Tim Dunkin: The Middle East, America, and the culture of liberty

Renew America For months now, the Middle East has been wracked by one convulsing revolution after another against tyrants, dictators, and monarchs. The list of countries that have or are attempting to overthrow their rulers in this region continues to grow — Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, and now Libya. There is talk of "democracy in the air," as Western commentators look at the situation and assume that it heralds a new dawn for this oft-benighted region of the world, one in which peace, freedom, and cute furry puppies will be the new inheritance of its inhabitants.

I must admit — I don't share these sanguine assessments.

Sure, there is no doubt that in some of these countries, steps will be made towards more democratic forms of government. In others, such as Egypt, we merely saw the military government using the protests as a vehicle for removing one unelected President-for-life with another. Nevertheless, there does appear to be a movement across the region towards more popular involvement and control over their own governments.

The mistake, however, is in assuming that this will bring greater "liberty."

One of the most common errors that is made by Western observers, leftists and conservatives alike, is to assume that "democracy = liberty." It does not. In fact, democracy can be one of the greatest enemies of true liberty, as our Founders well knew. If (or rather, when) democracy becomes a vehicle by which the majority can enforce its will onto a powerless minority, it becomes a scourge to mankind.

This is why our Founders established this nation as a republic, rather than as a democracy. In a republic, you have the right balance between the principle of order and human freedom of action. Go too far in one direction, and you certainly have law and order — but at the price of a dictatorship. Go too far the other way, and you have for the 51% who can vote themselves power and goodies at the expense of the other 49%. In a federal republican form, with its divided power and subsidiary authorities in a representational system, you maintain the ordered liberty necessary for good society and true freedom.

Democracy doesn't maintain that. So, while democracy may come to many countries in the Muslim Middle East, it will be a democracy that is subverted and used by the forces of evil. We are already seeing, for instance, the Muslim Brotherhood (the spiritual ancestor of al-Qaeda) organize itself as a guiding force in several of the places where the mob is getting the upper hand. Can we really say that a democracy that leads to theocracy is "liberty"? Of course not.

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