Democracy – the Illusion of Liberty

Jeff Thomas | Dec 20th 2023, 5:35:45 pm

Democracy has been around in one form or another for millennia, but it really came to prominence following the Middle Ages. It replaced the feudal system – a system that’s looked upon today as having been quite primitive.


In the run-up to an election in any westernised country, candidates are forever reminding us that the opposing political party and its candidates intend to take away our democracy. Far less time is spent warning us that the accused party will tax us heavily, destroy the economy or take away our liberty. 

Whether or not democracy should be the most important issue to the voter, the political parties unquestionably want it to be uppermost in the minds of voters… and they want voters to be in fear of losing it. 

So, let’s step back a bit and have a look at this sacred cow. Consider the system it replaced and why it figures so prominently in today’s political rhetoric.

Democracy has been around in one form or another for millennia, but it really came to prominence following the Middle Ages. It replaced the feudal system – a system that’s looked upon today as having been quite primitive.

Back then, many people owned small plots of land, which they generally farmed. Those who owned no land often approached a nobleman who owned large tracts of land. He would provide the landless with a section of land to be farmed. In return, the standard payment was “One day’s labour in ten.” In essence, this meant that the nobleman would receive 10% of your crop, whatever it might be. The nobleman’s henchmen would serve as collectors in good times, and as an army, if invasion occurred.

Chances are, the serf would remain on the property for life, as might subsequent generations.

So, what happened to this deal? Why did it fall out of favour?

Well, not surprisingly, anyone who beholden to a nobleman was likely to resent the fact that he was dependent upon him. The rich man in the castle was the perfect demon – easy to focus on as the sole cause of all that was ill.

Eventually, towns sprang up and anybody who could cover the expense of building a shop could use it to ply his trade, becoming independent from the noblemen. Not surprisingly, this newfound freedom appealed to many, and towns grew, some expanding into cities. Along the way, castles fell into disrepair and noblemen no longer had the economic clout they once had.

So, it would seem that that would spell the end of privileged rulers, who lived off the poor vassals. But that’s not what happened. There will always be those who seek to live off the hoi polloi like ticks. Such people soon set themselves up as mayors, and on higher levels, members of parliament, etc. 

So, instead of resenting a single nobleman, the average man had a host of people to resent. And after all, who were these leaders? What right did they have to rule over others?

This problem was solved brilliantly with the adoption of democracy.

On the surface, democracy represents liberty – free choice. The average man, no matter how poor and insignificant, has an “equal right” to vote. In his eyes, he has taken part in choosing whether he wants Candidate A or Candidate B to rule over him. 

The voter is so pleased with the appearance of choice that it rarely occurs to him that neither Candidate A nor Candidate B has any intention of representing his needs. Quite the opposite: both candidates fully intend to represent themselves and the system that made their rise possible. 

And herein lies the beauty of democracy to the would-be ruler: Once the voter has accepted the democratic system, he can be enslaved to a far greater degree than he could have been under a lone nobleman. At best, the voter gets to switch oppressors every few years at election time. As Thomas Jefferson said, 

“Democracy is no more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”

But the true beauty of democracy is that, since the voter feels he’s been given a choice, whatever comes out of that choice is somehow “fair.” He will now tolerate whatever level of oppression is placed upon his shoulders, even if the victor was not the candidate he voted for.

But surely this is an exaggeration. Surely the voter retains his power of reason and that will continue to remind him of what is “fair” and what is not. 

Well, let’s go back to that “one day’s labour in ten.” It was by no means arbitrary – no law enforced it. It was the level of taxation that seemed reasonable to the largest number of people, and so it eventually became the standard. 

Compare that to the present day. Income tax, property tax, climate tax, capital gains tax, sales tax, stamp tax, inheritance tax, value added tax, corporation tax, and an endless list of taxes and duties on consumables and services. Today, taxation covers so much ground and is so convoluted that it’s virtually impossible to figure what the total might be. But, let there be no doubt: the total far exceeds the 10% that the average serf would have thought reasonable. Democracy really pays.

And it’s significant to note that, while in the Middle Ages, the nobleman did at least provide land to his serfs, this is no longer true of today’s governments. (My own family lost the family castle, Leybourne Grange, to the taxman in the 1960s. Under UK government ownership, it has since fallen into ruin – worthless to anyone.)

As mentioned above, governments are essentially parasites. What little they actually contribute to a population could almost always have been done cheaper and better by private enterprise. The result would have been a more prosperous economy for all. 

But if all that were not enough, political leaders, use their looted wealth to continually rob a population of their rights. Not only does the voter not have the opportunity to vote for a truly “representative” candidate; his freedoms are being continually being eroded. 

So, is that it, then? Is there no escape from the one and only system that purports to represent the average guy?

Well, in fact, there are communities throughout the world that operate on the principle that smaller is better. The Amish, for example, define a community as “no more people than can be gathered in a barn.” All community meetings are held in that barn, and because the average community consists of no more than forty families, no one member has the opportunity to raise himself above the others. (When the community grows beyond that level, it splits into two communities, each making its own decisions, in separate barns.)

Small countries, too, tend to make it more difficult for anyone to rise so high as to become unapproachable. 

But the larger the country, the greater the separation, and elevation of the leaders above the populace. And, by extension, empires are worse than countries.

Democracy is not your friend.

If the reader lives in a country where he feels he has no connection whatever to his leaders, except for the illusion that his vote has meaning, he should not conclude that he is guilty of wrongful thinking (as his leaders might well suggest, calling him a subversive or a domestic terrorist).

Indeed, his thinking is quite right. He’s just living in the wrong place, and, during the next election, he might want to forego his trip to the polling station and, instead, vote with his feet, moving away from the promise of democracy and toward greater liberty.



Other Posts By this Author: Jeff Thomas

The Brain Drain | Feb 20, 2024


Capitalism – A New Idea | Jan 24, 2024


An End To Progress | Jan 18, 2024


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