In electoral contests today almost everyone, in both major political parties, advocate democracy; but our Founding Fathers ran from the word as fast as they could, advocating instead a republic. We need to do the same if we really understand liberty. Those using the term "democracy" either intentionally use the term to undermine individual liberty or show themselves as ignorant of the basics of our government. In either case, we are wise to reject them in preference to candidates rejecting democracy.
Given our continual drift from a republic to a democracy, it might be well to review what historical philosophies most favored democracy as a form of government. The Founding Fathers and the socialists were total opposites on the word democracy; one disdained, the other loved it.
Of those who favored democracy, the bluntest was Karl Marx, the father of communism (the most violent form of socialism). He wrote, "Democracy is the road to socialism," implying that one cannot have socialism without first having democracy.
Vladimir Lenin, the socialist revolutionary bringing it to Russia, agreed. In his 1905 work, "Two Tactics of Social Democracy," he saw democracy as a strategy leading to his desired socialist revolution. "Social-Democracy, however, wants ... to develop the class struggle of the proletariat to the point where the latter will take the leading part in the popular Russian revolution, i.e., will lead this revolution to the democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry." In a letter to Inessa Armand in 1916, he added, "We Social-Democrats always stand for democracy, not 'in the name of capitalism,' but in the name of clearing the path for our movement, which clearing is impossible without the development of capitalism." Class conflict and the philosophy "share the wealth" were, and remain, central to the empowerment of communism.
Those who abhorred democracy, as far as we are able to ascertain, included all the Founding Fathers. Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1759, "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." Years later, when Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention, a woman inquired of him, "What form of government have you left us?" the brilliant Franklin answered, "A Republic, if you can keep it." The phrase expressed some doubt as to whether man could understand the value of a republic enough to protect it from becoming a democracy.
So, once again, what is wrong with democracy? James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, in his Federalist Paper, No. 10, wrote, "In a pure democracy, there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual." Thomas Jefferson agreed but was blunter: "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." On another occasion, he reasoned that the Republic would "cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."
Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson's supposed political archrival, saw it similarly. "We are now forming a republican form of government. Real Liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy or some other form of dictatorship."
Now we understand why the word democracy is not found in any of our original founding documents, not even in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Our system, a republic, protects us from the less informed masses, which is always the majority. This is why, until the perversion of the Constitution by the 17th Amendment, the state legislature selected their two U.S. Senators, not the people. This is why the Electoral College selects the president and why the people have no voice in the selection of Supreme Court members.
If one calls this undemocratic, the Founders would agree. Their review of history showed them that democracy in Athens and Rome led to tyranny by the majority that then destroyed liberty in both places.
Recent census reports show about half of our adult population pay no federal income tax. When that number exceeds 50 percent, we will join the fallen republics of Athens and Rome with their "bread and circuses" as examples of the majority voting to feed their wants from those who produce. When the "rich" are destroyed by socialism, as in the former USSR, and cannot provide the customary free stuff anymore, the majority, who came to believe that it was owed them, take to the streets in anger. The majority will then vote for whatever tyrant promises them security. This historical record is clear.
This is why socialists and communists loved democracy and the Founders decidedly did not! Alexis de Tocqueville, a visiting French philosopher in 1840, is alleged to have told us when our republic would fall. "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the 'public's' money." We are unable to document the quote so, if not actually said by him, I now say it and am happy to be quoted hereafter.
That day is today. Both parties must return to the Constitution, which preserves the republic, or we will lose both the Republic and the Constitution. A good start is to avoid political candidates advocating democracy.
Harold W. Pease, Ph.D., is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.Editorial on 05/16/2018
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