What's Wrong With Democracy?
What's Wrong With Democracy?
by Robert W. Lee
The United Nations Conspiracy, Appendix E.
Here and there throughout this book will be found slighting references to "democracy," as if there were something wrong with the concept of "democracy" as a form of government.
Fifty years ago the explanation that follows would have been unnecessary, since the organized drive to mislead Americans into believing that the United States is a "democracy" was barely underway. Today, however, a clarification is required lest critics of "democracy" be branded unpatriotic, disloyal, or worse. A few years ago, the leader of a prominent patriotic society accurately described "democracy" as a "deceptive phrase, a weapon of demagoguery, and a perennial fraud." A national magazine subsequently ran a nasty profile which began by urging readers to "Turn the page for the story of the man who believes 'democracy is . . . a fraud.' " The obvious intent was to smear the individual with an implication of disloyalty to our form of government. Yet, our government was never intended by its Founders to be a "democracy."
Democracy is rule by the majority. A republic is rule by law even when that law precludes the majority from having its way. Under a true republic the rights of individuals and minorities are protected against the tyranny of the majority by a written code of laws, often called a Constitution. Thus, our Bill of Rights, when respected, makes it possible for us to worship as we please, or speak as we please, as long as we do not harm or hinder others in exercising the same rights. This is so even if we are the only ones who are practicing a particular faith or expounding a particular point of view; legally, even a majority of the Congress cannot interfere with such rights.
You may recall our earlier reference to Congressman John Rousselot's observation that the best example of "democracy" is a lynch mob, since there is only one man against it. When a dozen riders on horseback capture the suspected cattle rustler, and the "vote" comes out twelve to one against the suspect, the democratic thing to do is hang him then and there. But when the principles of a republic prevail, Marshall Matt Dillon rides up and lays down the law. He tells the mob, "You can't hang him unless he's proven guilty after a fair trial." So the suspect is transported to jail, a trial held before a jury of his peers, and the jury decides the question of his guilt or innocence based on the evidence gleaned from both the defense and the prosecution. In the meantime, the suspect is not to be held for excessive bail or compelled to testify against himself — regardless of what the majority of townsmen might desire.
If the United States was founded as a democracy, then why doesn't that word appear even once in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, or the Constitutions of any of the fifty states? In contrast, the United States Constitution guarantees each state a Republican form of government, and it is to the Republic for which our Flag stands that we pledge our allegiance.
In 1928, the U.S. War Department used a training manual for the Armed Forces which included this startling definition of democracy:
Government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of "direct" expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic — negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences.
In contrast, that same training manual included the definition of republic found in historian Harry Attwood's book, Our Republic:
A republic is a form of government under a constitution which provides for the election of (1) an executive and (2) a legislative body, who working together in a representative capacity, have all the power of appointment, all power of legislation, all power to raise revenues and appropriate expenditures, and are required to create (3) a judiciary to pass upon the justice and legality of their governmental acts and to recognize (4) certain inherent individual rights. Take away any one or more of those four elements and you are drifting into autocracy. Add one or more to those four elements and you are drifting into democracy.
The executive, legislative, and judicial branches referred to in the training manual comprise yet another distinguishing characteristic of a true republic: a system of checks and balances. If congress passes a law that is subsequently vetoed by the President, it may then override the President’s veto by a two-thirds vote of both Houses; the Supreme Court can strike down the law as unconstitutional; the Congress can impeach and remove from office the Supreme Court Justices or the President; and the President may sign a treaty that the Senate refuses to ratify. This system of checks and balances is an invaluable protection against dictatorship, preventing any one branch of government from obtaining too much power. It is also very undemocratic!
Former Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R.-Maine) once summarized the crucial differences between a republic and a democracy in these words:
The distinction between democracy and republic is in the degree of majority rule. Majority rule is unrestricted in a democracy while it is restricted in a republic. "The Bill of Rights" part of our Constitution places definite limitations on the power of the representatives of the people. They are denied the power to abridge our freedom of speech, right of assembly, press, trial by jury, against unreasonable searches and seizures, and other individual rights — regardless of how much the majority might be opposed to such individual rights. Under a pure or true democracy, there is no protection of such individual rights against the rule of the majority. Democracy actually means unrestricted majority rule that our Constitution so carefully prohibits. . . . A republic is a truely representative government. It provides representation for the minority as well as for the majority. It places individual freedom and rights above majority rule. If we were really a political democracy, instead of the republic we are, the will of the majority would habitually ride roughshod over the will of the minority. A republic creates and develops tolerance that acts as a bulwark against tyranny by the majority.
The United States was founded as a republic — not a democracy — for very sound reasons, and our future as a free nation largely depends on the extent to which we can keep it that way.