democracy with a small "d"



Note by John Zube

This is an article that introduces the basic panarchistic idea very well.
The original article was printed in "THE REGISTER", Drawer 1318, Santa Ana, California USA, an Independent Freedom Newspaper, January 12, 1962. Their policy is thus expressed:
"The Register believes each and every person would get more satisfaction in the long run if he were permitted to spend what he earns on a voluntary basis rather than having any part of it distributed involuntarily."

P.s. The names of politicians of the 1960s have been replaced by the those of politicians of the XXI century.



"In the political democracy only the votes cast for the majority candidate or the majority plan are effective in shaping the course of affairs. The votes polled by the minority do not directly influence policies. But on the market no vote is cast in vain. Every penny spent has the power to work upon the production processes. ... The decision of a consumer is carried into effect with the full moments he gives it through his readiness to spend a definite amount of money."
(Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, 1949)


There is much confusion in this nation over the term 'democracy'. The word comes from the Greek and in its structure means 'rule of the people' or possibly 'rule by the people.' But when the word is not capitalized its actual functional quality relates to marketplace rather than to political activities. When it is capitalized, as it usually is in this country, the concept changes.

In a Democracy, majorities make decisions which are binding upon all people. When the democratic concept is employed in the market place each individual makes decisions which are binding only upon himself and those others directly involved. The democratic process (small 'd') does not suppose control of some by others; it supposes control of each by each.

Let's see how it works.
In the market place you go into a store and buy a can of beans. You are bound by your decision. You have, for reasons known only to you, decided to purchase a can of beans put out by X company. Its name is on the label.
You don't know there will be beans in the can. You can't see the beans. But, partly because of the label, and partly because of experience, you trust the company. You exchange your money for the can. This is a ballot cast in the market place. This is your vote in favor of the company you patronized.

It is binding upon you. You must pay for the beans the price quoted. You don't have to buy it at all. But if you do buy it, you must pay for it. You may pay for it later if the storekeeper will give you credit. If he does, it is because he trusts your label. He believes, either through experience or through long practice in reading labels, that he will eventually get paid. He could be wrong. But he won't be wrong many times.

You might be wrong. The can might contain marbles, soup or mashed potatoes. But you won't be wrong many times, either. If you buy a can from X company and it does not contain what it says it contains, you will be mighty reluctant to patronize that company again.

But let us see what happens as a result of your ballot cast in the market place. Your vote is tabulated by the storekeeper either at the end of the day or the end of a few days of marketing. He will find, when he does his tabulations, that some (like yourself) have voted for X brand. He will know this because he will have to re-order X brand.
He will also find that some others have voted for Y brand. Still others will have voted for brands Z, ZXY, XX, YYYY. He will re-order these brands too in precisely the quantity he thinks necessary to take care of his customers in the future.

What happens at the various companies which process these beans? The vote comes in, each time numerically different for each firm. Each firm is encouraged by each vote cast. Such encouragement leads it to continue the process by which it pleased you or others.

Let us suppose that X brand, the kind you voted for, was the most popular. Let us suppose that this brand got 100 votes, each of the other brands getting fewer than 100. If we had Democracy (capital D) in the market place, this would mean that an order would be issued which would say in effect, 'Only X brand need be processed any more, The voters have clearly shown that X brand is the best bean. Therefore, all other brands are hereby discontinued.'

But we don't have capital D Democracy in the market place. We have small d democracy. Therefore, even though X brand proved to be the most popular, others were popular enough to encourage them to some degree. So, all firms which were voted on favorably enough continue to produce their product. Your action in buying X brand does not compel us to purchase X brand. Personally, let us suppose, we happen to like YYYY brand. We cannot prevent you from buying X brand. You cannot prevent us from buying YYYY brand.

This is true democracy. It is the process wherein each governs each. This process is always moral and provides the greatest food, the greatest variety, the lowest prices for the largest number.




In the foregoing we have attempted to show how democracy (small d) works in the market place. But the argument perpetually arises, this is not the same thing as politics. In government two men will run for office. Both of them can't possibly hold that office. Thus, the votes through the majority process select the one best suited. He will hold the office. The other one will not.
What is wrong with this?
The same thing is wrong with it as would be wrong if you went into a store seeking to buy X brand of beans and you were informed that because more people only liked YYYY brand, that would be the only kind of beans you could buy.
Further, you would be told that you could not solve the problem for yourself simply by abstaining from buying beans. You must buy them. And you must buy brand YYYY. Further, you must eat the beans. At this point democracy would have been capitalized. And this is what we have done in government in this country.

Let us suppose that two men run for the presidency. Let us further suppose that one of them, brand YYYY, is Mr. Biden. Let us further suppose that the other one of them, brand X, is Mr. Trump. Mr. Biden gets more votes than Mr. Trump. But the voters who voted for Mr. Trump do not obtain their choice. They wanted Mr. Trump to run their affairs. They got Mr. Biden. They are frustrated.
Of course, those who voted for Mr. Biden are delighted. Not only do they get the man to run their affairs, they get a man who is now empowered to run every one's affairs.

But there is always a third category of people, those who want neither Brand X nor Brand YYYY. There may be those who wanted Brand Z. There might even be those who don't want any brand at all. They want to run their own affairs entirely without having a Trump, a Biden or a ZZZZ to run them.

But by the majority process, all of them regardless of their personal wishes or convictions, must now pay for brand YYYY. And they are bound to use brand YYYY even if they'd rather not. Suddenly, we see what has happened to our support of Democracy: we have moved away from the concept of rule by the people. Instead, we now have monopoly rule. All minorities, regardless of their interests, desires or whatever, are compelled to go along with the monopoly.

Now if we practised small d democracy in this country, those who voted for Trump would have him running their affairs; those who voted for Biden would have him; those who voted for someone else to regulate their lives would have him. And those who didn't want anyone to run their affairs for them would be left without anyone running their affairs.

This would be moral: Each would then get to pay for what he himself voted that he wanted. The man who refused to participate would not have the 'advantages' he would have gained had he done so. Perhaps he would regret this later.
But that is his business. Just as it is your business to refuse to buy beans and to suffer from hunger if that is what happens.

We can virtually hear the cry of alarm: 'But this would mean that we would have many presidents? at least two. And how could we get everyone to go along on a given policy in that case?'
The answer is that you could not. But would this be bad?

The concept of representation is essentially a concept of agency. Someone is to act for you. But how can someone act for you if that someone is completely committed to actions contrary to your own best interests? To suppose that he represents you because others have chosen him is to suppose a lie. He can only represent you if you select him, and then, if he confines himself to your interests.

It is capital D Democracy that is doing us in. Men who are opposed to your own best interests obtain power over you through actions taken by others; Democracy (capital D) means majority control of all. Majority control of all means monopoly. And it always results in monopoly control in the hands of a minority. This is never moral, nor is it necessary.


[Home] [Top]