First of all, let me reassure you all that I'm a big fan of personal liberty. Some commentators seemed to think I was advocating some kind of extreme paternalism. That would be a gross misunderstanding of my position. I entirely agree that individuals have the right to make their own decisions and live their lives as they please (so long as they don't harm others, etc.). Nothing in my post suggested otherwise.
But individual liberty is an entirely separate matter from political power. Supporting the former does not imply that "the people" should be free to impose whatever laws they please on the rest of society. (Bear in mind that "the people" really just means the majority of citizens, tacitly excluding those who do not conform to the norms of the mob.)
Again, I must emphasise, the form of government entails nothing about the degree of civil liberty in a society. A benevolent autocrat could allow freedom of speech, association, and the press (etc.), whereas a direct democracy might vote to outlaw homosexuality, burn the atheists, and deport all the 'coloured folk'.
I think some of the outraged comments arose from a failure to recognise this important distinction. Consider the following, from 'Idiot' of NRT:
The real difference is not that I am more democrat than liberal, but that I think that freedom is not just the freedom to be intelligent, rational, and well-informed, but also the freedom to be stupid, irrational, and flat-out wrong - even about what's in your own best interest.
So long as we're talking about an individual's "private sphere", I would agree. But freedom to make mistakes in my private life does not extend to imposing those mistakes on the rest of society through the use of political power.
NRT also claims that "Democracy is not about making good decisions - it's about making our decisions".
I strongly disagree. As far as I'm concerned, the only justification for government is utilitarian: it has good consequences. The mere fact that it expresses the will of the majority ("our decisions") is irrelevant. As J.S. Mill put it, If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he [...] would be justified in silencing mankind.
To the greatest extent possible, each individual should rule over themselves. That's liberalism. Democracy, by contrast, suggests that the majority should rule over the minority. There's nothing intrinsically virtuous about that, and anyone who claims otherwise is indeed "more democrat than liberal".
I do agree that, overall, democracy is the best form of government - but only because it has the best consequences. Democracies are more likely (than dictatorships or oligarchies, etc.) to make "good decisions" and produce a liberal society. But perhaps if the voters were required to meet some basic threshold of competency, then the resulting decisions might be even better.
I'm not certain of that - it's an empirical question after all. And, as discussed in my earlier post, there are certainly some risks we would need to watch out for. But if it really would result in a better government, then I think my proposal would be eminently justified. It might be (mildly) 'undemocratic' of me to suggest such a thing, but as I said, I don't much care about that. The proposal in itself entails nothing about 'liberalism', however, so to fault it on those grounds would be to mistakenly conflate two quite separate matters.