Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Republics vs. Democracies" (via @davidrand on Twitter)

A very good article, here are a few selections:
Most of the Founders agreed on that point, that “pursuit of happiness” necessarily included the right to property. Such private property, Joseph Warren noted in 1775, is natural and necessary to an individual‘s freedom:

That personal freedom is the natural right of every man, and that property, or an exclusive right to dispose of what he has honestly acquired by his own labor, necessarily arises therefrom, are truths which common sense has placed beyond the reach of contradiction.

(Omission of the term property from the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” can be linked to the omission of an entire paragraph from Jefferson’s original draft, which castigates George III for condoning and encouraging the slave trade. The paragraph, and possibly even the term property from the phrase, were dropped from the final version to oblige the sensibilities of the southern delegates to the Continental Congress, many of whom were slave owners and who regarded slaves as real property. Northern delegates could not countenance the inclusion of slaves as property. Jefferson, though a slave owner, was an advocate of the abolition of slavery. But, this is entirely another issue.)

It is apparent that Jefferson’s phrasing is not broad enough for modern politicians and political commentators to admit. Or perhaps it is so broad it is beyond their cognitive abilities to grasp, just as the perception of a mountain is impossible to the epistemology of an ant. It is unfortunate that the term was omitted, because its retention might have saved the nation much grief, turmoil and bloodshed. The force and sanctity of its presence in the Declaration might have carried over into the Constitution itself, and served as a check on the ambitions and usurpations of several generations of elected altruists, humanitarians, and other property thieves.

Democracy, whether pure or directly participatory (as in ancient Greece or New England), or via national plebiscite, is simply mob rule. Politely defined: majority rule. We have what could be said to be a representative government, but what is the chief function of our representatives, as opposed to their perceived function? Their actual, intended function was to serve as guardians of individual rights. Their perceived function, at least for the last century or so, is to patronize the real or imagined wants of the majority and to deliver them through coercive and confiscatory legislation.

John Adams, as have many others, warned against the temptation of democracy:

[D]emocracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy; such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable [abominable] cruelty of one or a very few.

This is an apt description of the current state of affairs.

Perhaps, in 2010, we shall see the concrete differences described by Williams, Adams, Jefferson and so many others. The Tea Parties of 2009, hopefully, were but a prelude to a determined campaign to recover the republic created by the Founders.

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