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If You Confuse Democracy With Civil Liberty You’ll End Up With Neither

I’m not exactly a cheerleader for Victor Orban over in Hungary but this is entirely ridiculous:

The new anti-LGBTQ rules — which were tacked on at the last minute to a bill increasing penalties for sex crimes against children — are part of a broader slate of legal attacks on the queer community that strengthen Orbán’s regime, the only non-democratic government in the European Union.

Whadda ya mean Hungary’s not democratic? The last elections to Parliament – free, fair and open – were in 2018. The next are in 2022.

Sadly, it’s not just the idiots at Vox making this mistake:

Hungary has experienced “the most precipitous” democratic decline ever tracked by the US-based rights watchdog Freedom House in their “Nations in Transit” report, the think tank said on Wednesday.

The government helmed by conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban has “dropped any pretense of respecting democratic institutions.”

“After centralizing power, tilting the electoral playing field, taking over much of the media, and harassing critical civil society organizations since 2010, Orban moved during 2019 to consolidate control over new areas of public life, including education and the arts,” Freedom House said in the latest edition of their report.

The country has now crossed the line from a democracy to a “transitional/hybrid regime,” the watchdog said. Such regimes have fragile democratic institutions and citizens face “substantial challenges” to their rights and liberties.

No, this is to misunderstand two entirely different concepts, let alone words.

Democracy is this thing over here. Civil liberty is this other thing ober here. They’re both desirable – as are apple pie and ice cream – but they are different things.

Democracy is how the peeps in power get chosen. We all gain our say and the majority wins. There are variants within this, varied forms of PR, first past the post and so on. But all can stand, the people choose, that’s democracy.

Democracy is also not an unmitigated good. The Nazis gained power through elections and democracy for example. Sure, they didn’t have any more after that but they got there that way. As did the Communists in both Hungary and Czechsolovakia post WW II. Chavez and Maduro were elected.

Then there’s all this civil liberties stuff. It’s possible to argue – and I would – that this is more important. Certainly, if that veil of ignorance left me with the choice of near perfect civil liberty wiothout elections, or elections with the Nazis gaining power, I’d take the no elections option.

Things like LGBT, free speech, media plurality and on and on are civil liberty. They can be denied by the duly elected, allowed by those who never even put out the ballot boxes – Hong Kong managed it for decades.

To get confused between these two ideas is to get close to ensuring that we achieve neither. Sure, we want democracy so we can throw the bastards out. We also want to have areas of life that simply cannot be affected by whoever is in power – those civil liberties and rights.

The importance here being that it’s all too easy to be democratic and crush that civil liberty. Thus we need to be aware of the differences and support each appropriately.

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Snarkus
Snarkus
2 years ago

indeed. Illustrates the difference between legislation and homo sapiens rights. One is something changeable by parliament or its equivalent, and the other is a demand that all Must Do This or I Am Owed This. Is this why the Left love extending human rights. Unchallengable, applied by unaccountable judiciary etc

Addolff
Addolff
2 years ago

“tilting the electoral playing field, taking over much of the media…..”. He’s just described the Democratic Party of the United States and everyone on the left thinks that is right and proper don’t they?

Pat
Pat
2 years ago

The assumption is that everyone agrees with him, and all evidence to the contrary is to be ignored- nobody could honestly disagree with him so those that do are crooks.

Spike
Spike
2 years ago

I don’t know from this whether Orbán’s gov’t has moved against consenting private conduct (though even if so, Tim is right that it isn’t necc. “undemocratic”).

LGBTQ, a political alliance not a “community,” asserts that people playing pretend must be free to do so in any context with no adverse outcomes, that bystanders are obliged to cooperate and approve, and that any opposition reflects superficial class hatred or “phobia.” This movement, backed by a tiny minority, is more nearly “undemocratic.”

TD
TD
2 years ago

If politics is about one group trying to impose their will upon others, then elections will regularly result in laws being passed to restrict someone from doing something that they were happily doing before. That is a curtailment of a liberty. Whether it was appropriately curtailed or not is a different question.

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
2 years ago

The Nazis gained power through elections”, kind of, the elections were neither free nor fair (lots of violence and voter intimidation), a minority result and then a fire that burned down the German parliament, followed by an appointment to lead the government.

One might equally say that the EU’s President gained power through an election, indeed she did, but being the only candidate she naturally won, gaining a massive 0.000001% support of EU citizens.

mikesixes
mikesixes
2 years ago

Anybody who thinks democracy is some sort of defense against tyranny has never belonged to a homeowners association.

Spike
Spike
2 years ago
Reply to  mikesixes

In the northeast US, every registered voter can meet once a year and legislate the town budget. Such meetings, dominated by recipients and beneficiaries of the loot and presided over by a patsy of theirs, also illustrate that we are not made “safe” through democracy.

JdL
JdL
2 years ago

Thanks! The misuse of the word “democracy” always sticks in my craw as well.

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