During the great twilight struggles of modern times — against the various forms of totalitarian Socialism in the 20th century, and against totalitarian Islam in the 21st — much has been made of democracy. Installing democratic governance in place of existing despotisms is seen as an unalloyed boon for the West, and beneficial to our national security.
But what is this “democracy” that everyone talks about? We all have a general idea about it: the ballot box, the purple fingers, a legislature composed of the people’s elected representatives, and so on. But, strictly speaking, democracy is just one form of representative government, and possibly the worst. Other, sturdier forms include the constitutional republic and the constitutional monarchy, both of which have long and distinguished pedigrees.
Once upon a time, the United States was a constitutional republic, and not a democracy. The Founding Fathers wisely considered pure democracy to be a danger to the commonweal.
But we have long since forgotten their prudence, and the current general understanding of the American political system is that it is a democracy in which the majority rules. Whatever 51% of the electorate wants at any given moment, that’s what we must have.
This definition is so widespread and entrenched that most people don’t even remember the original political structures that made the Republic work. The Constitution is seen as a quaint and annoying impediment, something that has to be gotten around in order to implement the will of the people.
Nothing better illustrates current trends than the ongoing arguments about Barack Hussein Obama’s missing birth certificate. On December 8th, in an article an article entitled “Obama Derangement Syndrome”, David Horowitz had this to say about the birth certificate controversy:
The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)
What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots? [emphasis added]
Mr. Horowitz is a former man of the Left, and he has not entirely abandoned the demotic enthusiasm of his former political stance. In this view, the Constitution of the United States is a “contested technicality”, and he looks askance at the idea that it can “trump” the expressed will of the people.
He’s got a lot of company. Most people instinctively disdain any constitutional provisions that run counter to popular opinion. But they overlook an unpleasant and dangerous truth: unconstrained democracy leads inevitably to tyranny.
There are no exceptions. If democracy is not hedged around with safeguards to check the venal and capricious expressions of the popular will, then tyranny will eventually be voted into existence.
The Framers understood this fact all too well. But two hundred years of opportunistic tinkering have eroded all the checks and balances, leaving us with a naked and unprotected version of democracy which is all too easily manipulated and corrupted by those who already hold positions of power. The universal franchise, the advent of various forms of socialist ideology, the deterioration of civic education, and the emergence of modern mass media have all contributed to the decline of our constitutional safeguards. Barack Hussein Obama just happens to be the lucky guy who stands to gain the most by seizing the historical moment.
Conservative Swede and I have been discussing this and similar topics in a series of emails. A portion of our dialogue is reproduced below:
|CS:||This is a made up story, that is, a new improved — and from here on valid — national myth about how democracy trumps the Constitution, so if the electors vote for Obama (while knowing it’s so!) that trumps the breach of the Constitution.
|But despite my ability to see through things and see things coming, I have to say that when I read it again I find myself still too naïve. I’ve been assuming that they would use more sophistication in their deception, making up things that sounded better theoretically. But Horowitz and the liberals don’t care about that. They make up for it with their bullying attitude, which works just fine.
|So I was right in how democracy would trump the Constitution, but I forgot that this implies a change of demeanor. Democracy without a constitution is exactly mob rule. And this is precisely what we see coming from Horowitz and the liberals. Democracy has eventually defeated the Constitution — welcome to mob rule!
|BB:||The Constitution has not been operative for quite a while. Federal income tax withholding was unconstitutional. Kelo was unconstitutional. Campaign finance “reform” was unconstitutional. The recent bailout was unconstitutional.
|The advantage of the birth certificate issue is that it may make the demise of the Constitution more obvious and more publicly known. What has been tacit will become open. We will publicly enter a post-constitutional era. I have no idea what will happen after that, but at least the pretense will be over.|
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|CS:||The greatest trick of the devil is in making us speak in terms of democracy as the thing we strive for: how we are going to stick to democratic values, fight for our democratic principles, strive for more democracy, etc. You also hear reasonable people using just this language. When it’s in fact exactly democracy and democracy-talk that torpedoes the good, civilized and balanced republican government systems that are typical of (a very long and thriving) European political tradition, of which there is not much left (and people are no longer even able to formulate these ideas).
|With this as with so many other things, people have not learned, have not internalized, that it is exactly what they are taught to strive for that throws us into the hellish abyss. It is exactly our concept of morality, our ideals and how we formulate them that causes this civilizational suicide. Until this is reversed, there’s no way to truly save us.
|No, our civilization has not been hijacked by Leftists, Cultural Marxists, the Frankfurt School, etc. The problem is in our fundamental concept of morality, and this generates and regenerates all the problems, and consistently turns society more and more towards the left. Surely it’s because of this that leftists are having a field day, but that’s just an epi-phenomenon.
|BB:||Yes, you are exactly right. “Pure democracy” has triumphed. The two wolves have voted on what they will have for dinner. Our country is screwed.
|CS:||There are very few of us who see this problem with democracy. Even fewer who see the overall problem with our very concept of morality. And even those among us who understand easily slip back into democracy-talk and goodness-talk. It’s a very long walk to find our way back to pre-Enlightenment ideas (which also have to be adapted to the Industrial Age). Even I find it hard to formulate the political ideals of, let’s just call it, “The Republic”. It’s just too easy to slip back into democracy-talk.
|Democracy-talk is revolutionary and emotional and sounds so much better when you want to rally people into action. The principle of The Republic is more for the consumption for philosophers.
|And it’s even harder to go against our deeply ingrained concepts of good and evil. It’s our most fundamental social grammar. The most basic data structures of our thinking.
|Brutal and oppressive tyranny is hidden under our modern superstructure of democratic ideals. Never have people lived under such a brutal and dishonest tyranny with such a complete lack of solidarity among them. But of course, never have the guiding ideological illusions been so marvelously wonderful; people have been turned into junkies. This is our heroin.
|BB:||Yes, this is like Brave New World, not 1984. We have our “soma”. This is a smiley-face tyranny. But Frank Vanhecke’s case, for example, demonstrates that it really is tyranny. For those who step outside the acceptable range of opinion, the smiley-face becomes a frowney-face in jackboots.
|What we need, for the purposes of discussion, is an alternative to the word “democracy”. Victor Davis Hanson (who is a fan of the Greeks, and devoted to the ideal of the Republic) refers to “representative government”, which is a fairly good short term for what we mean.
|Voting is only useful in limited-sized groups that are relatively homogeneous in composition. The original American structures were built that way — “democracy” was entirely local. The larger institutions were built up from representatives of the local-level elected bodies, and the Senate was deliberately devised to check democracy. Each of the three branches of government was designed to prevent any possible tyranny in the other two.
|But all of those safeguards have been thrown away now, of course.
|There are many ways that a representative government can be built that truly reflects the need and will of the people. Tyranny is not the only alternative to democracy; there are other possible forms. And if they are to work, they all must incorporate checks on the expression of democracy.
|To put it bluntly, I consider pure democracy to be a bane on the body politic.
|Democracy is what brings us Obama, national health care, the Education Department, and federal bailouts of private companies. Democracy inevitably results in the people voting themselves the contents of the public treasury.
|Democracy allows the Constitution to be overthrown and replaced with the tyranny of the majority.
|I prefer the ideal of representative government, which includes our (dying) constitutional republic, constitutional monarchy, and other viable forms of self-government which support and maintain a set of competing power blocs that prevent tyranny from arising.
|Pure democracy could only work in a small homogeneous state, like (say) Andorra.
|Left unchecked, democracy will always vote tyranny into being.|
So here we are, at the apotheosis of Western Civilization, in the full flowering of democracy. Two wolves, one sheep, voting about what to have for dinner.
So who are the wolves, and who are the sheep?
In Europe, Wolf #1 comprises the Socialist political parties of various hues along with the full bureaucratic apparatus of the state, and Wolf #2 includes the Muslim immigrants who help keep them in power. Together these two groups can outvote the ordinary indigenous European sheep every time.
In the United States, one wolf is represented by the combination of welfare clients and non-WASP ethnic groups which reliably vote to keep the liberal-socialist regime in power. The other wolf is made up of federal, state, and local government employees, plus the unions and other remoras on the federal shark. Ordinary hardworking taxpaying sheep are no match for them at the ballot box.
The competing power structures — the various estates under the European monarchical systems, or the three branches of government and the sovereign states of the USA — no longer exist. There is only the unchecked and ever-growing power of the central government, voted into office election after election. This enormous bureaucratic system battens off massive taxation that is only possible under a productive and technologically advanced economy. As long as it can dole out the “free” benefits to complacent voters, the system continues to function.
But those days are almost over. The welfare state Ponzi scheme relies on an ever-growing population to provide new rubes for the old game, and all that is about to come to an end. The existing system will fail; it cannot avoid failure.
Democracy in America — and the rest of the West — is damaged beyond repair. It has reached its inevitable final form in the modern welfare state and is rapidly approaching endgame. There is no longer a large cohort of well-educated, virtuous, and industrious citizens who could come together and re-engineer the system. The existing structure cannot be supported indefinitely, and will have to collapse before any new, more resilient forms of representative government can emerge.
The collapse of the existing system is inevitable. The only questions are whether the collapse will occur suddenly or in slow motion, and whether a period of ignorance, brutality, and repression will intervene before liberty can be recovered.
The pattern is now clear, and future historians will be able to chart the natural flow of cause-and-effect in democracy’s trajectory of self-destruction.
When it is stripped of all republican, monarchical, or other time-tested structures that restrain the tyranny of the majority, the democratic process is eventually manipulated by the privileged classes to direct ever more power into their own hands. Bread and circuses are delivered to the voters to keep them quiescent, and the voters in return deliver their votes to one or another members of the oligarchy who keep the machine running smoothly for their own benefit.
As the system becomes more and more brittle, repression becomes more overt. All real dissent is squashed, gently if possible, but brutally if required. Just ask Frank Vanhecke.
We are left with a shell and a caricature of the original functions of self-government. People can vote for anyone on the ballot they want to, but they can’t change the system that exploits their vote.
You can choose Coke, or you can choose Pepsi. But you can’t choose not to drink soft drinks.