Monday, August 17, 2009


I keep hearing people refer to "our democracy". I think I have posted on this before, but as it continues to be a bee in my bonnet, I wanted to give it another shot.

The United States of America is a REPUBLIC. (Technically, a Constitutional republic with a strong democratic tradition, but I digress.) It was formed as a republic because, in the words of our founders:
"Democracies have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death." ~ James Madison

The reason for the short and violent lives of democracies? In a word - greed. "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." ~Thomas Jefferson

When someone claims that we have or want to have a democracy, they are declaring either:

  1. that they are uninformed as to what a democracy really is; or
  2. that they want our government overthrown quickly; or
  3. that they are too lazy to be precise in their terminology.

Some may find this to be mere quibbling, but it is not. When one or two people are sloppy about terminology in a casual setting, that is forgivable. Most of us are not walking around with dictionaries to hand. (Although, there are those of you with i-net access through your cell phones.) But when our electorate is content to hear our elected officials push this or that legislation in support of our "democracy", or because it's the "democratic" thing to do, we have a problem. When we do not call them to task about their use of the word democracy to describe our form of government, we have a problem. When our elected officials claim they have voted a particular way because that's what a majority of their constituents wanted and they think that's okay because that's how a democracy works, and no one objects to that reasoning, something is monumentally wrong with our country. ( I won't even address the folly of spreading democracy across the globe. Spread freedom and independence based on man's God given rights? Yes but leave democracy to those who lack the ability to exercise personal responsibility.)

Now I realize that I may appear to be on thin ice here. I am reading scathing commentaries about certain elected officials who plan to ignore the expressed will of their constituents and return to Congress to vote for the egregiously proposed HR 3200 or one of the other freedom restricting, money wasting, unconstitutional health care plans currently on the table in DC. I am not saying that I approve of those monstrosities. But we do have a republic. And that means our elected legislators are supposed to be voting for what is best for the country, not what the majority wants.

Our legislators are supposed to be voting in a way that preserves our republic and our freedoms, not their power or popularity. (HR 3200 infringes egregiously on both our republic and our freedoms.) Voting in a way that encourages Americans to exercise their freedoms while maintaining their personal responsibility and independence. Not voting for bloated government programs that take away our ability and incentives to pay our own way. Not voting for entitlements and charity. Charity is not the business of a republican form of government except when that government wants to buy power from the people in order to impose some form of tyranny upon them.

Dr.D, one of my readers, recently sent me a commentary entitled: "What Samuel said about Solomon" in which Mr. Frank Chodorov remarks on the change in governmental form that occurred when the Israelites demanded to have a king, like other countries.

The Israelites were a self-governed people, answerable to God and their communities for their behavior and actions. "It was a conservative society; adherence to proven principles was the only way by which the pursuit of happiness could be furthered. That which was "right" in the tribesman's eyes was "right" by custom, tradition and the laws of Yahweh, to the enumeration of which the Old Testament, before the Book of Joshua, devoted much space. Freedom is not license."

In this commentary, the author notes that the people grew weary of taking responsibility for their own decisions. That, instead of thinking and planning and behaving in the way that allowed the most individual freedom for each person, they wanted to give up their freedom in order to relieve themselves of the concurrent risks and responsibilities. He also notes the consequences for giving up that freedom and personal responsibility.

"The immediate occasion for the revolutionary demand was what we would today call an emergency. In fact, there were two emergencies. In foreign affairs things were going badly for Israel; the Philistines had not only beaten them roundly in battle, but also made off with the sacred ark of the covenant.

On the domestic front, they had lost faith in their leadership. The two sons of Samuel, whom he had appointed as assistants, did not live up to the high standards of their office; they had "turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment."

Samuel seems to have been a political scientist of the first water, all the more remarkable in that he had no books to go by, but only his wisdom and his observation of kingship in operation. So that, when the elders said "make us a king to judge us like all the nations," he was displeased. The story says that he took the matter up with Yahweh, who assured him that nothing could be done about saving the Israelites from themselves, since they had given up on first principles.

It was because they had forsaken the rigorous tradition of their forefathers, with its insistence on self-reliance and personal integrity, that they had lost the victorious touch that carried them from Egypt to the outskirts of the Promised Land. The breakdown of the judge system could be traced to the same lack of self-discipline. Therefore, said Yahweh, give them what they ask for, but as a parting shot you might "shew them the manner of the king that shall rule over them"; and tell them also that when they realize their mistake, it will be too late to regain freedom: "The Lord will not hear you in that day.

"Ye Shall Be Servants

So Samuel outlined the order of things under a king. First, there will be conscription, replacing the system of voluntarism that had served the tribesmen well throughout their peregrinations, and the conscription will not be confined to military service but will include service in the king's household. What's more, women too will be subject to involuntary servitude. Then, "he will appoint his captains over thousands and captains over fifties."The term "captain" is ambiguous, referring sometimes to men of war, sometimes to what we would call nobles, sometimes (by the kind of work assigned to them) to bureaucrats; it was in the reigns of David and Solomon that "captain" took on many meanings.

And, continued Samuel, the king will take from you the best of your lands "and give them to his servants," thus establishing a landed aristocracy, which the laws of Moses clearly forbade. What's more, for the upkeep of his establishment "he will take a tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards"; apparently, compulsory taxation was new among the Israelites. To top it all off, "ye shall be his servants."

I find myself wondering if this insistence on calling the American form of government a democracy is a way of distancing ourselves from our responsibility to monitor our legislators. I wonder, in the face of the stimulus spending(under Bush as well) , cap and trade and HR3200 if our legislators, who continually refer to this country as a democracy, are aware of what they are doing by perpetuating the idea that we have a democracy.

The way this nation was set up insured a good government only if "We the People" remain vigilant. I believe we may be seeing a return to the vigilance necessary to maintain our freedoms, but I wonder if it has not come too late. We have been deceived into becoming a culture which believes that it is better to pay taxes to have somebody else take care of our ill and elderly than to be forced to care for them ourselves in our homes and communities. The inevitable consequence is that our culture places decreasing value on individual lives. Instead of welcoming the opportunity to care for the woman who bore you and raised you and sacrificed to put food in your mouth, grandma is now regarded as a burden.

Why shouldn't our younger voters see communism or collectivism as desirable? We have not instilled in them the reverence for life and individual value that is the mainstay of our freedoms. The value system that best promotes freedom, independence and personal responsibility, that of Christianity, has been thoroughly mocked and derided in order to accommodate those who wish to live in ways that are costly to society as a whole. Men are no longer encouraged to marry the mothers of their children. Women are encouraged to kill their children if they become pregnant at an inconvenient time. Marriage itself is mocked and made fun of even as those who wish to live in the self destructive lifestyle that is homosexuality attempt to co-opt the term to give themselves an appearance of moral respectability.

There is a real danger in using vocabulary incorrectly. Words must mean what we, as a society think they mean or we cannot have a functioning society. We can no longer be sloppy about the difference between a republic and a democracy or we will lose our republic.

"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day. But a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly proves a deliberate systematic plan of reducing us to slavery." – Thomas Jefferson

"And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city." ~ 1 Samuel 8:18-22


Dr.D said...

Great post, Mom! Thank you. There is so much more that can be said, but this is a wonderful start.

One of the great problems with what the Congress is proposing to do is that their actions are entirely outside the bounds of the powers given to Congress by the Constitution. In a true Republic, that could never happen, because the rules established by the Constitution would forbid it. This criminal Congress ignores the Constitution and destroys the Republic.

If we think for a moment about Europe, most European countries have never known the sort of freedom and independence we once had in the US. Thus it is more difficult to apply the "What Samuel said about Solomon" story there, simply because we would have to go back to pre-history, it seems, to find a time when Europeans had that sort of freedom to exercise personal responsibility. The US is truly unique, and it is all the more a shame to see it casually walk away from the great treasure of its freedom.

Call Me Mom said...

Thank you Dr. D. and thank you also for sending me the work of Mr. Chodorov to think about.

DR said...

What an excellent post. This has been one of my pet peeves for a long time. The most irritating thing is the politicians who do know we are a Republic, but still use the term Democracy.

There is a huge difference, as you point out, between a Republic and a Democracy and if our citizens don't learn that we are setting ourselves up for ruin. Again, excellent post.

Call Me Mom said...

Thank you DR,
I think it's increasingly necessary for us, as bloggers, to be addressing forms of government. If people do not know what we have, how can they be expected to support and defend it?

Dr.D said...

Mom, in regard to your last comment to DR, there was a time when learning about our form of government was considered a proper part of public education. It was called "civics." It is incredible to think that this critical function has been sloughed off, left to be picked up voluntarily by bloggers, although you are probably correct.

DR said...

Call Me Mom,

You are absolutely correct. We've been trying to do that too. There are so many issues facing our Republic daily it is hard to pick and chose which ones to showcase for that day.

DR said...

Dr. D,

It is amazing how little is taught in public schools these days. We have been teaching our kids at home everything we feel they are missing in school, including geography and history.

Dr.D said...

I understand that Obama intends to address the school children of the nation, some day next week, I think, so there will be the need to correct a lot of misinformation following that. That would be a great day for mass absences, whenever it is.

Call Me Mom said...

I know it used to be taught. My son was taught, during his one year in the local public school, that communism was just as legitimate a form of government as a democracy or a republic. Many of his classmates seemed to think communism would be better. Almost none of them could tell me what the difference is between a democracy and a republic.

There is also the constant barrage of "democracy talk" throughout the MSM.
I hate to say it, but I was training some Boy Scout leaders once and I was pointing out why it was important to teach citizenship to the Scouts. When I asked the question - "What form of government do we have?" almost no one was willing to answer. When I gave them examples: anarchy, monarchy, democracy, republic etc. A few raised their hands. The gentleman I called on to answer confidently said a democracy. This was an older gentleman. He argued with me when I told him he was wrong. He asked me to prove it. I told him to look it up in the CIA factbook. (I should have said "say the Pledge of Alligiance" but it was early morning and I was a little bit shocked that he got it wrong. Looking around the room after he answered and I had corrected him, I could see that most of the other folks were shocked that democracy wasn't the answer.
We need to educate on this point, and not just our children.