Democracy v. Republic

I’ve had it with pundits, politicians, and people who should know better that continuously refer to our country as a democracy.  The latest such reference was by renowned political commentator Thomas Friedman, who has never been confused with an intelligent person. But he has lots of company among the chattering classes, and even more so from among our so-called educators. At every educational level, teachers, professors, administrators, and even the elite collegiate Boards-of-Directors wrongly refer to the United States as a democracy and, in general, display an overall ignorance of American history and our Founding principles. And unfortunately, our youth (and their parent-underwriters) are the unwitting victims of this ignorance. At one time, our educators and learned elders passed on their wisdom to an eagerly receptive youth armed with the critical thinking skills necessary to challenge any such drivel. Now, our elders can be confidently relied upon to confer their collective stupidity upon a submissive, blindly receptive youth.

Repeat after me—the United States is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. The Founders, to a man, loathed and feared democracy. This is clearly supported by this selection of excerpts which illustrate why the Founders struggled mightily to forge a Republic rather than a 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.”

Chief Justice John Marshall observed,

“Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.

In Federalist Paper #10, James Madison gave a comprehensive dissertation on how a Republic would guard against such losses of freedom, in an effort to get our proposed Constitution ratified by the people and their states.

The following are excerpts from Madison’s Federalist #10:

… When a majority is included in the faction, the form of popular government … enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. …

… Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security and the rights of property, and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. …

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.

Unlike today’s benighted political hacks, the Founders were deeply immersed in ancient history and the Classics, mostly Greece and Rome.  And they could read the Classics and comment about them fluently in the languages in which the texts were originally written. Latin and Greek were required courses of study in nearly every one-room schoolhouse in nearly every village and hamlet.

Some time ago, I was fortunate to have acquired an early 1700’s school reader. Today’s Millennials would become apoplectic and break out in hives if they had to master the material in this reader.  For example, say, schoolmaster to student:

“Mr. Penopscot, please stand and recite the declension of the infinitive “to be” in both Latin and Greek. Any mistakes will result in your being responsible for cleaning the common outdoor latrine for a month.”

The Founding generation knew instinctively that independence and liberty could not be secured and maintained without a clear understanding of these principles.  And they had no aversion to the swift application of corporal punishment like the one that befell our unfortunate fictional Mr. Penopscot.  Today’s parents would quickly lawyer up to challenge these harsh curricular standards, while the kids would endure years of mandatory emotional counseling to comfort them through such trauma.

At one time, nearly every student knew the differences between a democracy v. republic, dependence v. independence, God’s Law, natural law, and common law. Today’s youth (and most adults) are woefully ignorant in the basics of America’s Founding, and the principles underlying the Founding and the Constitution. It’s beyond sad—it’s downright scary. The Republic cannot survive such ignorance.

More than anything, I would really like to see President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos, using every tool at their disposal, to rigorously encourage revolutionary curricular changes in our public schools and stop the corruption of our children’s minds with cultural marxism. I would like to see the elimination of Common Core, the replacement of one-sided indoctrination with reason and critical thinking skills, and the wholehearted, nationwide restoration and support of our rights of Free Speech at every level of education, public and private.

The president and secretary should require every institution receiving so much as a dime of federal funding to be fully committed to honoring our rights of Free Speech, welcoming and ensuring the safety of those on campuses whose views are at variance with the prevailing campus ideology, and encouraging the open exchange and debate of ideas across the ideological spectrum. If you don’t like someone on TV, you don’t smash the TV, you change the channel. Similarly, if you don’t agree with the views of a speaker on campus, you don’t silence the speaker, you just respectfully stay home.

Whatever happened to the priceless maxim of Evelyn Beatrice Hall ?

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

It would be easier to put a camel through the eye of a needle than to find a university professor who stands shoulder to shoulder with Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

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