Do we live in the world’s greatest democracy? Or do we live in the world’s greatest republic? Think about it. Then recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Go ahead; we’ll wait.
There’s more: Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the word ”democracy,” or anything about democratic government. That’s because the Founders and the Framers had done their research, and learned that, down through history, every democracy had the endemic and fatal flaw of being, by definition, a tyranny – a tyranny of the majority. (By the way, socialism isn’t even that; it’s the tyranny of the select very few at the top.) A republic, on the other hand, retains to the people, i.e., its citizens, the ultimate power – including that of reminding the holders of the powers delegated to them that they do so only with our consent and approval. As the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” And further, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
These Declaration statements are not “feel good” sentiments, but practical, hard-headed reminders of how important – and difficult – self-governance is. The Founders, and the Framers after them, fully understood the challenge they were undertaking (and giving us), that only a properly functioning representative republic could achieve, and would require a citizenry able to live up to both the challenge and the opportunity. And, for the most part, America responded – until the advent of Woodrow Wilson’s “Progressive” Movement. In fact, as early as 1887, he self-identified as preferring socialism over our until-then dominant principle of self-governance: “Roundly described, socialism is a proposition that every community, by means of whatever forms of organization may be most effective for the purpose, see to it for itself that each one of its members finds the employment for which he is best suited and is rewarded according to his diligence and merit, all proper surroundings of moral influence being secured to him by the public authority. ‘State socialism’ is willing to act through state authority as it is at present organized. It proposes that all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights be put out of view, and that the State consider itself bound to stop only at what is unwise or futile in its universal superintendence alike of individual and of public interests. The thesis of the state socialist is, that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will; that omnipotence of legislation is the first postulate of all just political theory.” (Above quote courtesy the Constitution, A Reader, published by Hillsdale College. Also, to Wilson, “state” meant not Pennsylvania or
Montana, but the country.)
In short, Wilson’s view of socialism was that it supersedes both the Declaration and the Constitution, that the State becomes supreme, and that individual rights no longer exist – except, of course, for those who run the State. Wilson knew this would be a tough sell, but he also knew the progress John Dewey, also a self-professed Socialist, was making in the field of education, by shaping the minds and thinking of current students who would grow up favoring Socialist philosophy and orthodoxy, and thus become its followers and practitioners. We know today how successful Dewey was in his efforts, and thus how/why so many of today’s voters (almost half!) view Socialism more favorably than they do Capitalism. But, then, what can we expect when our children are subjected almost non-stop by curricula and instructors steeped in pro-Socialist and anti-Capitalist, even anti-American, history books and sentiments?
We forget – or ignore – at our own peril that Adolph Hitler became Germany’s Chancellor by taking over that country’s National Socialist Party, then proceeded to disarm its citizens, then murder millions who might stand in the way of his goal of world conquest. Or that Joseph Stalin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics via his particular Reign of Terror, wiping out untold millions of his own citizens by starvation or imprisonment. Or Mao Zedong, who bypassed the niceties of socialism and went directly to becoming chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, murdering more millions of his citizens. Among these three, they accounted for over 100 million deaths in the 20th Century, untold suffering, and deprivation of the most basic of human rights of millions more. All in the name of Socialism and its ever-slightly more barbarous sister, Communism.
A simple discussion of true history can make a real difference – even to learning to trust the Founders and Framers to have known what they were doing and were talking about, and that their work can help us avoid the fate of so many of Socialism’s victims through the years. We’ll have more in future weeks, but in the meantime: Thank you, Founders and Framers.
I welcome comments and suggestions; if you have a specific question or area of the Constitution you’d like addressed, please send your idea to me.