I’ve been having a feud with one of my readers who, when I posted an image that read, “Democracy is the means by which those who adore authority and crave the security of servitude can use their superior numbers to enslave those who wish to be free,” accused me of bashing the fundamental system of governance upon which America was founded.
And in a July 4 op-ed at the New York Times, Paul Krugman waxes philosophical and asks if we’re still the same country we were in 1776, to which he answers himself Yes, because, “above all, we are still…a nation that believes in democracy.”
So, to my aforementioned argumentative reader, let me offer you these words of comfort: even award-winning economists such as Mr. Krugman can be ignorant. Now you can write home to your parents (or shout upstairs from the basement) that you have something in common with a Nobel-prize-winning economist. Great minds think alike, but so do slow ones.
America is not “still” a democracy, because America never was a democracy; at least not officially. There were democratic practices in which even our Founders engaged, practices that were deemed acceptable because a majority of the populace approved of them. Slavery, for example, was an act of democracy, and one of its purest forms. The majority ruled a disgraceful practice to be acceptable at the expense of the minority. This is democracy.
And here are what some of our Founders had to say on the matter:
Alexander Hamilton: “We are a Republic. Real Liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”
Thomas Jefferson: “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent.”
Also Jefferson: “The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”
Fisher Ames: “All such men are, or ought to be, agreed, that simple governments are despotisms; and of all despotisms, a democracy, though the least durable, is the most violent.”
George Washington: “Republicanism is not the phantom of a deluded imagination. On the contrary, laws, under no form of government, are better supported, liberty and property better secured, or happiness more effectually dispensed to mankind.”
Then there’s that whole Constitution thing, which states in Article 4, Section 4, “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union, a republican form of government…” (emphasis mine, obviously).
I’m sure every president over the last century has referred to America as a democracy, and I know public schools teach today’s malleable minds that we are a democracy. But take it from the Founders, take it from the Constitution: we are a republic; republicanism is and always was our system.