Home » A Civics Lesson that Desperately Needs to be Taught in Elementary School Again
The term “liberal” came from the Enlightenment and originally applied to those who believed in and defended the rights of individuals over the power of tyranny. There was no such thing as the rights of collectives or groups. The people, meant each and every individual citizen. Thus, the definitive form of authentic liberal government is the republic, wherein rights of individuals are codified and protected by constitutions that protect those rights form abrogation by a government that is supposed to serve them. A pure democracy is not the tool of individual rights, but the mechanism by which said rights are taken by a majority who will something.
A Pure democracy is a collectivist form of government, in which “the people” are a mass, not of individuals, but of parts of that mass. A pure democracy is nothing more than mob rule, unless it is tempered by a republican substructure, such as a constitution and a form of government with checks and balances to secure the rights of every individual citizen against abrogation of those rights, regardless of the will of any majority. In a pure democracy, if a majority of the people decide to behead someone because he or she is black or red or of some religion other than that approved of by the majority, they can behead that person according to law. In a true republic which guarantees the right of due process and the right to life unless a capital offense has been committed, the rights of individuals are guaranteed. Thus, a majority cannot simply abrogate those individual rights. They cannot behead anyone simply by vote.
In a true republic, a document, such as a constitution, is put in place to guarantee that each citizen’s rights, derived from the fundamentals of life, liberty and property, are unalienable. Democratic processes are used almost exclusively to select representatives who will uphold the constitution and the individual rights it guarantees. A true republican form of government enables people to vote their will, but have it tempered by that central set of rules in their governing constitution. Thus, amendments to a constitution may be put to popular vote (referendum) but must be introduced, thereby approved of, by the representatives elected by the people.
But it would be impracticable to offer unlimited referenda for all laws and the amendments to them. It would be unwieldy and dangerous to do so, for the closer to pure democracy a nation gets, the closer it also gets to prospects for chaos, hence for a dictatorship that can restore order. And because the concepts upon which a true republic is built are easily perverted and misunderstood, a true republic can be vulnerable to ignorance of its citizens and to fraud by its leaders, even though they have been elected by a majority. It may be well remembered that Adolph Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany before declaring himself supreme leader, or Fuhrer. When, after the first Continental Congress met, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government the people had been given, he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Politicians who endlessly advocate what they call “democracy” are trying instead to insure their own power against the very democratic principles they preach. They want power. They want power, and, once they get it, are unlikely to care much about individual rights, because with great power comes great arrogance and the self-delusion of great power. We have safeguards against the encroachments of tyranny, but they must be brought out again for everyone to see and learn.
Benjamin Franklyn was a wise man. What would he think if he were alive today? For almost a century, we in the US have experienced a gradual theft of our individual freedom and rights, all with the excuse of democracy. The erosion has been gradual and subtle, thus it has not always been noticed. Even the term “liberal” has been corrupted and stolen by those who want to impose on us collectivist principles, to replace authentic rights of each and every individual citizen, with the false rights of so-called groups. The value of human life cannot be weighed by the pound. Stalin said that one death was a tragedy, but a million deaths, merely a statistic. In fact, this is exactly what a pure democracy does. It leads inevitably to chaos, then to dictatorship. When the government says this or that is best for the majority, especially this or that is a political expedient, the rights of individual citizens are threatened.
The Englishman, Lord Acton, said, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” He was right, but he did not go deeply enough. The desire for power is the seed of corruption. Anyone asking for power can be easily corrupted by it. Politicians make many promises. During every election cycle the pundits describe how politicians “position” themselves to win elections, but “reposition” themselves after being elected. We are dull to this reality, as though lying were an acceptable norm. But, we must never forget that political power is power over people. The politician who lusts for power is the very one who should be kept away from it. This is impossible in a system which requires elections. The only protection voters have is to be wary of any and every promise made by any and every politician. There is only one promise worthy of any elected official, to uphold and defend the rights of each and every citizen of our country or community and to protect those rights from the encroachments of government. This is a difficult promise for a politician to make and keep, but only that promise and the will to keep it, qualifies anyone for elected office in our free republic, and we must deeply distrust anyone who promises its fundamental transformation.
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