I am guilty of associating freedom with democracy. Thomas Sowell writes in his book The Thomas Sowell Reader that there is a distinct difference in the chapter ‘Freedom Versus Democracy.’
Democracy and Freedom are too often confounded. Britain itself did not have anything cloze to democracy until the Reform Act of 1832. But it had freedom long before that.
The fundamentals of freedom- limited government, separation of powers, and independent judiciary, free speech, jury trials- existed in Britain for many generations before the franchise was extended to most males.
Just as freedom can exists without democracy, so democracy can crush freedom. During the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, blacks in the South had many rights that they lost when the occupying Union army was withdrawn and democratically elected state governments took over, ushering in the Jim Crow era.
Today, the confusion between freedom and democracy leads far too many Americans, including those in high places, to seek to spread democracy around the world- in complete disregard of the circumstances of the of the particular countries. In some respects, we may be more dangerous to our friends than to our enemies, when we pressure them to set up at least the trappings of democracy.
Both freedom and democracy have prerequisites. When those prerequisites do not exist, democracy especially can be a house of cards.
It is much easier to imitate the outward institutional forms of Western democracy than to synthesize the centuries of traditions that make those institutions work.
For democracy to function it takes an educated populace. Freedom is more directed related to capitalism. Democracy without freedom can be exceptionally oppressive. As Neil Boortz noted democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner.
This is an important distinction. George W Bush push for democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, when freedom was more important. But freedom as we know it would have been much more difficult to obtain.