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A republic, not a democracy

By Steve Farrell
web posted March 7, 2005

Those who delude themselves into believing our public schools and universities are telling the truth about the foundations of American government, or for that matter, teaching our youth how to think -- ought to read through the stack of emails I regularly receive from educated individuals who passionately defend that which is absolutely false and totally nonsensical.

The latest came from a female New Yorker, responding to my article, "Blessed Tolerance: The 'Virtue' of a Republic in Decline," who worked herself into a lather over my suggestion that a "me first … anything goes" democracy is a shortcut to tyranny, and that a return to "liberty under the law," as per a republic, is what America needs if America expects to remain free.

I noted, summarizing Plato, that the 'democratic man,' overly fixed on his beloved self interest, first becomes tyrannized by his own lusts, and next tyrannizes everyone else in an unending attempt to satisfy his ever growing list of lusts -- which can never be fully satisfied.

The point being, a society dominated by weak and undisciplined, brutish and unprincipled individuals is ripe for tyranny because slavery and tyranny is already their lot.

Welcome to human nature 101. When self-love and self-indulgence are ranked as the greatest of rights, and toleration for every sort of extreme as the highest of virtues, trouble follows. Morality, law, stability take a hit. Turbulence, anarchy, political opportunism come in their wake.

Why is that so hard to understand? This is why the founding father of modern communism, Karl Marx, initiated the battle cry of the Communist Manifesto, "We must win the battle of democracy!" And this is why the Father of the US Constitution, James Madison, opposed democracy, in these words:

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. (1)

"A republic", by contrast, … "opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking." (2)

Get it? Communist Founder Marx wanted democracy, and American Founder Madison did not, for the very same reasons: democracies are unstable, violent, short lived political systems whose chief aim is the overthrow of private property.

But that is not all. Democracies have other problems, as well, especially in their outlook on equality. They seek to "reduce mankind," Madison warned, "[until they are] equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions." (3)

That is, they preach and practice a false equality that, in the end, impoverishes and enslaves mankind economically, intellectually, and morally into one common miserable lot.

This is the exact opposite of the sort of equality the American Founders promoted. St. George Tucker, the author of the 1803, "View of the Constitution of the United States" (the first commentary on the US Constitution), explained what our founders meant by "all men are created equal":

By equality … is to be understood, equality of civil rights and not of condition. Equality of rights necessarily produces inequality of possessions; because, by the laws of nature and of equality, every man has a right to use his faculties in an honest way, and the fruits of his labor, thus acquired, are his own. But some men have more strength than others; some more health; some more industry; and some more skill and ingenuity, than others; and according to these, and other circumstances the products of their labors must be various, and their property must become unequal. The rights of property are sacred, and must be protected; otherwise there would be no exertion of either ingenuity or industry, and consequently nothing but extreme poverty, misery, and brutal ignorance. (4)

Indeed, the American Founders rejected the equal ends approach to equality because such an equality, the equality of a pure democracy, produces precisely what communism has always produced: "nothing but extreme poverty, misery, and brutal ignorance, " even as it undermines the best in men.

The Republic our Founders gave us, by embracing true equality -- meaning equality under the law, and equality of God given rights -- produced the most ingenious, industrious, prosperous, happy, and enlightened people in history.

And so let's not pussy foot around here. What, then, is the real object of a national educational establishment that has rewritten our history books, and imposed curriculum mandates that teach the rising generation that the American Founders gave us a democracy?

And, what, then, is this educational establishment's real object when they use democracy as justification for a "me first, anything goes" agenda, that bans Capitalism and Christianity from their "anything goes" list?

Are we really naïve enough to believe that this fraud was perpetrated by men of pure motives, men and women who love American liberty so much that they feel compelled to lie about her foundations?

My 'educated' reader accused me of writing "an article supporting the end of our democracy." If she had been truly educated she might have said with Jefferson, "In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." (5)

She might have said, "you are right, Steve. We are 'a government of laws, not of men,' (6) that is, a republic, not a democracy -- and since 'the best republics will be virtuous, and have been so' (7) it is incumbent upon all of us to say 'No!' to false definitions of equality, and "No!' to moral extremes that aim to undermine 'liberty under law,' in favor of 'anything goes,' on the way to absolute tyranny."

She might have said something like that, but she didn't; and neither will millions of others similarly educated in this country. And so our work is cut out for us, isn't it?

NewsMax pundit Steve Farrell is associate professor of political economy at George Wythe College, press agent for Defend Marriage (a project of United Families International), and the author of the highly praised, inspirational novel, "Dark Rose" (available at amazon.com). For you West Coast night owls, try and catch Steve on Mark Edwards' "Wake up America!" talk radio show on 50,000-Watt KDWN, 720 AM, 10 p.m. to midnight, Monday Nights; or on the worldwide internet at AmericanVoiceRadio.com (preferred access at WakeUpAmericaFoundation.com. Contact Steve


1. Madison, James. Federalist 10
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Tucker, St. George. View of the Constitution of the United States: With Selected Writings, Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, 1999, pgs. 40-41.
5. Elliot. The Debates in the Several State Conventions On the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Volume 4, p. 543. As quoted from the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, 1799 (authored by Jefferson)
6. Adams, John, Novanglus Papers, no. 7., Adams published articles in 1774 in the Boston, Massachusetts, Gazette using the pseudonym "Novanglus." In this paper he credited James Harrington with expressing the idea this way. Harrington described a republic as "the empire of laws and not of men" in his 1656 work, The Commonwealth of Oceana, p. 35 (1771). The phrase gained wider currency when Adams used it in the Massachusetts Constitution, Bill of Rights, article 30 (1780).
7. Cappon, Lester J. editor. The Adams -- Jefferson Letters, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1959, 1987, p. 167.

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