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When Benjamin Franklin exited the Constitutional Convention, he was asked by a woman: His immediate response was: Yet most Americans today have been persuaded that our nation's governmental system is a democracy and not a republic. The difference between these two is essential in understanding Americanism and the American system. Before we discuss political systems however, it's helpful to address the confusion that's been spread about the political spectrum. Many have been led to believe that the political spectrum places groups such as communists on the far left fascists or dictators on the far right, and political moderates or centrists in the middle. However, a more accurate political spectrum will show government having zero power on the far right, to having 100% power on the far left. At the extreme right, there is no government. The extreme left features total government under such labels as communism, socialism, Nazism, fascism, princes, potentates, dictators, kings... any form of total government. Those who claim that Nazis and fascists are right wing never define their terms. This amounts to spreading confusion. Toward the middle of the political spectrum can be found the type of government limited to its proper role of protecting the rights of the people. That's where the constitution of the United States is. Those who advocate such a form of government are really constitutional moderates. So let's analyze the basic forms of government. They are: monarchy or dictatorship - rule by one, Oligarchy - rule by a few. Democracy- rule by a majority. Republic- rule by law, and anarchy, which is rule by no one. In discussing these five, we'll see that they can be narrowed down to even fewer. Looking first at monarchy or dictatorship, this form of government doesn't really exist in the practical sense. It's always a group that puts one of its members up front. A king has his council of nobles or earls. And every dictator has his bureaucrats or commissars, the men behind the scenes. This isn't rule by one, even though one person may be the visible leader. It's rule by a group. So let's eliminate monarchy, dictatorship because it never truly exists. Oligarchy, which is rule by a group, is the most common form of government in all history. And it is the most common form of government today. Most of the nations of the world are ruled by a powerful few. And therefore oligarchy remains. At the other end we find anarchy, which means "without government." Some people have looked over history and found that many of its worst crimes were committed by governments. So they decided that having no government might be a good idea. But this is a mistake. Because as the ancient Greeks stated, without law, there can be no freedom. Our founding fathers agreed, and held that some amount of government is a necessary force in any civilized orderly society. In a state of anarchy however, everyone has to guard life, liberty and property, and the lives of family members. Everyone must be armed, and movement is severely restricted because one's property has to be protected at all times. Civilized people have always hired someone to do the guarding. A Sheriff, a police force, or some branch of government. Once law enforcement was in place, the people were freer. They could leave their property. Work in the fields and so on. In short, the proper amount of government makes everyone freer. There are some who advocate anarchy however not because they want no government but because they don't like what they have. They use anarchy as a tool for revolutionary change. The condition of anarchy is very much like a vacuum where someting rushes in to fill it. These calculating anarchists work to break down the existing government, with rioting, looting, killing and terrorism. Tragically the people living in such chaos often go to those best able to put an end to it and beg them to take over and restore order. And who is best able to put an end to the chaos? The very people who started it. The anarchists who created the problem then create a government run by them, an oligarchy, where they have total power. This is exactly what happened in Russia that led to Lenin taking total power, and in Germany where Hitler's brownshirts created the chaos that brought him to power. But anarchy isn't a stable form of government. It's a quick transition from something that exists to something desired by the power-hungry. It's a temporary condition. And because it isn't permanant, we eliminate it as well. The word democracy comes from two Greek words, "Demos," meaning "people" and "Kratein," meaning "to rule." Democracy therefore means "the rule of the people." Majority rule. This of course sounds good, but suppose the majority decides to take away one's home or business or children! Obviously there has to be a limit. The flaw in democracy is that the majority isn't restrained. If more than half the people can be persuaded to want something, in a democracy, they rule. What about republic? Well, that comes from the Latin "res," meaning "thing," and "publica," meaning public. It means "the public thing," - the law! A true republic is one where the government is limited by law, leaving the people alone. America's founders had a clean slate to write on. They could have set up an oligarchy, In fact, there were some who wanted George Washington to be their king. But the founding fathers knew history, and they chose to give us the rule of law in a republic, not the rule of majority in a democracy. Why? Let's demonstrate the difference in the setting of the old west. Consider a lynch mob in a democracy. 35 horseback riders chase one lone gunman. They catch him. And they vote 35 to 1 to hang him. Democracy has triumphed and there's one less gunman to contend with. Now consider the same scenario in a republic. The 35 horseback riders catch the gunman and vote 35 to 1 to hang him. But the sheriff arrives, and he says, "You can't kill him. He's got his right to a fair trial." So they take the gunman back to town. A jury of his peers is selected, and they hear the evidence and the defense. And they decide if he shall hang. Does the jury even decide by majority rule? No, it has to be unanimous or he goes free. The rights of the gunman aren't subject to majority rule, but to the law. This is the essence of a republic. Many Americans would be surprised to learn that the word "democracy" does not appear in the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. Nor does it appear in any of the constitutions of the fifty states. The founders did everything they could to keep us from having a democracy. Jame Madison, rightly known as the father of the Constitution, wrote in essay #10 of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton agreed, and he stated: Samuel Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, stated: The founders had good reason to look upon democracy with contempt, because they knew that the democracies in the early Greek city states produced some of the wildest excesses of government imaginable. In every case, they ended up with mob rule, then anarchy, and finally tyranny under an oligarchy. During that period in Greece, there was a man named Solon, who urged creation of a fixed body of law, not subject to majority whims. But where the Greeks never adopted Solon's wise counsel, the Romans did. Based on what they know of Solon's laws, they created the Twelve Tables of the Roman Law and in fact, built a republic that limited government power and left the people alone. Since government was limited, the people were free to produce, with the understanding that they could keep the fruits of their labor. In time, Rome became wealthy and the envy of the world. In the midst of plenty, however, the people of Rome forgot what freedom entailed. They forgot that: When government power grows, people's freedom recedes. Once the Romans dropped their guard, power-seeking politicians began to exceed the powers granted them in the Roman constitution. Some learned that they could elect politicians who would use government power to take property from some, and give it to others. Agriculture subsidies were introduced, followed by housing and welfare programs. Inevitably taxes rose, and controls over the private sector were imposed. Soon, a number of Rome's producers could no longer make ends meet, and they went on the dole. Productivity declined, shortages developed, and mobs began roaming the streets, demanding bread and circuses from the government. Many were induced to trade freedom for security. Eventually the whole system came crashing down. They went from a republic to a democracy and ended up with an oligarchy under a progression of the caesers. Thus, democracy itself is not a stable form of government. Instead, it is the gradual transition from limited government to the unlimited rule of an oligarchy. Knowing this, we as Americans are ultimately left with only two choices. We can keep our republic, as Franklin put it, or we will inevitably end up with an oligarchy, a tyranny of the elite.
Duration: 10 minutes and 35 seconds
Country: United States
Posted by: marcopolo on Aug 24, 2009
A short history of the American republic as compared to other historical forms of government.
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