Political Power and Personal Freedom: Critical Studies in Democracy, Communism, and Civil Rights

Political Power and Personal Freedom: Critical Studies in Democracy, Communism, and Civil Rights

Political Power and Personal Freedom: Critical Studies in Democracy, Communism, and Civil Rights

Political Power and Personal Freedom: Critical Studies in Democracy, Communism, and Civil Rights

Excerpt

These essays, written for the most part during the last decade and here partly integrated, are concerned with themes that will be topical for a long time to come. Directly or indirectly, they involve the basic beliefs central to the free world in its struggle for survival. In the long run, what Abraham Lincoln said of the United States is true of the entire world -- it will be either all slave or all free. But the long run is an indeterminate run; its length depends on many factors, not the least of which are ideas and ideals.

Within the larger context of freedom, this book sets out to explore four key ideas: democracy, coexistence, tolerance, and socialism. I should like to say a brief word about each here.

There are some thinkers who believe that there is an opposition between democracy and freedom, that democracy levels all eminences into a uniform plain and imposes the tyranny of the majority upon the individual. They overlook the massive fact that historically democracy, as understood and practiced in the West, is the process by which freedoms are institutionalized. The conflict is not between democracy and freedom, but between freedom and freedom. Since democracy is the process by which freedoms are reconciled and maximized, some freedoms in some areas of life must of necessity be abridged. This leads to the concept of strategic or preferred freedoms, on whose functioning the very processes of democracy depend. Those who subordinate the processes and strategic freedoms of democracy to particular programs, no matter how desirable and progressive, tend to become fanatical. Sometimes in their impatience they complain that the faith that moves mountains seems more in evidence during our century among the fanatical opponents of democracy, obsessed with a specific program, than among those who enjoy the benefits and achievements of democracy, limited . . .

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