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Letter to the Editor: Republic vs. Democracy-Part 1

Disclaimer: I am not speaking about the Republican or Democrat parties, but about how our government is run.

Prior to the midterm election, Joe Biden said: “In our bones we know democracy is at risk, but we also know this: It’s in our power to preserve our democracy.” On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan said: “Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.” Whereas, our Founding Fathers had a very different view. John Adams said: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide..It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men under all forms of simple government, and, when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence and cruelty.” James Madison said: “Democracies have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.” Which is it: democracy or not? And why were our Founders so opposed to democracy?

The guiding principle of democracy is that everyone gets a vote, and the majority makes the decisions that govern the society. This seems to conform to the principle of “consent of the governed,” since everyone gets a say through voting in the direction of the society. It also assumes that what the majority wishes is right and good for the whole society.

It is clear, however, that our Constitution does not establish a democracy. First, we elect representatives who then vote and make decisions for us. We do not have a referendum on every issue; rather, a minority, the electors, decide.

Second, our Constitution specifically strives to prevent rule by majority with the establishment of the Senate. If majority rule were the only consideration, there would be no need for the Senate. Majority vote in the House would be sufficient to decide any issue. Nor would there be any reason for the President to have a veto. And the Supreme Court would have no ground for Judicial Review.

Perhaps the clearest evidence that America is not a democracy involves the Electoral College. The President is never chosen by popular vote! Rather, each state (themselves having republican systems of government) decides how to run its elections and choose its electors. Then these electors decide who becomes President. The only commonality between our Constitution and democracy is that, when we do hold a vote (always involving a minority of the people), the majority (of the minority) decides the question.

But why would our Founders speak so disparagingly about democracy, while today’s politicians praise it? Our Founders knew history and were aware of the evil consequences from democracies of the past. They understood that majority rule devolves into the majority oppressing the minority. John Adams’ quote above is from The Federalist Papers (#10) where he clearly explains how democracy leads to “factions” which push their own agendas to benefit themselves, even when they hurt others. And if these factions gain the majority, they enforce their will to the detriment of the minority. As Oscar Wilde put it: “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”

One chief way this occurs is by “legal plunder”: the people vote themselves gifts from the government (public treasury), and, since the government produces nothing of value, the gifts it gives must be plundered from others. The competition becomes: who can promise the most and best gifts (free stuff) to the people, and those who do are reelected. The people must find new and creative ways to hide their property and protect it from being plundered. Since their property is being stolen, the people feel they have a greater right to that plundered from others. Thus, the society devolves into a nation of covetous liars and thieves, everyone striving to take what he can get for free, and lie about what he has in order to protect it. As Ambrose Bierce quipped: “Democracy is four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” To be continued..

Michael Pfleegor

Bloomsdale, MO

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