a guarantee that the rest will still have their share of the bounty that was evolving to become a commodity because of the application of labor.
Democracy as a rule-making process was originally meant to limit economic freedom to assure the people that the rest will have a chance to economically survive. This was later institutionalized as necessary to maintain the social order of society. The approval of the majority was equated as the rule of the people. People saw it negatively because the limitation caused the weak to perish much that it was the market mechanism originating as customs that worked in the exchange of goods and services.
Hence, when society evolved and became complex, men stretched their rule-making process to curtail political freedom and its concomitant institutionalization gave rise to government or the body that would enforce the laws that the people enacted. Whether the rule-making process pertains to economic or political rights made via the democratic process, the decision nonetheless constituted a diminution to their individual freedom. Countries later devised a term by calling it the rule of law. They justified that without it, there would be chaos in society. Nobody questioned that except the rebels, the anarchists and the terrorists. The rule of law is the enforcement of the covenant agreed by the people.
Since our modern day politicians, demagogues, charlatans and even yokels pretend to be knowledgeable about freedom, they wrongly interpret democracy as a vehicle to expand freedom. Any attempt to limit or curtail freedom is to be anti-democratic or authoritarian. As a result, we now have a dysfunctional democracy. Today, we enact laws from the standpoint of expanding individual freedom without knowing that it is essentially undemocratic. This has become the cornerstone of the neoliberal thinking. In fact, Jean Jacques Rousseau acknowledged that to every freedom one exercises often results in the diminution to the freedom of others.
They forgot that freedom already existed right from the start when men began to roam the earth. The limitation it imposed was for their own good. Primitive communism worked not as a rule-making process but is integral to human instinct to share. When things became scarce because of population growth, greed consequently set in to engender insecurity. The system of absolute freedom then became dysfunctional.
Martial law is a democratic rule-making process because it is the constitutional exercise of emergency power intended to restore order so that the people would be able to enjoy their political and economic rights. We refuse to accept martial law as a democratic process because of our wrong notion that democracy is about freedom.
Seldom could we explain the logical connection why the system of absolute equality died down, and was replaced by the rule-making process, beginning with the individual on the basis of judging who is strong or who is rich. It was termed an epochal event because radical change took place in the mode of production. Scarcity no longer made the system of absolute equality feasible. Man has to produce things by his labor to sustain life. Admittedly, he who was able to get ahead of the rest to accumulate enough surplus, and later on use that to buy labor and loyalty of others to submit to his rule was undemocratic, much that it limited their freedom.
It is in the rule of the majority or democracy that has remained immutable. Without it, the system could be branded as undemocratic, and the people would have every reason to replace that government. In that, democracy is not about freedom, but about their consent to limit their freedom to attain the commonweal or the public good to attain what St. Augustine would term as the summum bonum or higher good. President Xi Jinping of China gave democracy its most accurate and practical definition, which means the art (process) of good governance.
Today, almost all of our elected officials legislate laws having in mind the idea of expanding individual freedom. They fear that regulating or limiting freedom is undemocratic and would amount to committing political suicide. People vote for such category of politicians because they have been conditioned to getting something in exchange for their corrupted support. This explains why the term “politics” earned a bad connotation and politicians having a very bad reputation. In that case, democracy has turned into a system of political blackmail. As a result, we have been harvesting oysters of demagogues and yokels in our government which is very undemocratic.