"Democracy passes into despotism" - Plato

What stock-market junkie loves not liberty? It is one of humanity's Great Ideals. Not to mention a cornerstone of a modern capitalist economy.

One of the guarantors of liberty in the United States is the characteristic of its democracy to deliberate at length before making a decision; and once the decision is taken, discussion halts and majority rule is respected. This is an under-rated yet colossal power of a people confident in their political system.

Standing against this unified tide is to ask for trouble; and few do. The unfortunate by-product is that a lack of diverse and independent opinion of any serious influence becomes the norm. That's been a criticism made often enough, and especially by foreigners. One of the best known of these, de Tocqueville, made it especially memorably in Democracy in America, coining the phrase "tyranny of the majority".

To witness the upheaval wrought in US society over the morality of the country's Vietnam policy was to see this "tyranny" in action. Standing against the government's - and hence the majority's - line on this issue was not, for a long time, a comfortable place to be. The issue reverberates still in the argument that a President John Kerry will prove too soft on America's "enemies". His 1971 testimony that US soldiers committed atrocities has been portrayed by opponents as a betrayal, strictly for base political motives, of brother veterans. Without doubt, this idea has become one of the key struts against which is propped the Big Election issue of Terrorism.

Yet, is it terrorism that is the main threat today to all free nations?

Chances are that most who hit this blog and others of its type are entrepreneurial in spirit and live in a place where there are free elections providing meaningful choices; where there exist elected bodies of representatives wielding real power on behalf of citizens; where there is the rule of law under which every citizen is equal and entitled to due process; and where the press is free and a citizen can speak his mind without fear of reprisal. These are the chief characteristics of a free society and one in which free enterprise thrives. If history teaches us anything, it is to remember that these traits, together with the economic benefits derived from them, were hard-won.

The media, and many blogs, are replete with the implications of a Bush or Kerry victory. For investors it's a fertile field for speculation. But the stakes this time around are bigger than that; and everyone, capitalists included, ought to pay careful attention. Alzahr submits that the greatest danger facing free societies today is not the threat of terrorism, but how free societies react to the threat of terrorism. There is not only the safeguarding of life and limb to consider: it is, in fact, the fuzzier issue of ensuring security without disturbing core democratic rights earned over many years that is at the heart of the matter.

How are the guarantees, mores and customs of the world's various democratic, capitalistic systems to be honoured whilst calls are made for the implementation of apparently painless solutions in the name of "security"? These calls have already demanded, sometimes with success, the imposition of seemingly reasonable curbs on democratic privileges - especially the legal ones. Advocates for wrap the argument in "the ends justify the means" language; and it's easy to succumb so far as one's own interests are, it would seem, unaffected. But to agree these types of measures is is to step out onto a slippery slope endangering the basis of the entire system.

This Tuesday 2 November there will occur a renewal of a great political system, developed by the special circumstances, history, habits and customs of Americans. It was built on the ideals of the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but is confronted today by a corrosive terror threat. Alzahr endorses no candidate; he hopes merely that whatever government assumes power is aware of danger without, and within.

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