The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

May 25, 2005

Can we quit with this ‘democracy’ nonsense?

America is not a democracy. It never has been. Nor was it ever intended to be. And frankly, that’s the way I like it. Why do I bring this up? Because not enough people in our country realize that, and it’s getting worse.

Democracy is a good step along the route to a truly just government. After all, compared to an aristocracy, monarchy, oligarchy, or a dictatorship, democracy is usually better. It is better, because as more people vote to control their destiny, it gets harder to discriminate against large groups of people. Where 10 people can oppress 10 million, there is often little reason for them not to do it. When 55% percent can oppress the remaining 45%, it is much less likely to happen, because that 55/45 split can change very easily. But it is still an option. Democracy on its own cannot be controlled, because when 50%+1 votes to do something, it does not, by any stretch, mean that the action is just.

Democracy does a great job protecting the nation from bad and unpopular ideas. But it doesn’t do a very good job at protecting the nation from bad, popular ideas. Remember Jim Crow laws and segregation? Those were very popular bad ideas. The current prohibition against gay marriage? Bad popular idea. The idea that the rich are a faucet, put there to continually water government with tax dollars? Bad popular idea.

In addition, democracy stifles good, but unpopular ideas. In fact, in unbridled democracy, you don’t want to be in the minority, because that 50%+1 can vote to persecute and oppress you. The only checks on that power are people’s own consciences. A state where that is possible is not a just society. As Adlai Stevenson said, “My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.” In an unbridled democracy, it is never safe to be unpopular.

It is not democracy that has created the greatness of our nation at all. It is values that founded this nation, and have allowed us to reach the heights we have reached today. Democracy is not the underpinning of those values, it is a threat to them. The closer that we, as a nation, get to direct democracy, the worse off we will be. We will be more and more ruled by the majority, and less by the values of individual liberty.

Much has been made of the rise of ‘democracy’ in Iraq. Again, while even unbridled democracy is a better idea than letting Saddam rule, democracy without a strong constitution that enshrines the freedoms and liberties we have in the USA doesn’t get them where they need to be. Unbridled democracy won’t get them any closer to tolerance of Christianity, much less Judaism, only constitutional protections for freedom of religion can move them that direction.

Thankfully, some of you say, we are not a democracy, we are a republic. To that I say “Bah!” A republic is simply a collection of somewhat independent states that have banded together based upon mutual interests. A republic of democracies is as dangerous as one big democracy. A republic of communist states is just as intolerable to its citizens as a centrally-controlled communist state. Being a republic purports to offer greater insulation from the dangers of an overbearing federal government, but that does not make those individual states any more just.

No, democracy is not inherently just, and a republic is no more just than its member states. A truly moral government comes from the rule of law, and only then when it is the rule of just laws. I think our founding fathers came about as close with the Constitution to hitting the bullseye 200 years ago as anyone in the history of Western civilization. But anyone who saw the three-fifths compromise knows that it wasn’t perfect (political necessity of that compromise notwithstanding). An understanding of the founding of this country, with its good points and its bad, is necessary if we want to continually improve it. And the growing trend of referring to America as a ‘democracy’ is a bad sign, not a good one.

The Unrepentant Individual linked with Democracy is NOT enough!
Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 4:49 pm || Permalink || Comments (7) || Trackback URL || Categories: Uncategorized


  1. Of course, you are assuming that the government run schools see any benefit to providing an education that deals with why and how as opposed to what and when.

    Comment by Eric — May 25, 2005 @ 11:41 pm
  2. Actually, it’s government schools that want students to deduce the why and how from the what and when while blindfolding them to the what and when. Sounds idiotic, don’t it? Well, it is.

    Anyway, I think the big concept we’re losing is that there should be limits on government’s power. More often than not, the constitution is discussed as an obstacle, not a shield.

    Comment by Quincy — May 26, 2005 @ 12:53 am
  3. Amen to all of it. I especially like your definition of what it means to be free.

    Anyone in a perpetual minority state, of course, wants a system where minority rights are, perhaps, over-protected. Minorities need the protections, and that there are usually other paths — social contacts, money, etc. — for the majority to get well if not what they want, at least what they need.

    As someone who is always extremely quick to play the “We are not a democracy, we are a republic” card, I don’t really mean to say that I prefer a republic to a democracy, or vice versa. For all my verbiage on the subject, I haven’t thought much about my preference for a “perfect government” in recent years.

    I just want to make sure that we understand that things were set up by what we all agree were a group of pretty special people for certain reasons. Although we are free to discard things that no longer work, or that were set up for reasons we no longer find palatable (3/5 rule is a good example), we are not free to pretend that they were set up for no reason at all.

    We are not free to ignore the fact that certain people benefit by the way things are, and they will be hurt when things change.

    This is particularly true when we propose vast structural changes, like those that have been proposed in the past few months in the run-up and the aftermath of the 2004 election, the Terri Schiavo situation, and the elevation of the new Pope.

    Comment by Bruce Grossberg — May 26, 2005 @ 5:14 am
  4. Hi Brad,

    This is the first time I’ve visited your site. I know what I am leaving as a comment does not pertain completely to your essay, but Eric the Grumbler seems to have lost interest in communicating with me (perhaps because I am so uneducated) and I do have a question on the table. So if you have a moment, perhaps you would take the time to read the following and perhaps answer the question at the end.

    PS. Have you read the “Vision of the Anointed” by Thomas Sowle? He addresses many of the points you make in the essay above.

    “Ok, Eric I read Thomas Paine this morning and read about John Locke this afternoon.

    I will go back and actually read Locke, but I gathered this much, Locke had a naive notion of the nature of the human race. He believed in the tabula rasa (blank slate) notion that we come into this existence with a totally blank mind and that everything we know comes from experience. I am not faulting him because he was of course brilliant given the fact that his ideas have endured. He lived before the scientific discoveries which would change our understanding of the nature of man.

    We now know that our brains are anything but blank when we are born. We are fully equipped to process all of the information we will encounter in our lives. For instance, our language capabilities are fully formed at birth, all we need is to plug in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions and we are good to go.We are communication machines. If our minds were blank at birth they would stay that way. Simplified version, I admit, but if you are interested read “The Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker.

    Locke also believed that the natural state of humans is to be happy and to get along. Did he and Rousseau pal around? He also said that we needed the state and that we must give up some freedom to the state in order to secure our rights. Cost/benefit.

    But as to the nature of man, I think he had that a bit wrong also. People are “inherently” selfish. But we have learned that it is usually in our best interest to cooperate and sometimes it isn’t. That’s the fun of being human. I think I can sum it all up by saying everything is a tradeoff.

    I have written more on Dada’s site, but I will end with this. “Natural rights” is a philosophical idea created at a time when people were ready to break away from the rule of kings. There is nothing sacred about it. It is a useful model. I, too like the idea of “rights”. but they don’t exist anywhere except in the minds of the people who believe they should have them.

    || Posted by alice, May 23, 2005 06:16 PM ||

    Alice, I never said Locke was right on all counts. In fact, like anyone else, in some areas he did well, in others not so well. The same can be said of Benjamin Franklin, who was, arguably, the most brilliant man of his era, as well. Or of Einstein, or a great many other people. The difference between his ideas on the blank slate of the human mind and on natural rights is that one has been shown to be wrong and the other hasn’t. Even your argument against is not a constructed, rational argument but instead simply a denial that it could exist without agreement that it does. This is akin to some of the solipsist arguments about the nature of the physical. Interesting, but simply a tail-biting circle, ultimately.

    If you could begin to show me that I cannot possess property unless society and/or government exist, that I cannot live and defend my life without the same, I would be much more inclined to go down that line of reason with you and see where it leads.

    || Posted by Eric, May 23, 2005 09:06 PM ||

    Forgive me Eric, besides being uneducated, I have problems sometimes figuring out what to do on the computer. I tried to post a comment on your “I continue to be amazed” essay, but the screen wouldn’t let me do it. So if you could put this where it belongs,I’d appreciate it.

    First of all I want to say that I was not disparaging Locke in any way, just trying to show him and his ideas to be a product of his time.

    You want me to prove logically that I cannot possess property without goverment or society. You want me to prove also that I cannot defend my life without governemnt. I can’t do that.

    And I have tried. I just tried to run through all of the scenarios in my uneducated mind and I cannot come up with one instance that would prevent me from going into my neighbors’ yard and pitching a tent and setting up my Coleman stove and saying this is now my dwelling place.If they had a tall fence and a guard dog it might be more difficult, but being a resourceful person I could probably figure a way to do it.
    Is this what you want me to realize?

    I am not sure I see the import of such a notion.
    Because if I know my neighbors, my proclaimed possession would mean nothing to them. And therefore would mean nothing and would probably result in me being hauled off by the authorities. Now I could resist being hauled off and perhaps brandish a gun, which would result in me not only losing my property but also my life.

    I can do anything I want to do. People throughout the ages have also been able to do anything they want to do. My dog can also do what ever she wants to do. Does that mean she has rights also? What good are rights unless they are recognized by others?

    I just don’t see where any of this goes in the end. Maybe you can enlighten me.”

    || Posted by alice, May 24, 2005 10:03 AM ||

    Comment by alice — May 26, 2005 @ 8:48 am
  5. Bruce,
    That’s why I so loathe activist judges, whether they be liberal or conservative activists. I think we were given a framework, called the Constitution, which has a procedure for changing provisions we don’t like. But Constitutional amendments are too hard for some politicians and judges, so they simply disregard the Constitution entirely.

    I’m not one to say the Constitution is perfect, and there is always the chance that amendments won’t be good when completed (i.e. the 18th, possibly the 16th and 17th as well), but I’d rather we try to work within the framework than without.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — May 26, 2005 @ 9:30 am
  6. Alice, just so you know, I have been very involved with a significant problem at work the last few days. I owe a lot of folks, including you, some responses and new posts. As you may notice, my 1 to 2 posts per day this week (not my norm at all) have been early morning or late night, and that is all I have time for. This weekend life should get better and I promise I will respond to you on my blog and here as well.

    Comment by Eric — May 26, 2005 @ 2:06 pm
  7. [...] t democracy will solve all problems, when there are wider issues at play here. I’ve posted previously about how the term Democracy has been cha [...]

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