Liberalism acknowledges the alienation of the state from its citizens. The foundation of liberalism is a protection of human rights. Rousseau did not discuss human rights in his social contract. This was a dramatic departure from Locke whose social contract was based on a conception of natural rights. Because the social contract was an intimate relationship between the individual and the community, there was no need for defined limits for the state.
Rousseau failed to realize modern states were not intimate relationships. Then again maybe he did understand this dynamic within representative government. He vehemently warned against representative institutions. He viewed representative leadership the same way Machiavelli viewed mercenary armies. Both believed the cost of asking others to perform the duties of citizenship was greater than gold.
Nonetheless, there is a distance between the state and the citizen. The necessity of fundamental human rights to protect the individual from the tyranny of the state is a recognition of this divide. Democracy will never conquer this divide. There is always a distance between the citizen and the state. In fact, democracy has the potential to widen the distance. Public participation in the political process leads to the natural formation of parties. These are institutions designed to consolidate political support into real political power. But the formation of political parties creates winners and losers in the political process. Democracy creates a natural alienation between the state and the political opposition.
Unfortunately, politics rarely produces winners and losers in a simple fashion. The legitimacy of the modern state is based on the consent of the governed. Universal consent is necessary to eliminate rebellion and revolution. The public does not consent to specific policies but consents to the rules established to form those policies. Universal consent depends on mechanisms designed to encourage compromise. In the United States, powers are separated and there are sets of checks and balances.
Democracy depends on the Rule of Law to balance political interests. The supremacy of the state depends on the rule of law. Institutions compete to expand their power. The rule of law balances the competition among institutions. It establishes limits to their power. Democracy depends on the balance between a variety of institutions. This balance necessitates compromise.
But this balance is fragile. Old institutions decay and die. New institutions rise as social conditions change. Everything changes and evolves. Democracy depends on the supremacy of the institution of the state. China is the world’s most powerful nondemocracy. Fukuyama is mistaken when he describes China as a strong state. China has a weak state. The Communist Party has institutional supremacy. The rule of law is weak in China because the Party is more powerful than the state.
The problem for liberalism is it victimizes the citizen. The state violates the rights of the citizen. But liberalism fails to define the duties and obligations of the citizen to the state. Too often liberalism views the obligations of citizenship as state encroachment. This is misguided. The citizen has a duty and obligation to preserve democracy. Every person has an identity with parts composed from their participation in multiple institutions. A man is a father, a husband, a banker, a Republican and a Catholic. He may have strong political opinions. But he cannot allow those opinions to interfere with his commitment to the Democratic process. We must all remain committed democrats. Democracy requires compromise and cooperation. This is everyone’s responsibility. This is the Democracy Paradox.
jmk, carmel, Indiana, firstname.lastname@example.org