Democratic, Classical Liberal, and Authoritarian

Matthew Yglesias writes the following in a recent post:

I’d definitely recommend that you give Kerry Howley’s Reason article on guest workers in Singapore a read. It’s a very thorough and balanced discussion of the way it works. That said, given that the crux of the opposition to such programs for the United States is “it’s repugnant and un-American, violating everything this country stands for” to say in reply but look at how well it works in a small, regimented, highly inegalitarian Asian dictatorship doesn’t seem very persuasive.

The experience of a more similar society, Germany, is not something that many Americans look at and would desire to replicate. Meanwhile, I have no desire to see the United States become more like Singapore. We are, however, in the midst of a burgeoning libertarians against democracy moment (a return to classical liberalism’s traditional anti-democratic sentiments) of sorts, so maybe we’ll start seeing more and more aspects of Singapore and Hong Kong recommended to us as models.

I basically agree with everything up to but excluding the final sentence, particularly the second half of it (starting from “so maybe…”).

Yglesias looks as if he is saying Singapore and Hong Kong are classical liberal governments or models for classical liberalism at the least.  Classical Liberalism does in fact have suspicion of democratic proceduralism taking over all aspects of society.  And with good reason.  Because democracies often elect illiberal governments.  Because, for example, I don’t want the establishment clause in the Constitution dependent on popular vote.

The opposite of democratic is not Singapore–a one party authoritarian (not totalitarian) state.  Classical liberalism calls for the restoration of the rule of law (as has been debased under the current administration), the de-politicization of the federal courts, a free (and intelligent?) press, the de-centralization of power.  Not exactly Singapore or Hong Kong–in fact with separation and distribution of power, the opposite of a one-party state.

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Published in: on December 22, 2007 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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