"[W]e ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own."-- George Washington, letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 1795
CI-G3. "It's a Republic Stupid!"
News Commentary, February 06, 2011
We hear it over and over from the news media, from liberals, from Democrats, and even from Republicans; we also hear it from all stripes of politicians, from legislators, and much to often from presidents. To our continued dismay and out right disgust we hear it from self proclaimed conservatives as well. We certainly have heard it hundreds of times in the news and political coverage of the unrest in Egypt alone. Out of liberalism, of ignorance, and we believe out of pure laziness much of the time, we hear it from pundits and others that should know better. We hear "democracy" exalted, with little or no true reason. We once observed a sign at a tea party, it echoed our disdain of the cries for democracy, speaking of the government left to us by our Founding Fathers it read: "It's a Republic Stupid!"
Virtue lies within a Republic established in law to protect the rights of The People, especially those of the minority which by pure nature are those most vulnerable. A true democracy would trample on the rights and hopes of the very people that it purports to serve; those of the minority without law would forever be at the mercy of the majority. Conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. said it well: "We are so concerned to flatter the majority that we lose sight of how very often it is necessary, in order to preserve freedom for the minority, let alone for the individual, to face that majority down."
- aristocracy: government by the best individuals or by a small privileged class
- democracy: government by the people; esp. rule of the majority
- despotism: a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power
- monarchy: a government having a hereditary chief of state with life tenure and powers ranging from nominal to absolute
- oligarchy: a government in which a small group exercises control; esp. for corrupt and selfish purposes
- plutocracy: government by the wealthy
- polity: a politically organized unit
- republic: a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law
- timocracy: government in which love of honor is the ruling principle
- tyranny: oppressive power; esp. oppressive power exerted by government
"It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity."
-- Alexander Hamilton, 1788, Speech urging ratification of the Constitution in New YorkPlato, a Greek philosopher born 428 B.C. believed the state is "man writ large" and will therefore reflect the kind of people a community has become. He believed that five logical forms of government exist: aristocracy, timocracy, plutocracy, democracy, and despotism. A transition from aristocracy to despotism occurs as a step-by-step decline in the quality of the state corresponding to a gradual deterioration of the moral character of the rulers and the citizens.
Plato's ideal state was aristocracy, in which the rational element embodied in the philosopher-king was supreme and where people's reason controlled their appetites. (Merriam-Webster, appetite: an inherent craving.) In a plutocracy where power resides in the hands of people whose main concern is wealth, the rich rise in social esteem and breaking the unity of the state into two contending classes, the rich and the poor. Democracy is a further degeneration, for its principles of equality and freedom reflect the degenerate human characters whose whole range of appetites are all pursued with equal fervor. The passion for money and pleasures leads the masses to plunder the rich; as the rich resist the masses seek out a strong person who will be their champion. But this person demands and acquires absolute power and makes slaves out of the people, and only later do the people realize to what depths of subjugation they have fallen. The natural end of democracy is despotism.
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher born 384 B.C., believed a community could organize itself into at least three different kinds of government, the basic divergence among them primarily the number of rulers each has. A government can have as its rulers one, a few, or many. Each of these forms, however, can have a true or perverted form. When a government is functioning "true", it governs for the common good of all the people; when "perverted", its rulers govern for their own private gain or self interests.
According to Aristotle, the true forms of government are monarchy (one), aristocracy (few), and polity (many); the respective perverted forms tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. His preference was aristocracy, even though ideally an individual of exceptional quality would be superb, such persons do not always exist. In an aristocracy, there is rule by a group of people whose excellence, achievement, and ownership of property makes them best suited for command. Democracy, as Aristotle knew it, rises out of the assumption that "because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal." The universal cause of revolution is "the desire of equality, when men think they are equal to others who have more than themselves." The use of "equal" by Aristotle goes beyond our notion of equal human rights, it inferences a demand for equal outcomes; where equality in one aspect deserves equality in all aspects such as property, wealth, capability and status.
John Locke, an British philosopher born 1632, put great emphasis on the inalienable character of human rights, and this led him to argue that political society must rest upon the people's approval, for "men being ... by nature all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his consent." Since "no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse," laws must be framed and enforced so as to confirm those rights that people have by nature.
Locke emphasized the importance of the division of powers chiefly to ensure that those who execute or administer the laws do not also make them, for "they may exempt themselves from obedience to the laws they make, and suit the law, both in its making and execution, to their own private advantage." The executive is therefore "under the law." Even the legislature is not absolute, "there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed to them."
Without ever reading our Founding Father's own views on democracy, it would be completely logical to infer through our own knowledge of the history of world civilization and of the beliefs of those in which they so highly esteemed; that they, our Founding Fathers, would never have deemed the government they risked and gave their lives for a democracy. After all, what did they establish? After a short experiment with a "federation of states", they produced the Constitution of the United States; creating three equal branches of government and a Bill of Rights to preserve the rights of The People, and of the States; complete with an amendment process to right that which is wrong and to change that which becomes incorrect. They begot a Republic.
The Legislative, elected by majority vote? Partially, the number of Representatives determined by State population elected by popular ("the People") vote, with two Senators from each State "chosen by the legislature thereof". (Amendment XVII, 1913, directed selection of the Senate from each State to be "elected by the people thereof". Our Reform Agenda includes "Repeal Amendment XVII".) Legislation that must pass both houses of congress before it can be forwarded to the Executive Branch for consideration.
The Executive, elected by majority vote? No, elected by Electoral College where State influence is weighted by population but moderated by equality of State sovereignty and the popular vote is surrogated to State interest. Each State receives a number of electoral votes "equal to the whole numbers of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled" appointed "in a manner as the Legislature thereof may direct". (All States presently use the popular vote to select their Electors with minor variations but our Founding Fathers did not direct the method. The States still retain the right to choose them as they deem appropriate.) The President with approval authority over congressional legislation, with veto power requiring a two-thirds vote in both congressional houses to override, or by signing the legislation into law.
The Judicial, justice in the hands of the majority? Never, all past, present and future laws and regulations under the scrutiny of federal courts. The Constitution of the United States the supreme law of the land with state and local government held subservient to their constitutions or charters. The People protected from unlimited government and the minority forever protected from a potentially oppressive majority. Supreme Court Justices with lifelong tenures to insulate them from the whims of the times and of the majority.
"No good government but what is republican ... the very definition of a republic is 'an empire of laws, and not of men.'"
-- John Adams, 1776, "Thoughts on Government"Hardly a democracy, the majority held in check and the minority "with certain inalienable Rights" protected with layers of safeguards. Neal Bortz, a conservative talk radio host with libertarian leanings, subscribes to a telling definition of democracy the rudiment of which originated with Benjamin Franklin: "two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner", rule of the majority. With all this we know liberals favor democracy in their dream world void of reality, that can account for its use by most of the news media and a good portion of politicians; but we also hear it from conservatives, oh how many times did we hear President George W. Bush utter it. Is it of ignorance, of laziness, is that the best explanation, easier to go along with the common vernacular in deference to making the effort to inform and educate the "common" populace in the virtues of republicanism? If true, the logical inference is that the "elite" does not believe the masses attain the sophistication or intelligence to comprehend such diverse concepts. Either way how sad the leaders we do have. We don't know the answer, perhaps "why" is not of importance, but the quest for proper use of the terminology and for extending the wisdom of our Founding Fathers forward to the masses is; the future wellbeing of our way of government and thus our Country depends on it.
In conclusion, a quote attributed to James Madison sums up our view of majority rule:
"There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong."
P.S. Democracy did not work out for the sheep.