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  • 12/18/2011

Contradiction between the Public Will and Individual Freedom in a Democratic System


The critics of democracy maintain that one of the fundamental contradictions in democracy is the one between the public will (demo+cracy) and the individual and social freedom.

It often happens that the two concepts of freedom and democracy are considered as one and they are used interchangeably with no regards to their real meaning. Some thinkers like Rousseau and most of the socialists, who follow this French philosopher, maintain that freedom is possible only within the framework of a real democratic system. Hayek argues that the common point of freedom and democracy is that in a free system, everyone is equal before the law. This equality inevitably leads to a democratic request by everyone to participate in equally creating the laws. But the main issue for the supporters of freedom is to limit the power of the government, whether democratic or not. While the dogmatic democrats believe in only one limitation with regards to the government, i.e. the prevailing opinions of the majority.

Hayek writes: The difference between the two ideals of freedom and democracy becomes the clearest one when the opposite meaning of each concept is brought up. The concept opposite to ‘democracy’ is ‘dictatorship’ and the concept opposite to ‘freedom’ is ‘the totalitarian state’. None of these two systems is essentially against the other one’s opposite, i.e. democracy can be totalitarian and a totalitarian state that is acting according to the principles of freedom is not impossible to imagine.”‌ 

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

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