DiZerega’s “Spontaneous Order and Liberalism’s Complex Relation to Democracy” published.

Posted on September 22, 2011 by


I have just had a new article published in the latest, Fall 2011, issue of The Independent Review.   In six months my article will be made available online, but for the moment it is just available within the journal, which carries a wide variety of articles mostly from broadly classical liberal, libertarian, and intelligent conservative perspectives.  But the edges are blurry, which is why I am within its pages as well!

In a brief nutshell, I argue that when we understand democracies as spontaneous orders important light is shed on the dramatic narrowing of liberal thought in Europe after the French Revolution, a narrowing that shifted liberalism from being a philosophy of freedom for all to increasingly a philosophy justifying the domination of societies by the bourgeoisie.  I examine Lord Acton’s critique of the North during the Civil War as an example of this ideological narrowing that ultimately often left the advocates for universal freedom in Europe in  illiberal hands.


After being away from my article for some months I read it with new eyes, and as I did two paragraphs seemed more unclear than I would like.  So, for readers of this blog interested in the article, I am posting those two more-obscure-than-I-want paragraphs and their page number in the journal. Both clarifications ap[ear in the subsection “Spontaneous Order and Democracy.”  The clarifications appear in italics.

p. 179:

“Classical liberals’ error in confusing democracy with the sovereign state is analogous to the Marxists’ error in confusing the tasks accomplished by the market economy with those pursued by an instrumental organization – an error from which the Marxists wrongly infer that an economy is amenable to central planning. They [classical liberals] assume a greater objectivity of public values than in fact exists. . . .”

Last paragraph on p. 181:

“Because everyone’s vote counts equally within complex polities, the existence of time constraints and our unreliability in judging our own cases fairly combine to prevent the practical use of unanimity rules. Instead democracies adopt decision-making rules that range from majority rule to various qualified majorities intended to increase the level of agreement without sacrificing the ability to make decisions that must be made.”