Democracy. Chances are you’ve been brainwashed into thinking it’s the ultimate political system. It is, after all, government “by the people, for the people”, and therefore must surely be the best and fairest system of government? It isn’t, and the reason why was well understood by the founding fathers of the United States:
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”. – Benjamin Franklin
“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” – Thomas Jefferson
As such, the United States was established as a Republic, not a Democracy. The key distinction being that in a Republic, individual or minority rights are protected from the majority, whereas in a Democracy, the majority rules. In a Republic, government power is limited by the rule of law, whereas in a Democracy, government power is unrestrained.
Notably, when Franklin was asked about the type of government chosen for America at the Constitutional Convention, he replied “A Republic, if you can keep it”. What he meant by this was that throughout history, Republics have degenerated into Democracies before devolving further into anarchy and then tyrannical dictatorships.
Take Ancient Rome for example; its evolution from monarchy to republic enabled capitalism to thrive, growing its control to the entire Mediterranean region. But as its power and influence increased, its adherence to the principles of freedom and small government decreased. The Republic devolved into a Democracy – subsidies favoring certain sectors at the expense of others began to emerge, as did welfare and other social programs, along with increased taxes to fund these free-market interventions.
Ultimately, it was unrestrained government power that led to the collapse of the Republic and subsequent reversion to dictatorship rule after a series of civil wars and political conflict.
“Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of a dictatorship.” – Alexander Hamilton
Democracy is therefore a transition state between obedience to the principles of a Republic, and outright anarchy, dictatorship or oligarchical control. Throughout history, this transition has proven to be somewhat inevitable, hence Franklin’s astute caveat that the founding fathers had chosen a Republican system of government “if you can keep it”. They knew very well that a Republic was susceptible to deterioration.
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” – John Adams.
The founding fathers weren’t the only opponents of Democracy. Famed Greek philosopher Socrates was an avid critic, arguing that voting required education, and allowing the general public to choose the rulers of a city, state or nation is irresponsible, and could lead to demagoguery.
Some would say this is where America is today with Donald Trump being viewed as a demagogue by many. But the descent from a pure Republic arguably began almost a century ago when President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a series of reforms to combat the effects of the Great Depression. As part of his “New Deal” package, Roosevelt introduced the Social Security Act, establishing a permanent system of retirement pensions, unemployment insurance and welfare benefits – all funded by payroll taxes.
“We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program”
Sure enough, Roosevelt’s Social Security program has not only stood the test of time, but bloated in the process. This shift from protecting the rights of the people to offering rights to the people, started America’s precipitous decline toward a democracy that the founding fathers so vehemently feared.
Today, the bigger problem is the increasing influence of “lobbyists”. To call a spade a spade, these so-called lobbyists are really just vehicles for bribery and corruption, facilitating the donation of $ millions, often to both sides of the campaign, to influence or maintain policies that enable the companies they represent to extract $ billions from the economy.
Take the banking sector for example; following the 2008 financial crisis, not a single executive was prosecuted despite an abundance damning evidence of financial abuse, or gross negligence at best. On top of that, virtually no serious measures were taken to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. Today we stand at the brink of another financial collapse that will likely dwarf the 2008 version. “Too big to fail” banks and other financial institutions have become vastly bigger than they were when the term was coined, and this time government bail-outs won’t be able to save the day.
The influence of big corporations on America’s economy is so large that it could be argued they’ve already transitioned past democracy to a state of oligarchy disguised by the corporate veil. Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure; just as democracy marked the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic, so too will history show that it marked the end of America’s economic dominance.