The United States should not be fighting for a democratic Afghanistan. In fact, it should not be fighting for democracy at all–not in Afghanistan, not in China, and not even in America. Democracy and dictatorship are not rivals; they are brothers.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban dictatorship made whimsical declarations about what was legal and what was not, all without regard for the individual rights of Afghanis. Women were forbidden from driving, attending school, and even showing their faces in public. Men were prohibited from shaving facial hair, and both sexes were forbidden to participate in most sports, watch television, or listen to music. These were obvious violations of a person’s individual rights, and now that the Taliban has been removed from power, Afghanistan’s liberators are offering democracy as the cure.
“We are committed to the democratic process in Afghanistan,” appointed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said recently.
Apparently, the word “democracy” has become sacred among those who don’t understand what it means, which, it seems, is just about everyone. Even before the September 11th attack, President Bush called for a “Century of Democracy” when he proclaimed “Captive Nations Week.” Uttering the word “democracy” today grants one a free ticket to the moral high ground, and neatly bypasses the need to defend one’s actions or ideas.
What makes a dictatorship immoral is its failure to recognize and protect the rights of individuals, and on this issue a democracy is no different. While “dictatorship” means rule by a single individual, “democracy” simply means rule by the majority; it does absolutely nothing to guarantee the individual rights of citizens. In a democracy, 60 percent of the population can vote to enslave the other 40 percent. But a person whose rights are violated by vote is no better off than one whose rights are violated by a tyrant; both are slaves.
Unfortunately, many Americans do not understand that morality is not a subjective function of numbers; something is not right simply because a bunch of people want it to be. It makes no difference whether 60 people enslave 40, or 1 billion people enslave a single individual; the principle is the same, and history is replete with examples of enslaved minorities.
When most Americans advocate “democracy,” they typically cite the United States as a prime example. What makes the United States different (and better) than a dictatorship, however, is not that it is a democracy (it is actually a representative, constitutional, republic).
The success of the United States is due to the fact that its founders recognized the importance and fragility of individual rights. They knew that individual rights–represented most fundamentally by the right to life–would be in jeopardy if they were not somehow protected from the predatory voting habits of a voracious majority. To that end, the founders of the United States attempted to ensure these rights by forming a *constitutional* republic, which limits the power of the federal government and, as a result, “the majority.” The United States is decidedly *not* a democracy. To the extent that they have not been ignored by the judicial system, these constitutional limitations are the reason that American citizens enjoy a greater amount of freedom than do citizens of China or Afghanistan.
Democracy and dictatorship are just two flavors of the same poison. The proper solution to the problems of war-torn Afghanistan (and war-torn America) is not simply “democracy.” Replacing one dictator with 1 million ultimately does nothing to help an enslaved population. What is needed is the recognition of individual rights.
What is needed is the foundation of a constitutionally limited government that prevents anyone–even a majority–from violating those rights. What is needed is the freedom to live without fear of oppression by monarchs or mobs. What is needed, economically, is capitalism supported by a constitutional republic.
Laissez-faire capitalism is the only system that recognizes and protects the rights of individuals. Capitalism, not democracy, is the reason for America’s success. Osama bin Laden knew this when he ordered his minions to destroy the World Trade Center in September, and Americans should know this as they struggle to defend themselves now. In the war against terrorism, the United States should not be fighting for democracy; it should be fighting for the protection of individual rights. America should be fighting for capitalism.