When Benjamin Franklin exited the Constitutional convention he was asked by a woman “Sir what have you given us?” his immediate response was “A republic ma’am, if you can keep it.” Yet most Americans today have been persuaded that our nation’s Governmental System is a Democracy and not a Republic. The difference between these two is essential in understanding Americanism and the American system. Before we discuss political systems however, it’s helpful to address confusion that has been spread about the political spectrum.
Many have been lead to believe that the political spectrum places groups such as the communists on the far Left fascists or dictators on the far Right and political Moderates or Centrists in the middle. However a more accurate political spectrum will show govt. having zero percent power on the far right and one hundred percent power on the far left. On the extreme Right there is no govt. The extreme Left features total govt. under such labels as Communism, Socialism, Nazism, Fascism, Princes, Potentates, Dictators, Kings, any form of Total Govt. Those who claim Nazis and Fascists are Right Wing never define their terms. This amounts to spreading confusion. Toward the middle of the political spectrum can be found the type of govt. limited to its proper role of protecting the rights of the people. That’s where the constitution of the United States is. Those who advocate such a form of Government are really Constitutional Moderates.
So let’s analyze the basic forms of govt. they are Monarchy or Dictatorship; rule by one, Oligarchy; rule by a few, Democracy; Rule by a majority, Republic; rule by law, and Anarchy rule by no one. In discussing these five we’ll see that they can narrowed down to even fewer.
Looking first at Monarchy Dictatorship; this form of govt. doesn’t really exist in the practical sense, it’s always a group that puts one of its members up front. A King has his council of Nobles or Earls. Every Dictator has his Bureaucrats or Commissars the men behind the scenes. This isn’t rule by one even though one may be the visible leader. Its ruled by a group. So lets remove Monarchy Dictatorship because it never truly exists.
Oligarchy; rule by a group, is the most common form of govt. in all of history and it is the most common form of govt. today. Most of the nations of the world are ruled by a powerful few, and therefore Oligarchy remains.
At the other end we find Anarchy which means without govt. Some people have looked over history and found that some of its worst crimes were committed by governments. So they decided that having no government might be a good idea, but this is a mistake, because as the ancient Greeks stated without law there can be no freedom. Our founding fathers agreed and held that some amount of government is a necessary force in any civilized orderly society. In a state of Anarchy however, everyone has to guard life liberty and property and the lives of family members. Everyone must be armed and movement is severely restricted because one’s property has to be protected at all times. Civilized people have always hired someone to do the guarding; a Sherriff, a police force, or some branch of government. Once law enforcement was in place the people were freer. They could leave their property work in the fields and so on. In short the proper amount of government makes everyone freer. There are some advocating Anarchy however, not because they want no government but because they don’t like what they have. They use anarchy as a tool for revolutionary change. The condition of Anarchy is very much like a vacuum where something rushes in to fill it. These calculating Anarchists work to break down the existing government with rioting, killing, looting, and terrorism. Tragically the people living in such chaos often go to those best able to put an end to it and beg them to take over and restore order. And who is best able to put an end to the chaos? The very people who started it. The Anarchists who created the problem then create a government run by them an Oligarchy where they have total power. This is exactly what happened in Russia that lead to Lenin taking total power and in Germany where Hitler’s Brown Shirts created the chaos that brought him to power but Anarchy isn’t a stable form of government it’s a quick transition from something that exists to something desired by the power hungry. It’s a temporary condition and because it isn’t permanent we eliminate it as well.
The word Democracy comes from two Greek words Demos; meaning people, and Kratien; meaning to rule, Democracy therefore means the rule of the people; majority rule. This of course sounds good but suppose the majority decides to take away one’s home or business or children? Obviously there has to be a limit. The flaw in Democracy is that the majority isn’t restrained! If more than half the people can be persuaded to want something in a Democracy they rule.
What about Republic? Well that comes from the Latin, Res; meaning thing, & Publica; meaning public. It means the public thing; the law! A true Republic is one where the government is limited by law, leaving the people alone. America’s founders had a clean slate to write on. They could have set up an Oligarchy, in fact there were some who wanted George Washington to be their King. But the Founding Fathers knew history and they chose to give us the rule of law in a Republic, not the rule of a majority in a Democracy. Why? Lets demonstrate the difference in the setting of the old west. Consider a lynch mob in a Democracy. Thirty-five horseback riders chase one lone gunman. And they vote thirty-five to one to hang him. Democracy has triumphed and there’s one less gunman to contend with. Now consider the same scenario in a Republic. The thirty-five horseback riders catch the gunman and vote thirty five to one to hang him but the sheriff arrives and says “You can’t kill him, he’s got his right to a fair trial.” So they take the gunman back to town. A jury of his peers is selected and they hear the evidence and the defense and they decide if he shall hang. Does the jury even decide by majority rule? No it has to be unanimous or he goes free. The rights of the government aren’t subject to majority rule but to the law. This is the essence of a Republic.
Many Americans would be surprised to hear that the word Democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution, nor does it appear in any of the constitutions of the fifty states. The founders did everything they could to keep us from having a Democracy. James Madison rightly known as the Father of the Constitution wrote in Essay Number Ten of the Federalist Papers: “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention, have ever been found incompatible with the security or the rights of property and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Alexander Hamilton agreed and he stated: “We are a Republican government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of democracy.” Samuel Adams a signer of the Declaration of Independence stated: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” The Founders had good reason to look upon Democracy with contempt because they knew that the democracies in the early Greek City-States produced some of the wildest excesses of government imaginable. In every case they ended up Mob Rule then Anarchy and finally Tyranny under an Oligarchy. During that period in Greece there was a man named Solon who urged creation of a fixed body of law not subject to majority whims but where the Greeks never adopted Solon’s wise council the Roman is did. Based on what they knew of Solon’s laws they created the twelve tables of the Roman law and in effect built a republic that limited government power and left the people alone. Since government was limited the people were free to produce with the understanding that they could keep the fruits of their labor. In time Rome became wealthy and the envy of the world. In the midst of plenty however, the Roman people forgot what freedom entailed. They forgot that the essence of freedom is The Proper Limitation of Government. When government power grows people’s freedom recedes. Once the Romans dropped their guard power seeking politicians began exceeding the powers granted them in the Roman Constitution. Some learned that they could elect politicians who would use government power to take property from some and give it to others. Agriculture subsidies were introduced, followed by housing and welfare programs. Inevitably taxes rose and controls over the private sector were imposed. Soon a number of Rome’s producers could no longer make ends meet and they went on the dole. Productivity declined shortages developed and mobs began roaming the streets demanding bread and circuses from the government. Many were induced to trade freedom for security. Eventually the whole system came crashing down. They went from a Republic to a Democracy and ended up with an Oligarchy under a progression under the Caesars. Thus Democracy its self is not a stable form of government, instead it is a gradual transition from limited government to the unlimited rule of an Oligarchy. Knowing this we Americans are ultimately left with only two choices. We can “Keep [our Republic]” as Franklin put it or we will inevitably end up with an Oligarchy a Tyranny of the elite.
John Birch Society - Overview of America
Overview Of America - FreedomProject Public Service Edition - 30 min. from Alan Scholl on Vimeo.