Designated decoys By J.D. Tuccille A policeman parks his car outside a bar shortly before closing time, certain that the exodus of drinkers will provide him with a tipsy driver or two toward his arrest quota. Immediately, an obvious drunk stumbles from the bar. The drunk drops and retrieves his car keys repeatedly as people leave the bar, enter their vehicles and head home. Convinced that he's found an easy target, the officer ignores the departing crowd. Finally, the drunk reaches the last remaining car, enters and starts the engine. The officer flips on his lights and pulls his cruiser next to the drunk's car. Grinning and obviously stone-cold sober, the man says, "How's it going, officer? I'm tonight's designated decoy." You don't have to approve of drunk driving to enjoy the joke's gleefully rebellious spirit. The idea of people working together to defeat enforcement of a law they dislike draws from a deep-rooted tradition of healthy disrespect for authority in a country founded in revolution. Of course, some folks take exception to such a spirit of rebellion. They insist that in a democracy like ours, laws are expressions, through our representatives, of the will of the people, and should be obeyed. That will has expressed itself recently through regulations that make pat-down searches a matter of course in airports, demands that property owners get government permission before building on their own land, and even bans on smoking in privately owned businesses. "The people" have apparently become a bunch of busybodies. Troubling though that is, it's not unexpected. In the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political and cultural journalist whose insights into American democracy remain fresh today, observed, "The French under the old monarchy held it for a maxim that the king could do no wrong. The Americans entertain the same opinion with respect to the majority." De Tocqueville went on to warn, "If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the omnipotence of the majority." America remains a democratic country - increasingly democratic, if the growing taste for referenda and recall elections is any indicator. But Americans increasingly demand that majority preferences be enforced in areas of life that were previously left to individual choice. Directly or through elected representatives, voters call on government to abridge civil liberties to combat terrorism, restrict the use of private property so non-owners can enjoy pretty views, order Americans to buckle their seatbelts, and saddle even the smallest businesses with crippling regulations intended to make people healthier, happier or less inconvenienced. To be honest, the story of modern American democracy isn't just a litany of rights violations. Voters - particularly in the West - have also gone to the polls to legalize the medical use of marijuana, reform asset-forfeiture laws and defeat restrictions on firearms ownership. But the fact that people who want to be left alone have to win their victories at the ballot box demonstrates that individual rights - on which even a democratic government can't legitimately trample - have taken a back seat to the "will of the people." Democracy and liberty are barely on speaking terms in modern America. This is no isolated phenomenon. In his book, "The Future of Freedom," Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria warns that democracy is spreading to countries with no tradition of limited government, personal freedom, or the rule of law. Contrary to classroom fairy tales about democracy going hand-in-hand with freedom, the result has been a plague of "illiberal democracies" in which elections lead to intrusive laws and repressive regimes. America, with its growing web of laws, regulations, licenses and inspectors imposed by elected officials or by referenda, is abandoning its own traditions of limited government in favor of this unfortunate trend toward democratically imposed intolerance and conformity. Fortunately, not all of us feel bound to obey the illiberal will of the majority; some people remain wedded to the idea that they have a right to run their own lives no matter what happens at the ballot box. Look at stubborn restaurant owners who refuse to enforce local smoking bans, or librarians who erase records of borrowed books to keep them out of police hands, or jurors who free defendants who violated laws that shouldn't exist. Separately and together, these dissenters do their best to thwart democratic tyranny. This minority of free-thinking and free-acting people have effectively chosen to be our "designated decoys." We owe them our thanks - and we need a lot more like them. J.D. Tuccille is an Arizona-based writer and political analyst. ======================== Thoughts, agreement to the sentiment of the piece?