Principium Volume II, Book 10, Quote 1091, 1092, and 1093

Updated: Jan 20

1091. (12-20-2010) Equality before the law leads to the demand that all men should also have the same share in making the law. This is the point where traditional liberalism and the democratic movement meet. Their main concerns are nevertheless different. Liberalism (see the definition by Ludwig von Mises for the European nineteenth-century meaning of the word,…)ATJ is concerned mainly with limiting the coercive powers of all government, whether democratic or not, whereas the dogmatic democrat knows only one limit to government – current majority opinion. The difference between the two ideals stands out most clearly if we name their opposites: for democracy it is authoritarian government; for liberalism it is totalitarianism. Neither of the two systems necessarily excludes the opposite of the other: a democracy may well wield totalitarian powers, and it is conceivable that an authoritarian government may act on liberal principles.

- Friedrich A. Hayek – The Constitution of Liberty, 1978


1092. (12-20-2010) Liberalism is a doctrine about what the law ought to be, democracy (as a method of government meaning majority rule)ATJ a doctrine about the manner of determining what will be the law. Liberalism regards it as desirable that only what the majority accepts should in fact be law, but it does not believe that this is therefore necessarily good law. Its aims, indeed, is to persuade the majority to observe certain principles. It accepts majority rule as a method of deciding, but not as an authority for what the decision ought to be. To the doctrinaire democrat the fact that the majority wants something is sufficient ground for regarding it as good; for him the will of the majority determines not only what is law but what is good law.

- Friedrich A. Hayek – The Constitution of Liberty, 1978


1093. (12-20-2010) Liberalism and Democracy happen to be two things which begin by having nothing to do with each other, and end by having, so far as tendencies are concerned, meanings that are mutually antagonistic. Democracy and Liberalism are two answers to two completely different questions. Democracy answers this question – ‘Who ought to exercise the public power?’ The answer it gives is – the exercise of public power belongs to the citizens as a body. But this question does not touch on what should be the realm of the public power. It is solely concerned with determining to whom such power belongs. Democracy proposes that we all rule; that is, that we are sovereign in all social acts. Liberalism, on the other hand, answers this other question, - ‘regardless of who exercises the public power, what should its limits be?’ The answer it gives – ‘Whether the public power is exercised by an autocrat or the people, in cannot be absolute: the individual has rights which are over and above any interference by the State.

- José Ortega y Gasset – Invertebrate Spain, 1921

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Principium Volume III, Book 13, Quote 1331 and 1334

1331. (3-3-2011) (The book “On Power” is going to be much more cerebral and feel abstract, but lend your mental faculties to it and bits of truth begin to come. Like the leaks in a dam, dike, or levy,