Note: A few years back I published this article describing the difference between a “Republic”, which the United States was founded as, and a “Democracy”, which today it is most referred to as. With another 4th of July approaching I am taking this opportunity to release it again, as it is important that we never let the distinction between these two terms and political philosophies blur…Please read on…MA

Another 4th of July will soon be upon us. As it is our national holiday, celebrating the birth of our nation, I think it is an appropriate time to make a few comments on the state of our Republic, so here we go:

You don’t hear the United States mentioned much as a “Republic” anymore. Instead the favored term today, and that spoken of by most politicians as the ideal political philosophy, is “Democracy”. President Obama refers to it frequently in his speeches as did Presidents Bush and Clinton before him. Even Republican Senator John McCain, not too long ago when he was running for President, called for something entitled the “League of Democratic Nations”. 

You must realize, however, that this country was not founded as a “Democracy”. When you said the “Pledge of Allegiance” as a kid you didn’t put your hand over your heart and say, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the ‘Democracy’ for which it stands…” did you? No…if you said the “Pledge of Allegiance” you used the word “Republic”, and there is a vast difference between these two types of government.

When you go back in history and discover what the Founders had in mind, you find that they disdained “Democracy” as a form of government. Many of these men were classically educated and were familiar with the City States of ancient Greece and their efforts at and the consequences of their use of “Democracy” as a form of government. The Founders’ comments reflect this.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers of the Constitution and a chief author of the Federalist Papers , as well as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, said the following:

“We are a Republican government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or the extremes of Democracy.”

Adding to this was Boston patriot and Declaration of Independence signer Samuel Adams, who said:

“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”

James Madison, who, along with Hamilton, helped to write the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, added:

“ ‘Democracy’ is the most vile form of government…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.”

And leave it to Benjamin Franklin to come up with the essence of it in describing Democracy, which he summed up this way:

“ ‘Democracy’ is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.”

Which brings us to the heart of the matter, and the difference between “Republic” and “Democracy”. Not to be too dramatic about it, but in the Republic envisioned by our Founders, the two wolves approaching the sheep in Franklin’s quote above would have found themselves staring down the barrel of a gun. They would think twice about violating the rights of the sheep.

Benjamin Franklin

You get the point here? In the example above, the right of the sheep to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. (As an aside, I firmly believe that when the Founders stated in the 2nd amendment that, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”, they were most worried about their own government doing the infringing, and so ensured that the people would have recourse to this by ensuring they had guns.)

The central difference between a Republic and a Democracy is that in a Republic the basic law, agreements and guarantees of rights as expressed in those founding documents are not up to a vote. Even if you are in the extreme minority, one black or one red person in a sea of white; or one white person in Harlem or Watts, these rights cannot be voted away from you. These rights are yours by birth and no one can take them from you, even if a vote of 99 to 1 says it can.

In fact, the purpose of the government, as stated in the Declaration of Independence and re-stated in our own State of Washington constitution, affirms this. As written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life , liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.”   

I wonder how many of our Government officials really know that? How many of them on survey, if asked “What is the purpose of government?”, would answer with what Thomas Jefferson stated in the Declaration?

Based on the evidence we see about us and what we see happening to our country, not many would.

Dwight Eisenhower

We citizens of the United States today find ourselves in a precarious situation. Our freedoms are on the precipice and we need to wake up and realize it. Some of them are already gone. The United States government has gone so far off of its original purpose that it spends untold millions today spying on its own citizens before they have committed any wrong, and then justifies it as “national security”. Since World War II we have witnessed the rise of the “National Security State” in our nation and with it the attendant loss and threatened loss of our precious heritage of freedom. It is not for nothing that former President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about these exact dangers in his farewell address to the nation in January of 1961. He had seen that rise of the National Security apparatus during his administration and recognized it as incompatible with our nation’s traditions and principles of freedom.

This may not be a pleasant subject to confront as our nation approaches its 239th birthday; but confront it we must, or before too many more Fourths of July go by our once guaranteed freedoms and rights will be but a distant memory in some revisionist history book.

Let’s not let that happen.

In the end…it’s up to you and me.

Copyright © 2015

By Mark Arnold

All Rights Reserved



The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers (originally called ‘the Federalist’) are a series of 85 essays authored chiefly by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison for the purpose of explaining to people the proposed U.S. Constitution in an effort to get the States to ratify it. They were written between October, 1787 and August, 1788

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4 Responses to “Democracy”: The Dubious Ideal–a 4th of July Message– by Mark Arnold

  1. Steve says:

    Very well stated, and very important reality to be confronted and acted upon.

  2. Jonathan Ritson says:

    When it comes right down to it, our greatest enemy is fear. Sometimes defined as false evidence appearing real. Most of our fears are around little shells of truths stuffed with a lie that is difficult to reveal unless you pull away the shell and look. It is during these times of fear that many are convinced we should give up freedom for security. This is a deep seated lie in and of itself because the only way you can have absolute security provided by someone else, is a police state with a cop on every corner, which was never their purpose. Real security comes from the individuals of a group respecting the norms of the group and keeping his own ethics in on that matter. When another or a group or government breaks that code, it is up to the individuals to have the courage to defend the innocent even at the risk of life and injury to self. “Courage. ” It is not the absence of, but the mastery of fear that leads to great and noble deads. (Mark Twain I believe) COURAGE!!! It was the common characteristic among a variety of personalities of our Founding Fathers! Jonathan Ritson M.D.

    • Mark Arnold says:

      Thanks Jonathon! You make great points. Great definition of “courage”. And yes, you are now a blogger! L Mark

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