By Nathan Barton
I never grow accepting of people who refer to “our democracy” when talking about one of the Fifty States, let along the FedGov (the federal government of these formerly United States). It constantly grates on my ears and on my conscience.
The States, starting with the “original” Thirteen and continuing right on to our current Fifty, were all established as Republics. The original United States as established by the Articles of Confederation, and then reorganized under the 1787 Constitution was established as a Federal Republic.
Indeed, the Founding Fathers rejected the wisdom and viability of democracies.
Here are a few of their words of wisdom:
First John Adams:
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
His son, John Quincy Adams:
The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.
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.
It was not, of course, just those men that realize the problems with democracy.
Consider also these:
The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply majoritarianism, which is inherently incompatible with real freedom. Our founding fathers clearly understood this.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Ambrose Bierce:
Democracy is four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
H.L. Mencken sarcastically told us:
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
Elmer T Peterson said (although it is often mis-attributed to de Tocqueville):
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”
As an Army officer, I was taught that democracy was usually the result of the decadence of a republic and nothing more than a form of mob rule, leading quickly to the rise of demagogues. It was often and correctly characterized as a “tyranny of the majority.”
Ultimately, democracy takes away liberty. It demonstrate, s the foolishness of trusting in people to do what is right, in allowing people to live in freedom, and believe that government is a force for good. The more perfect a democracy, the more liberty vanishes like a mist in the sun.
Republics, though also unsatisfactory (as is any form of involuntary government), recognize that governments are incapable of functioning except when restrained in some way, whether it is by the people themselves, or by some outside power, or due to internal (and effective) checks and balances. Democracy is unlimited: republics are, at least to some degree, limited. This does not mean that a republican form of government is good – just that it might be a bit less bad.
Today, in the Fifty States, the word “democracy” is applied so frequently and in such glowing terms, that the idea that democracy is essential for liberty and freedom is sacrosanct. This concept leads to such stupidity as we read and hear about daily. The idea of eliminating or sidestepping the Electoral College as “undemocratic” is one of many. The idea that the majority decides the morality and legality and wisdom of anything is another. (Especially the idea that a majority determines what is (and is not) free speech or freedom of religion.)
There are, of course, many who continuously conflate the two words. More and more I refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt and attribute that to ignorance. It is, rather, malice and bad intentions that motivate them to say so. I will leave it to God, in His infinite mercy, to forgive them.
In the long term – over decades and centuries – democracy is incompatible with liberty. Because it conceals its nature and provides a sheep’s clothing to government’s wolf, it is actually worse in many ways that outright tyranny, monarchy, autocracy, or dictatorship, because people can be convinced that they are free and have their liberties.
Or to put it another way,
Bob Livingston’s Newsletter is well worth reading on this subject, and I hope you will.
So too is Richard Eberling’s article at the American Institute for Economic Research.