Comment by Jim Campbell
The reader must never forget that Germany, before Hitler was a democracy. The people democratically elected Adolf Hitler. Once elected he turned Germany into a National Socialist State, he then destroyed Democracy replacing it with the Nazi State. Thus,
“The Fuher became the supreme judge of the nation rendering Germany’s Constitution irrelevant . The rest is of course history.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, I’m J.C. and I approve this message.
By Jenna Ashley Robinson
The Grass Roots Institute of Hawaii
In a 1947 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill declared, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” So why is the American public so enamored of democracy? Why are we so eager to accept that democratically chosen ends justify myriad rights abuses? Why do we admire something that Churchill recognized as simply the lesser of many evils?
A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got?”With no hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Not a democracy, not a democratic republic. But “a republic, if you can keep
The founders understood that democracy is dangerous: perhaps the biggest threat to individual liberty besides government itself. Benjamin Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for lunch.”
The framers of our Constitution understood that the greatest threat to individual liberty comes at the hands of government. Or at the hands of majorities empowered, by government sanction, to abuse the rights of their fellow-man.
Democracy, which literally means “rule by the people,” is often used to refer to a representative, liberal government. However, it is not necessary that democracies are liberal, and in some cases illiberal democracies may exist. There is nothing unique about democracy that guarantees a respect for individual freedom and private property. Rule by “the people” really means rule by the majority; that majority can choose the direction in which it wants to take a country. In an illiberal democracy, voters can choose to live under restrictive religious laws or in powerful welfare states. In fact, most European democracies have extensive redistributive programs.
Of course, traditionalists, Whigs, and careful readers of the Constitution are quick to point out that the United States is not a democracy, but a republic. As such, Americans are governed by (a very loosely defined) popular consent with popular representation and control. Several definitions also stress the rule of law as one of the characteristics of a republic. However, these distinctions alone cannot shield individuals from the tide of majority rule, nor does our republican form of government guarantee that individual rights will not be usurped for the public “good.” The existence of the rule of law might simply ensure that there is a well-documented process by which rights are trampled.
Often in our republic, presidents are elected with less than half of the popular vote. Members of third parties seldom have candidates on the ballot. Individuals whose candidates lose primary races may end up with representatives who are their third or fourth choice. Moreover, politicians, once in office, rarely deliver on promises to constituents. Representation, designed to cool public passions and insulate the country from the ills of direct democracy, simply slows the tide.
Against the flood of “good” ideas, new laws, and invasive programs that endanger our liberty, a more solid barrier is needed.
To his characterization of democracy, Benjamin Franklin added, “Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” The good news is that the American people are armed against the worst ideas of democratically elected leaders by our written Constitution. As such, our freedoms of speech, press, and religion are somewhat insulated from the whims of the majority. Our rights to bear arms and property can’t be stripped from us by a zealous Congress. America’s Bill of Rights protects freedom far better than even a perfect democracy ever could.
Perhaps instead of spreading democracy around the world, American citizens should try to share the ideas of personal liberty and individual rights, formally protected by written a constitution. With individual freedom as the bedrock, democracy will be sure to follow.
Winston Churchill had it only half right. Yes, democracy is the worst system except for all the others, but it doesn’t matter nearly so much as long as individual rights are protected.
Jenna Ashley Robinson is the outreach coordinator for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.