I am well aware that the political dead horse has been beaten to a pulp. I cannot, however, resist taking one more stab at a dangerous trend I see rising on both the left and the right. This trend is largely comprised of pointing out loudly and obnoxiously that the United States isn’t a democracy, in its purest sense. This fact shouldn’t have to be pointed out since it’s quite clear that we are a constitutional republic. And there is a reason why the United States is not a democracy.
James Madison, in “Federalist Paper No. 10,” writes, “Hence it is, that such [pure] democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.”
Democracy in Ancient Greece may have been executed by a pure and simple majority rule, but this “mobocracy” was perceived by the American founders to be equally as dangerous as an unchecked monarchy. When we consider the history of mobs, we can see how easy it is for mobocracy to discard all thoughts of order, justice and equality. The French revolutionaries did so under the banner of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Evil never wears a name tag.
But it’s not as if we are going to be ruled by an actual mob. Democracy today comes about through candidates who offer to mimic the will of their constituency with no thought to their consequences. It’s candidates who want to build a wall, or offer free college to everyone, or trample the bourgeoisie, or re-unify Austria and Germany because we the people eat it up, and there’s absolutely nobody holding the mob or the populist demagogue accountable. It’s the rejection of principles and checks, those nagging little details that keep us from executing our perfect vision of the world, but also keep our opponent from executing his.
I’m not arguing that “the swamp” is a rosy place. I’m saying that it can’t be. Governmental perfection is unattainable for now. I’m saying that if we don’t like the system we have right now, we need to look no further than the history section of the library to see that actual democracy is usually much, much worse. Democracy is wonderful if you’re in the majority and if the majority is correct or morally competent. If you’re ever in the minority, you might suddenly find yourself wishing that principles, checks, red tape and the slow, ineffective march of the government would bumble and plod its way between you and the guillotine.
Source: “The Federalist Papers”