The right and the left.
Conservatives and liberals.
The elephant and the donkey.
Republicans and Democrats.
When our Founding Fathers established our government as a “republic,” in the hope, as Benjamin Franklin said, that we could keep it, and when they guaranteed to every state within that “republic” a “republican form” of government, they knew exactly the significance of the terms they were using.
They also knew exactly the meaning of the word “democracy,” and the history of democracies, and they deliberately did everything in their power to avoid for their own times, and to prevent for the future, the evils of a democracy.
Our Founding Fathers knew the difference between those two words.
Alexander Hamilton said: “We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”
Samuel Adams warned: “Remember, Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is the word democracy used. Neither does the word appear in the Declaration of Independence. It doesn’t appear in any of the constitutions of our fifty states.
Simply stated, a Republic is representative government ruled by law (the Constitution) and designed to protect the rights of the individual. A Democracy is direct government ruled by the majority of people.
Our Founding Fathers knew all about democracies, and if they had wanted one for themselves and their posterity, they would have founded one. But they did not. They did not want mob rule, in which the inalienable rights of individuals are trampled by group wants. And that’s why they built into our government an elaborate system of checks and balances. That‘s why there are so many carefully worked-out protective clauses written into the Constitution, and especially, the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights.
These steps were taken, deliberately, to prevent a democracy.
This was all done to chain us to the rule of law, not the rule of men.
It is the difference between order and chaos.
Around the same time our Founding Fathers were creating this higher form of government, the French were about to learn the age-old dangers of democracy.
Leading up to the French Revolution, the French monarchy found itself in a bit of a financial crisis. The King was a big spender and most of the country‘s funds appeared to have up and disappeared into such things as a Palace with literally thousands of windows and a substantial investment in the American Revolution. The return on that investment in good will and freedom was not sufficient for France to run its economy.
Luckily, although the Monarchy was broke, there was plenty of money within the French nobility.
Unluckily, the half-million nobles weren’t exactly willing to share their money with the monarchy for something as trivial as the survival of their country.
When the monarchy realized it couldn’t get out of its mountain of debt and the nobility wasn’t about to help, it finally had to call on the upper middle class (those who had money, but not land and a title).
Seeing an opportunity to become more important, the middle-class agreed to part with their cash in exchange with the monarchy declaring them equal with the nobles.
The monarchy and nobility were opposed to the entire idea, but the shit was already hitting the fan. When the rest of France caught wind of what the upper middle class was doing, more and more people, including the working classes, started wanting more stuff too.
That’s when the fighting started.
People were fighting to get equality, people fighting to keep the status quo, people fighting to get their equality but not for others, people fighting because it was fun, and people fighting because they were out in the countryside confused, uninformed, and scared shitless.
The power struggles centered around how crazy you were. It started off with not so crazy people, who just wanted to write a constitution to smack their king on the head with. Then some people decided they didn’t really need a king and wanted to try becoming one of those new fangled republics like the fledgling America had done. But the more radical groups decided complete democracy was better and since they didn’t much want a king either, they may as well kill him. So they did.
Things got crazier from there, with the formation of the Paris Commune (like an insane hippie commune prone to murder), and then from that to the Committee of Public Safety, who realized that the easiest way to keep the public safe was to minimize the population of the public via guillotines and mass killings. First on that hit list were the nobles. After those heads were lopped off, they went after all the people that had wanted a republic instead of a democracy. Then they tossed out Christianity in favor of reason. Specifically, a reason to take church lands for the revolutionary government.
Even though most people were more crazy than reasonable, they knew this craziness had to eventually end at some point and so they decided that what the country really needed was a champion to unite things. They asked Napoleon to take care of that.
And here’s how that turned out:
Emperor Napoleon essentially put France right back where it started. Except that he also decided to turn the rest of Europe into a bloodbath with his army war machine before finally meeting his Waterloo. Thankfully, ABBA was there to immortalize this historical event in song form:
The basic moral here, folks, is that people are just lousy at democracy.
We’re lousy at it because of our flawed natures.
The biggest problem with democracy, besides the general lack of intelligence it always displays, is that human nature loves drama. And without conflict, there is no drama. Without drama, we get bored. We don’t want information, we want a story, and every story needs a villain, a battle between good and evil. So as soon as we hear about some complex political issue or crisis, the first thing we do is figure out who the villains are and start blindly hating them.
Ask the average person today what’s wrong with government and you’ll hear all about corrupt politicians, corporate lobbyists and shady backroom deals.
Hey, guess what people? You elected those corrupt politicians.
So stop bitching and take responsibility for your bad decisions. This is what happens when you don’t participate or try to be informed before you vote. In fact, corrupt politicians are counting on you to be stupid.
I love the reality of human nature in polls. In the middle of the health care debate in 2010, Democrats called it the “public” plan and polls showed that 75 percent of the nation were in favor. After all, everybody likes public parks and public libraries, etc. It’s a friendly word. But when Republicans called it “government-run health insurance” the polls showed the nation’s support plummeted to 43 percent.
The Exact. Same. Plan.
Just different words.
Likewise, only 34 percent of Americans say they strongly support “homosexuals” in the military. But 51 percent strongly support “gay men and lesbians” serving in the military. That’s right: You can increase the support by simply avoiding the “H” word.
Politicians know this trick and they can do this with virtually any issue.
Ask us if public worker unions should be able to negotiate for their pay and people say yes. Change the wording to ask if they should be able to negotiate for higher pay, and opinion turns against them.
What, did the first bunch think workers were negotiating for lower pay?
Probably not. They probably thought nothing about the issue at all until the moment they were asked. We are generally uneducated on the issues, and the “don’t know” option in a poll makes us sound like morons. So people’s brains just slap together an opinion based on how the question made them feel at that moment.
The problem isn’t the system, folks, it’s us.
A few years ago, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute gave a 60-question civic literacy test to more than 28,000 college students. Less than half knew about federalism, judicial review, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and NATO.
These were COLLEGE students, mind you. And this was a multiple-choice test, with the answers staring them right in the face. Ten percent thought that the statement “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” came from the Communist Manifesto.
When even supposedly smart people can’t tell the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Communist Manifesto, between Thomas Jefferson and Karl Marx, it ought to be obvious why democracy won’t work in the United States.
The sound you hear is our Founding Fathers doing a facepalm.
By the way, and this is aimed at everybody who thinks Jefferson was saying we are all equal, he was NOT saying that. He was saying we have equal rights protected by our Constitution. Our individual liberty is equal. Our votes are equal. But we ourselves are not equal. Created equal, yes, but we do not remain that way. That’s just common sense. Some people are lazy while some are industrious hard workers. Some are smarter. Some are artistically gifted. Some are more badass.
In other words, give accomplishment its due respect. Some are better than others. For instance, this Occupy protester shitting on our flag:
isn’t equal to this person:
or this guy:
And the news can’t help you if you don’t already know your politics. Why? Because politicians constantly make bullshit statements mixed in with hard information. With that, you’re also getting spin, talking points, and sound bites issued by people whose job it is to make you vote their way regardless of the facts.
At some level, people are aware this is happening.
But it’s not just the news media’s fault.
When we do hear the facts, we have countless defenses against them. Picture the facts as zombies, and your brain as the house where the survivors are holed up. It’s called confirmation bias, that horrible brain glitch that makes countless superstitions possible. This is when the brain latches onto and remembers pieces of information that confirm what we believe but dismisses those that don’t.
That’s where democracy gets real dangerous.
You want a government run by the people? Well, in order to do that, you have to learn more about political issues. That means you must be enthusiastic about politics. Enthusiasm about politics means you are more likely to be emotionally invested in the issues. Emotional investment in the issues means a more negative attitude toward anyone who disagrees. A negative attitude toward someone means being more dismissive of their point of view and being less open to changing your mind based on anything they say.
In the world of psychology, they call this attitude polarization. The more times the average person spends thinking about a subject, the more extreme his position becomes, even if he doesn’t run across any new information. Simply repeating your beliefs to yourself makes those beliefs stronger.
And it gets even worse when we wind up in a group full of people who agree with us. They call that group polarization.
How would you like to be on the receiving end of group polarization in the form of mob rule? That’s how the government would work under a democracy. No rule of law, no Constitution to protect you, no unalienable rights of individual liberty.
No thanks. Those Founding Fathers were smart guys. Really smart guys. In fact, they were geniuses and true statesmen, not politicians.
I’m going to end this blog with a simple demonstration.
In February of 2009, a group of painfully stupid university students operated under the assumption they lived in a democracy. So they decided to break the law and barricade themselves in the NYU food court with a list of demands as convoluted as they were absurd. The demands ranged from a complete record of University expenditures including teacher and administration salaries to an in depth investigation of all war and genocide profiteers in Palestine.
For anyone unfamiliar with geopolitics, that’s the equivalent of a child holding his breath until a parent is willing to free Tibet.
The students brought cameras to their revolution, probably hoping they would be forcibly removed from the food court by police. Unfortunately, the videographer of this, whom I’ll call The Consensus Guy, does nothing but capture how self-entitled and ridiculous these idiots were.
Here’s democracy in action, folks, and it‘s hilarious: