One of the most common mistruths spoken about the government of the United States is that it is a Democracy. That could not be further from the truth. Not only is it wrong to label our government a democracy, it is dangerous because Progressives for the past century have been steadily transforming our government from a Constitutional Republic into a Democracy.
This transformation, which is being accomplished by disregarding the Constitution, has produced disastrous results. The latest move in this slow speed transformation is the recent attempts to remove the electoral college and replace it with a national popular vote.
The framers of the Constitution took great pains to create a government that was not a democracy because they understood that democracies were nothing more than countries with governments that operated under principles of mob rule where the majority seizes the property of minorities and tramples on their rights.
Here is how James Madison described democracies in Federalist 10.
[A] pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such 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. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
Madison goes on to discuss how creating a Republic will lesson the negative effects of a Democracy. One step he proposed in instituting a Republic is to introduce the concept of representation.
A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking. Let us examine the points in which it varies from pure democracy, and we shall comprehend both the nature of the cure and the efficacy which it must derive from the Union.
The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.
John Adams was also critical of Democracies. Here is how he describes them a letter to John Taylor written in 1814.
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.
Introducing representation into a pure democracy alone does not turn that country into Republic, it turns that country into representative democracy. A representative democracy still suffers from the same defects as a pure democracy, however, the size of the population that can be governed by that type of government can be much larger. Another name for a representative democracy is a parliamentary democracy. A Republican Government is much more complex than a representative democracy.
Parliamentary democracies share common characteristics: laws passed by parliament are the supreme law of the land, property rights and the natural rights of individuals are not protected, the country is a consolidated top down government, the Executive and Judiciary branches are nothing more than offshoots of the parliament.
The framers of the Constitution created a unique new form of government, a Constitutional Republic. Here are its most important characteristics:
In the United Sates our Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In Federalist 78 Alexander Hamilton describes that unique phenomenon,
There is no position which depends on clearer principles than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid
The Supremacy Clause sets this firmly in stone.
Our federal government is divided into three branches, each with distinct duties. The legislative writes the laws, the executive makes sure the laws are carried out, and the Judiciary interprets the laws and makes sure the laws do not violate the Constitution. The Constitution prevents one branch from carrying out the duties of the other branches.
Our Constitution created a system of checks and balances allowing branches to check against usurpations made by others. The presidential veto is one example of this
Only the House of Representatives was originally elected directly by the people. The president is elected through the Electoral College, the Senate was originally selected by the state legislatures, and Supreme Court Justices are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The Electoral College was meant to be undemocratic. I will discuss that in more detail in a future article.
The Constitution did not create a top-down consolidated government where the states are mere administrative districts. The states are meant to be mostly sovereign nations which transferred only a small amount of their government powers to a weak federal government. Here is how James Madison described this relationship in Federalist 45.
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected.
The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security.
The Constitution granted the federal government only a small set of clearly spelled out, or Enumerated powers. They are exactly as described by Madison in the previous quote. Article 1 Section 8 is a list of these enumerated powers, and Article 1 Section 10 is a list of powers denied the States. The federal government has only those powers enumerated; the states have all powers not granted to the federal government and not denied to them. This is stated in the 10th Amendment.
The federal government is not granted any powers that would allow it to interfere with the rights of individuals and was not granted the power to take away the property of individuals, The Bill of Rights is another layer that protects the rights of the individuals. Sadly the 16th Amendment, which gave us the income tax, allows the federal government to seize the property of individuals.
There are other features built into the Constitution that are characteristics of a Republic. Progressives have been removing these features through the doctrine of a living Constitution, causing great harm to the rights of individuals and protection of their property.