… is from page 93 of my late Nobel-laureate colleague Jim Buchanan‘s April 1954 Journal of Political Economy article, “Social Choice, Democracy, and Free Markets,” as this article is reprinted in volume 1 of The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan: The Logical Foundations of Constitutional Liberty (1999):
Voting and the market, as decision-making mechanisms, have evolved from, and are based upon an acceptance of, the philosophy of individualism which presumes no social utility.
DBx: The point of democracy is not to discover and implement the so-called “will of the people,” for no such thing exists (as proven, among others, by Kenneth Arrow – who was no libertarian or classical liberal). Instead, the point of democracy is to give each individual a say in making collective decisions. Although someone might dismiss this distinction as being insignificant, it is, I believe, highly significant. Anyone who believes that democratic elections reveal “the will of the people” is someone who believes in that which isn’t real – someone who believes in that which simply doesn’t exist despite the fact that this mythical, imagined thing can be given a name and spoken of as if it exists. A person with such a belief easily becomes intolerant of individual actions and even preferences that seem to that person to run counter to the democratically revealed “will of the people.” Who, after all, is a puny individual to resist the collective will of the society of which that individual is a part?
In sharp contrast is a person who understands and values democracy solely as an instrument to further the dignity and standing of the individual – to create greater political equality across individuals by denying some individuals an unjust ability to impose their will upon others. This person never mistakes the outcome of an election as revealing anything so mystical and mythical as “the will of the people.” This person does not look upon his or her fellows who are in political minorities as enemies of the “the people.”