Democracy Doesn’t Always Mean Liberty and Freedom

By Frank Salvato

Liberty is one of the noblest concepts of all. It is defined as: freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control, external or foreign rule, captivity, confinement, or physical restraint. In an ideological sense liberty embodies the idea of free thought and free speech, the expression of one’s opinions without fear of reprisal.

Liberty is the foundation for all Western democracies and served as the main catalyst in the vision of America’s Founding Fathers. Without liberty no democracy can function.

But with liberty comes an elevated civic responsibility.

This responsibility includes being well educated on the facts surrounding any one issue, especially before opining or taking action. One must seek out fact-based information not only in an effort to validate our beliefs and ideology, but to challenge them as well. We must be responsible enough to brave scrutiny of our political and ideological positions. To abdicate this responsibility is to cheat ourselves out of a full and well-rounded understanding of the issue at hand. It also serves to foment a populace vulnerable to over-reaching governmental control, antithetical to the concept of liberty.

This civic responsibility also includes engaging the political and governmental process as a tool of governmental oversight. Because absolute power corrupts absolutely, the Founders and Framers of the US Constitution expected the American people to hold those they elect accountable for their actions. As is demonstrated by the abdication of this responsibility by many in American society, a government not engaged by its populace in oversight, extracting accountability from those elected to government, is prone to political opportunism, cronyism, corruption, the expansion of government into non-sanctioned realms (i.e., entitlement, abusive taxation and social engineering) and decreasing liberty.

So, as we can see, liberty, even in an established democratic republic isn’t something that comes without its cost. As with every birthright, liberty requires diligence. The preservation of liberty demands respect, attention, thoughtfulness, study and time, things that many in the West – and especially in the United States – fail to provide in their apathy to politics and government.

In President Bush’s second inaugural address he relied heavily on the idea that freedom is an inalienable right for all of mankind. Human freedom.

“The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”

These words should be considered the defining statement, the absolute mission of our foreign policy.

But the president went a step further and in doing so established a goal, well intentioned as it may be, that usurps the graduating series of requirements necessary for attaining and, more importantly, maintaining liberty and freedom.

“So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

Ending tyranny in the world is a noble goal. It is one that would, no doubt, lead to a more peaceful world and a more secure United States. It should remain our “ultimate goal.” But achieving this goal by supporting “the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture,” assumes that every nation and culture is in a position to receive the responsibility of democracy; that every nation would be able to engage in democracy honestly, devoid of the manipulation of nefarious forces.

To clarify, every man woman and child on the face of the earth is born with the inalienable, God given right to freedom. On that point I agree wholeheartedly with President Bush. But as we have seen in locations throughout the Middle East and in certain locations in South America, democracy can be used to legitimize those with oppressive goals. It can be used to achieve validation for the wicked and for those with a bloodlust for domination, both regionally and globally.

In Gaza the world witnessed the election of a terrorist entity in Hamas. Almost immediately they set about establishing Sharia Law, arguably the most oppressive religious ideology on earth. When the ruling al Fatah faction of the Palestinian Authority was found in opposition to the goals of Hamas an armed insurrection took place which now sees Hamas in full control of Gaza and the tenets of Sharia Law being implemented.

In the case of Gaza and the Palestinians, the democratic process led to less liberty, not more.

In Lebanon, the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah terrorist group has found validation in democratic elections. Using what I term the “Al Capone System” of endearing themselves to little over half of the inhabitants of Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah intimidated and bought off government agencies that provided essential services only to, in turn, provide those services themselves. Their goal was to ingratiate themselves to the people of Southern Lebanon in return for support in local elections, thus validating a terrorist organization as a legitimate political organization, complete with seats in the Lebanese government. Hezbollah, the terrorist group responsible for more American deaths by terrorist act pre-al Qaeda, used the democratic process to attain political legitimization.

Today, the people of Southern Lebanon live under the constant threat of war, instigated at the hands of Hezbollah and its backers, Iran and Syria. They live amongst the rubble that their elected class – Hezbollah – refuses to clear and redevelop, instead, using their financial resources for weapons. Additionally, Hezbollah has begun to institute Sharia Law.

In the case of Lebanon and Hezbollah, the democratic process has led to less liberty and freedom, not more.

And in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and Evo Morales’s Bolivia, democratic elections have advanced the failed ideology of Socialism into the Western Hemisphere. As Chavez and Morales continue down the paths to establishing Soviet Era Socialism in their countries, companies are being nationalized, and constitutions are being manipulated. Chavez has gone as far as to do away with the constitutionally mandated term-limits opening the door to the possibility of his unending re-election, intimating a position of “president for life.”

Chavez and Morales join Castro in demonizing Capitalism’s free markets and the United States under the guise of being revolutionaries when in fact all they are bringing to their people is Socialistic oppression while aligning themselves with tyrannical world leaders like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the case of Venezuela and Bolivia manipulation of the democratic process has resulted in a coup-like takeover of free peoples and the establishment of Socialist states. Again, less liberty and freedom being the result.

Like President Bush, I want to see the expansion of freedom around the world. But advancing democracy in countries where the populations haven’t yet established an understanding of the responsibilities associated with liberty is inviting the Hezbollahs and the Chavezs of the world to manipulate a fragile process. Democracy cannot thrive legitimately where deceitful forces hold sway.

The United States and the functioning democracies of the world must first advance liberty throughout the world. Once a previously oppressed people taste liberty and understand its value their hunger for democracy will grow out of a natural progression. When a people have to choose between liberty and oppression, the choice is clear. Once they have made their choice tyranny’s days are numbered.
Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal . He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor, and is a regular guest on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network, as well as an occasional guest on numerous radio shows coast to coast. He recently partnered in producing the first-ever symposium on the threat of radical Islamist terrorism in Washington, DC. His pieces have been recognized by the House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict. He can be contacted at

Copyright Publius Forum 2001