Front Page Titles (by Subject) Democracy and Self-Esteem - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2
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Democracy and Self-Esteem - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Democracy and Self-Esteem
“A Taxonomy of Democratic Development.” Human Development 19 (1976): 197–210.
How does a free and democratic society preserve itself and people itself with individuals who respect freedom and human rights? To grapple with this question we must identify the psychological stages through which individuals develop the intellectual and moral ideas of freedom and personal autonomy that equip them to function harmoniously in a free society.
From this developmental perspective it can prove useful to advance a classification or taxonomy of democratic character formation. There are suggestive parallels between the individual's social, moral, cognitive development and his democratic socialization or his internalization of those values of freedom and rights that are vital to democracy. Among the attitudes and liberties that democratic citizens must learn to internalize are appreciation of freedom of expression, concern for justice and human rights, avoidance of exploiting others, and trust in the efficacy of persons to make decisions regarding their own welfare and that of society.
A four-level classification of how the individual develops his concepts of free and democratic behavior includes: (1) isolate—the state of a person insufficiently socialized or reflective about the norms of a democratic society (e.g., human rights are not analyzed as abstract universal principles); (2) conformist—the stage where one uncritically accepts and approves the existing system (e.g., one intellectually conforms to and respects the concerns and rights of one's peer group without extending his respect to others); (3) assertive dogmatist—the stage of simplistic, often authoritarian, support of the system in terms of black and white alternatives (e.g., one supports oversimplified solutions to social arrangements such as imposing government constraints on human behavior); and (4) rational humanist—the most mature stage characterizing the autonomous, critical, and independent individual—one concerned with the logical and universal application of rights and freedom as well as sensitive to the dilemmas encountered in moving toward a freer society (e.g., one's primary concern is for universal protection of human life and human potential; one believes that no individual or group should dominate or be dominated by another).
The highest and most mature stage of this taxonomy—the rational humanist—resembles Kohlberg's sixth and highest stage in the development of moral judgments concerning justice: intelligent personal autonomy which decrees that unjust laws may be broken because morality does not consist of special rules and taboos but rather of abstract principles of justice and respect for every individual. Following Piaget, we may hypothesize that a necessary precondition to constructing and abstracting political principles on the mature rational humanist level is the maturation of a person's formal cognitive operations. The actual adoption of democratic principles also depends upon a person's social learning history, for example, their exposure to democratic models and experience in democratic roles.
This four-stage taxonomy is useful for understanding the framework from which individuals advocate the value of liberty. The highest moral stage where one exercises independent conscience is valuable to society because society relies upon the individual's capacity to act rationally upon independent beliefs. But a potential conflict exists when the autonomous and sovereign individual challenges the sovereignty of the society.
Aside from this revolutionary implication in the concept of autonomy, the rational humanist citizen would elevate and foster democratic values by casting an informed vote based on critical investigation of issues and individual responsibility. It thus seems profitable to identify the psychological antecedents of the concept of free democracy on both cognitive and social developmental levels. This has important implications for creating educational curricula which can foster the adoption of free, democratic values.