Views From Kennewick

Thursday, October 04, 2007

No to democracy

Posted: April 24, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern

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I heard a reporter on a cable news network say "everyone" is hoping democracy takes hold in Iraq.

Not me.

I don't want democracy in Iraq. And I sure don't want it here in the United States.

Why is it that so many Americans think democracy is the best form of government? Why is it that so many Americans believe we live in a democracy? Why is it that democracy, once regarded as a terrible form of government, is now elevated to the status of an ideal?

It must be the profound failure of the education system and media in America.

On Sept. 18, 1787, after Benjamin Franklin signed the Constitution in Philadelphia, a woman reportedly asked him: "Well, doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"

To which Franklin replied: "A republic, if you can keep it."

Whether or not we can keep it is still an open question. But we have no chance to maintain a free republic – or to re-establish one in this country – if we the people do not even understand the objective.

It's a republic we want for Iraq. It's a republic we want for the United States. It's a republic we should want for all freedom-loving people around the world.

Democracy destroys freedom. It always has and it always will. It was the death-knell of Athens, as Plato himself noted.

"Democracy," he said, "passes into despotism."

He called democracy "a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike. We know her well. ... In what manner does tyranny arise? – that it has democratic origins is evident. ... And does not tyranny spring from democracy in the same manner as democracy from oligarchy?"

While our Constitution and Declaration of Independence and other founding documents never mention the word "democracy," there is a popular misconception today that we live in one. And that misperception – that ignorance – is as dangerous to the health of our republic as it would be if our founders had made the tragic mistake of creating a democracy.

Democracy means the majority rules. That was never the intent of our founders. They believed in the rule of law, not the rule of men. They understood that because of the fallen state of man, he would inevitably vote himself into slavery and tyranny if provided the tools.

Instead, as Franklin points out, they created a republic – one with checks and balances built in, with a Constitution, with a federal government of limited power and scope, a system in which the individual's unalienable rights were recognized and protected, a representative form of government, not one based on direct vote of the populace.

Why don't democracies work?

Because it is merely a temporary state. It can only function until a majority of voters discover they can vote themselves money and other goodies from the public treasury. At that point, the majority votes for candidates who promise the most benefits to them and the economy collapses because of increased taxation and spending.

That pattern is always followed by dictatorship. Always.

What is the difference between a democracy and a republic?

In a democracy, the majority can pretty much do whatever it wants. They can change laws, they can decide to oppress and exploit certain people. The ultimate authority is the will of the people – no matter how misguided and shortsighted it might be. In a republic, the rule is by law. There are limitations explicitly placed on what government can and cannot do – no matter how popular the decisions might be.

It wasn't that long ago that most Americans understood these issues. In 1928, for example, the U.S. Army published training Manual 2000-25 for its officers. Here are some two definitions included in it:

  • "DEMOCRACY: A government of masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other kind of "direct" expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic – negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice or impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Results in demagoguism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy."
  • "REPUBLIC: Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them. Attitude toward property is respect for laws and individual rights, and a sensible economic procedure. Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard for consequences. A great number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass. Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy. Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress."

Remarkable clarity of thought. I vote for a republic – in Iraq and in the United States, thank you.


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