Congressional Issues 2012
America: Democracy or Republic?
Few people are willing to criticize the myth that "America is a democracy."
- The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."
- This exchange was recorded by Constitution signer James McHenry in a diary entry that was later reproduced in the 1906 American Historical Review.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It - The New American
We have not kept it.
When most people speak of the virtues of democracy, they are usually pointing to an opportunity for the people to elect their own government, or representatives in government. This is actually the basic meaning of a "Republic." In republic, the people select representatives who are (presumably) older and wiser (e.g., from the Latin, senātus, which comes from senex, "old man") to make decisions according to law. The essential difference between a Republic and a Democracy is that a Republic is under law, while in a democracy, "the voice of the people is the voice of God" (vox populi, vox dei). In a Republic the People may democratically elect their representatives, but their representatives do not simply rubber-stamp the will of the people, but govern according to the "organic law."
Google Results: Democracy
Republic v. Democracy by David Barton, Wallbuilders.com
|We have grown accustomed to hearing that we are a democracy; such was never the intent. The form of government entrusted to us by our Founders was a republic, not a democracy.1 Our Founders had an opportunity to establish a democracy in America and chose not to. In fact, the Founders made clear that we were not, and were never to become, a democracy:
Many Americans today seem to be unable to define the difference between the two, but there is a difference, a big difference. That difference rests in the source of authority.
[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.2
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.3
A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption and carry desolation in their way.4 The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness [excessive license] which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty.5
Fisher Ames, Author of the House Language for the First Amendment
seen the tumult of democracy terminate . . . as [it has] everywhere terminated, in despotism. . . . Democracy! savage and wild. Thou who wouldst bring down the virtuous and wise to thy level of folly and guilt.6
Gouverneur Morris, Signer and Penman of the Constitution
[T]he experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.7
John Quincy Adams
A simple democracy . . . is one of the greatest of evils.8
Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration
In democracy . . . there are commonly tumults and disorders. . . . Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth.9
Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the
departments of state, it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.10
John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration
It may generally be remarked that the more a government resembles a pure democracy the more they abound with disorder and confusion.11
Zephaniah Swift, Author of America's First Legal Text
Read the rest of this fine essay here.
The Founding Fathers were passionately OPPOSED to democracy:
America should not be a Democracy:
"Liberal Democracy" in America and Iraq
From It’s an Election, Not a Revolution, by Tyler Cowen, New York Times:
|The reality is that democracy is a very blunt instrument, and in today’s environment we are choosing between ways of muddling through. We may hear that the election is about different visions for America’s future, but the pitches may be more akin to selling different brands of soap.
We hear so many superficial messages precisely because most American voters have neither the knowledge nor the commitment to evaluate the pronouncements of politicians on economic issues. It is no accident that the most influential political science book of the last year has been The
Myth of the Rational Voter by Bryan Caplan. The book shows that many voters are ill-informed or even irrational; many economic issues are complex, and each voter knows that he or she will not determine the final outcome.
Rather than being cynics, we should be realists. Democracy is reasonably good at some things: pushing scoundrels out of office, checking their worst excesses by requiring openness, and simply giving large numbers of people the feeling of having a voice. Democracy is not nearly as good at others: holding politicians accountable for their economic promises or translating the preferences of intellectuals into public policy.
THAT might sound pessimistic, but it’s not. Many Americans will be living longer, finding new sources of learning and recreation,
creating more rewarding jobs, striking up new loves and friendships, and, yes, earning more money. Just don’t expect most of these gains to come out of the voting booth or, for that matter, Washington.
And if you’re still worrying about how to vote, I have two pieces of advice. First, spend your time studying foreign policy, where the president has more direct power, and the choice of a candidate makes a much bigger difference. Second, stop worrying and get back to work.
Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
"Democracy has proved only that the best way to gain power over people is to assure the people that they are ruling themselves. Once they believe that, they make wonderfully submissive slaves." ~ Joseph Sobran
|I am of the opinion that the theory of democracy articulated by H. L. Mencken is correct: democracy is the system by which the voters get what they want, good and hard.
~ Gary North
|Covenant-keepers are ...to conquer covenant-breakers by means of preaching. Men are to [be] brought into the "Promised Land" today by bringing them into the church, and then by bringing the whole nation under the Biblical civil covenant through a democratic vote.
~ Gary North
Democracy™ — Coming to a Corporate Welfare State Near You
1. An example of this is demonstrated in the anecdote where, having concluded their work on the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin walked outside and seated himself on a public bench. A woman approached him and inquired, "Well, Dr. Franklin, what have you done for us?" Franklin quickly responded, "My dear lady, we have given to you a republic--if you can keep it." Taken from "America's Bill of Rights at 200 Years," by former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, printed in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. XXI, No. 3, Summer 1991, p. 457. This anecdote appears in numerous other works as well.
2. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, The Federalist on the New Constitution (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 53, #10, James Madison.
3. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), Vol. VI, p. 484,
to John Taylor on April 15, 1814.
4. Fisher Ames, Works of Fisher Ames (Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., 1809), p. 24, Speech on Biennial Elections, delivered January, 1788.
5. Ames, Works, p. 384, "The Dangers of American Liberty," February 1805.
6. Gouverneur Morris, An Oration Delivered on Wednesday, June 29, 1814, at the Request of a Number of Citizens of New-York, in Celebration of the Recent Deliverance of Europe from the Yoke of Military Despotism (New York: Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814), pp. 10, 22.
7. John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse Delivered at the Request of the New York Historical Society, in the City of New York on Tuesday, the 30th of April 1839; Being the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States, on Thursday, the 30th of April, 1789 (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839), p. 53.
8. Benjamin Rush, The Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H.
Butterfield, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press for the American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 523, to John Adams on July 21, 1789.
9. Noah Webster, The American Spelling Book: Containing an Easy Standard of Pronunciation: Being the First Part of a Grammatical Institute of the English Language, To Which is Added, an Appendix, Containing a Moral Catechism and a Federal Catechism (Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews, 1801), pp. 103-104.
10. John Witherspoon, The Works of John Witherspoon (Edinburgh: J. Ogle, 1815), Vol. VII, p. 101, Lecture 12 on Civil Society.
11. Zephaniah Swift, A System of the Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham: John Byrne, 1795), Vol. I, p. 19.