By Dr. Harold Pease
The Founding Fathers universally rejected democracy and hoped that posterity would never turn the United States into one. The word they used was “Republic,” which is not synonymous with “Democracy.” The word “Democracy” is not in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. Even the Pledge of Allegiance is “to the Republic for which it stands.”
Benjamin Franklin defined democracy as “two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
So why did they reject Democracy? Because it is inherently flawed with the “share the wealth” philosophy, which only works as long as there is someone else’s money to share. Those receiving are quite pleased with getting something for nothing. But those forced to give are denied the right to spend the benefits of their own labor in their own self-interest, which creates jobs no matter how the money is spent. They also lose a portion of their incentive to produce.
Fraser Tyler, author of The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic authored more than 200 years ago said it best. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
Where does the money come from for all the “good” that government does? Answer, out of someone else’s pocket. If it is with his consent it is a form of charity. If forced, a form of tyranny. The more and the longer given, the more entitled the receiver becomes until he is quite willing to take to the streets and demand more of other people’s money, fully satisfied that he has every right to it. This works until those who have money are destroyed as a class and everyone is equally poor. The result is a diminished standard of living for everyone, as was the case under 20th Century communism.
A Democracy gives us the principles of majority rules and frequent elections with options, but little more. It does not protect us from the government’s redistribution of wealth philosophy, which entitles the less productive to get something for nothing.
A Republic includes frequent elections with options. It also gives place to majority rules, but only to a point, for as your mother told you growing up, the majority is not always right. A Republic is also based upon natural unalienable rights that come from a source higher than man (for example life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)
Minority rights are protected from the majority in a Republic. A lynch mob is Democracy. Everyone voted but the man being lynched. A Republic rescues this man gives him a fair trial with a bona fide judge and witnesses for his defense. In a Republic there is an emphasis on individual differences rather than absolute equality. Such individual differences are seen as a strength in a Republic rather than as a flaw under Democracy, which equates sameness as equality.
Limited government is also a major aspect of a Republic. The government is handcuffed from dominating our lives. There is a list of functions and a clear process for obtaining additional power. Finally, there is a healthy fear of the emotion of the masses, destabilizing natural law upon which real freedom is based.
The Founders created a Republic, not a Democracy. The Constitution, as designed, is the mechanism to ensure we stay a Republic. We must demand from our leaders a strict adherence to that document in order to preserve our liberty, and that of future generations.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College.