The Government created by our Constitution is not a Democracy – it is a Republic

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The Government created by our Constitution is not a Democracy – it is a Republic

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.

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.