We often hear the claim that our nation is a democracy and I suppose we will hear it even more as the political machine begins to churn in the next few months. However, that wasn't the vision of our founders. They saw democracy as another form of tyranny. If we've become a democracy, I guarantee you that the founders would be deeply disappointed by our betrayal of their vision. The founders intended, and laid out the ground rules, for our nation to be a republic.
The word "democracy" appears nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution - two most fundamental documents of our nation. Instead of a democracy, the Constitution's Article IV, Section 4, guarantees "to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." Moreover, let's ask ourselves: Does our pledge of allegiance to the flag say to "the democracy for which it stands," or does it say to "the republic for which it stands"? Or do we sing "The Battle Hymn of the Democracy" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"?
So what's the difference between republican and democratic forms of government? John Adams captured the essence of the difference when he said, "You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe." Nothing in our Constitution suggests that government is a grantor of rights. Instead, government is a protector of rights.
In recognition that it's Congress that poses the greatest threat to our liberties, the framers used negative phrases against Congress throughout the Constitution such as: shall not abridge, infringe, deny, disparage, and shall not be violated, nor be denied. In a republican form of government, there is rule of law. All citizens, including government officials, are accountable to the same laws. Government power is limited and decentralized through a system of checks and balances.
Contrast the framers' vision of a republic with that of a democracy. In a democracy, the majority rules either directly or through its elected representatives. As in a monarchy, the law is whatever the government determines it to be. Laws do not represent reason. They represent power. The restraint is upon the individual instead of government. Unlike that envisioned under a republican form of government, rights are seen as privileges and permissions that are granted by government and can be rescinded by government. A Republic recognizes the inalienable rights of individuals while democracies are only concerned with group wants or needs (the public good).
Democracies always self-destruct when the non-productive majority realizes that it can vote itself handouts from the productive minority by electing the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury. To maintain their power, these candidates must adopt an ever-increasing tax and spend policy to satisfy the ever-increasing desires of the majority. As taxes increase, incentive to produce decreases, causing many of the once productive to drop out and join the non-productive. When there are no longer enough producers to fund the legitimate functions of government and the socialist programs, the democracy will collapse, always to be followed by a Dictatorship. Let us not forget the American dream depends on keeping alive the spirit of liberty.
The following are a few quotations demonstrating the disdain our founders held for democracy:
James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10: In a pure democracy, "there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual."
At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph said, " ... that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy." John Adams said, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."
"A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men." Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Chief Justice John Marshall observed, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" "A republic if you can keep it" responded Franklin. Not only have we failed to keep it, most don't even know what it is. UNTIL NOW.