George Will wrote an excellent piece in National Affairs, The Limits of Majority Rule. My very brief summary and a few comments:
- The Progressive pivot of about 1890- but reached in full bore under FDR is when democracy superseded liberty as the main purpose of the constitution .
- The Supreme Court of the modern Progressive era in its activist mode sought more to affirm the democratic functions of the Congress than the liberty protection functions of the earlier courts.
- This supremacy of Democracy was objected to by Lincoln in its use to justify the Kansas Nebraska Act permitting slavery in districts where it was earlier forbidden in the Missouri Compromise. Slavery was extended under the guise of expanding Democracy because the states could now VOTE on whether to permit slavery. How is that for historical irony? Democracy is two wolves and sheep deciding what is for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed sheep.
- Democracy is an essential part of our Constitution, but necessarily restrained in its majoritarianism by the natural and individual rights of the Declaration and the Constitution.
- The Declaration is a necessary component of the Constitution.
- The expansion of the administrative state to the regulatory and welfare state was supposed to be an expansion of majoritariansim but has ironically been used to expand special interests at the expense of the majority. The majority of citizens want Uber but government seeks to protect the cab special interests- often under the guise of protecting the majority.
- There is a tension in a defined continuum between Democracy and Liberty. Perhaps that is the more salient continuum to describe our current debates, rather than left /right, conservative/liberal, socialist/capitalist.
The piece is a bit longer than most that I post, but it is an essay in a major policy publication, not an article in a magazine. I would not omit a paragraph in it. It is worth a full read.