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Greatest Threat To Our Liberties

We often hear the claim that our nation is a democracy. That wasn't the vision of the founders. They saw democracy as another form of tyranny. If we've become a democracy, I guarantee you that the founders would be deeply disappointed by our betrayal of their vision. The founders intended, and laid out the ground rules, for our nation to be a republic.

The word democracy appears nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution -- the two most fundamental documents of our nation. Instead of a democracy, the Constitution's Article IV, Section 4, guarantees "to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." Moreover, let's ask ourselves: Does our pledge of allegiance to the flag say to "the democracy for which it stands," or does it say to "the republic for which it stands"? Or do we sing "The Battle Hymn of the Democracy" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"?

So what's the difference between republican and democratic forms of government? John Adams captured the essence of the difference when he said, "You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe." Nothing in our Constitution suggests that government is a grantor of rights. Instead, government is a protector of rights.

In recognition that it's Congress that poses the greatest threat to our liberties, the framers used negative phrases against Congress throughout the Constitution such as: shall not abridge, infringe, deny, disparage, and shall not be violated, nor be denied. In a republican form of government, there is rule of law. All citizens, including government officials, are accountable to the same laws. Government power is limited and decentralized through a system of checks and balances. Government intervenes in civil society to protect its citizens against force and fraud but does not intervene in the cases of peaceable, voluntary exchange.

Contrast the framers' vision of a republic with that of a democracy. In a democracy, the majority rules either directly or through its elected representatives. As in a monarchy, the law is whatever the government determines it to be. Laws do not represent reason. They represent power. The restraint is upon the individual instead of government. Unlike that envisioned under a republican form of government, rights are seen as privileges and permissions that are granted by government and can be rescinded by government.

Here's my question. Do Americans share the republican values laid out by our founders, and is it simply a matter of our being unschooled about the differences between a republic and a democracy? Or is it a matter of preference and we now want the kind of tyranny feared by the founders where Congress can do anything it can muster a majority vote to do? I fear it's the latter.

Everybody's got a right to their habitat -- from the snail darter to the spotted owl to the fairy shrimp. Everyone's habitat is protected -- except the habitat of U.S. citizens. Their property, their homes, their dwellings, their "eco-systems" are up for grabs by any and every government agency and bureaucrat for any and every reason.

There are many issues of great importance in America today. Government spending at all levels -- local, state and federal -- is out of control. The border remains wide open, even while we as a nation claim to be concerned about our national security and the threat of terrorism. There is little effort to deport tens of millions of illegal aliens despite the deteriorating quality of life they mean for U.S. citizens.

America is the only country in the world founded on the principle of self-government. We are not a nation of subjects and rulers. We are supposed to be a nation of self-governing individuals living under a Constitution that restrains the power of government and protects the rights of citizens. It's time for us to start thinking like our forefathers did. It's time for sacrifice. It's time for risks. It's time for courage. It's time to take America back.

Republicans believed they had already taken America back. Only now are many of them awakening to the realization that freedom-loving, moral people have actually lost ground during the years with Republicans in control of the legislative and executive branches of government.

I am an American still very much in love with the founding principles of this great and unique country. I don't think there is a one-word description for that other than the one, perhaps, used by the founders themselves -- "patriot." But there is no need for one-word answers. One-word slogans do not move people. If they did, socialism would not be advancing, because few Americans identify with it. If they did, immorality would not be advancing, because few Americans identify with it.

Ronald Reagan was a wonderful man. He's one of my heroes. He was a blessing to this country and the world because he momentarily slowed down the trend toward tyranny and immorality. But he's dead and gone. There are no more Ronald Reagans on the horizon, as far as I can see. We can learn much from him. But even if another Reagan did come along, we must recognize that there are no political messiahs who can revive freedom, morality and justice in America. At best, they can only help us.

Most of that work needs to be done outside the political arena -- way outside. It needs to be done in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our churches and synagogues and in our cultural institutions. It's great that we learned from Reagan and were inspired by him; now it's time to learn from our adversaries who are inexorably advancing their causes daily -- in election years and non-election years.

How do they do it? They've won the culture. That's the ultimate battleground. It's the Ho Chi Minh Trail to political power. Also, and even more importantly, we need to learn from our Founding Fathers. We need to look to their example. Need I remind you, there was not a "conservative" among them. These men were risk-takers. They were willing to try something that had never been tried before in the history of mankind. They were truly revolutionaries -- not in the subversive way we think of revolutionaries today, but in the best sense of the word, like the prophets of old who were willing to challenge the establishment even if it meant their deaths.

The old paradigms are breaking down. They never had much meaning for the great majority of people anyway. Most people do not give much thought to politics. Those of us who do, and who understand its importance, need more effective ways to reach them, communicate with them and persuade them about right and wrong and the ultimate issues of life.

Does democracy really deserve the praise it receives? According to Webster's Dictionary, democracy is defined as "government by the people; especially: rule of the majority." What's so great about majority rule? Let's look at majority rule, as a decision-making tool, and ask how many of our choices we would like settled by what a majority likes.

Would you want the kind of car that you own to be decided through a democratic process, or would you prefer purchasing any car you please? Ask that same question about decisions such as where you live, what clothes you purchase, what food you eat, what entertainment you enjoy and what wines you drink. I'm sure that if anyone suggested that these choices be subject to a democratic process, you'd deem it tyranny.

I'm not alone in seeing democracy as a variant of tyranny. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, said that in a pure democracy, "there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual." At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph said, " . . . that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy." John Adams said, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." Chief Justice John Marshall observed, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."

Our founders intended for us to have a limited republican form of government where rights precede government and there is rule of law. Citizens, as well as government officials, are accountable to the same laws. Government intervenes in civil society only to protect its citizens against force and fraud but does not intervene in the cases of peaceable, voluntary exchange. By contrast, in a democracy, the majority rules either directly or through its elected representatives. The law is whatever the government deems it to be. Rights may be granted or taken away.

Clearly, we need government, and that means there must be collective decision-making. Alert to the dangers of majority rule, the Constitution's framers inserted several anti-majority rules. In order to amend the Constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses, or two-thirds of state legislatures, to propose an amendment, and requires three-fourths of state legislatures for ratification. Election of the president is not done by a majority popular vote but by the Electoral College.

Part of the reason for having two houses of Congress is that it places an obstacle to majority rule. Fifty-one senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The Constitution gives the president a veto to thwart the power of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override the president's veto.

In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison wrote, "Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." That's another way of saying that one of the primary dangers of majority rule is that it confers an aura of legitimacy and respectability on acts that would otherwise be deemed tyrannical. Liberty and democracy are not synonymous and could actually be opposites.



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