A Republic – 7.0 Story of Democracy
“All previous democracies have committed suicide.” John Adams
It is a long history if you look at all the democracies and republics there have been. It is a short one if you look at how long they have lasted. That’s the rub. That’s what Franklin was talking about. That’s what Adams talked about. That’s what Jefferson talked about. Washington put it positively but said the same thing. It is up to YOU, the American people, to keep this thing. Not your representatives. Not your uncle or your aunt. Not we the people, that nice group next door. It’s YOU. You’re IT!!!
The whole king thing started maybe in Egypt when an elected president or king or whatever he or she was called declared themselves Pharaoh and later decided their kids were better than everyone else’s and so this family should rule forever. It went downhill from there.
The fact is that no government is good government. Remember Madison, “If men were angels no government would be necessary”? Unfortunately, none of us are. Well maybe a few but only now and then. And as I will tell you a later even if you elect one of these angels, he or she is likely to get the “Big Head” once they get there. Don’t kid yourself. If this democracy is to last, it is up to YOU to make it work. It is up to YOU to do your job. The Founders gave you the least worst government. But it is nowhere near perfect. You have to make it work. And since you are the boss it is up to you to hire the help, guide them, give them goals and suggest solutions to them, and fire them when they don’t do their job.
A short note here so I don’t get in trouble with all the teachers out there. This country is not a democracy, technically. It is a democratic republic. A democracy is where everyone votes on everything. That’s the one Aristotle didn’t like. It allows emotion to rule and ends up in chaos. The closest thing to it is in some small towns which are not much more than large tribes knitted together by location rather than blood. They are the closest thing you and I know to real democracy. A democratic republic is where you elect representatives to vote for you. Our country is a democratic republic. A girl I was talking to once asked me what a republic is. She was a senior in high school taking advanced placement Civics. So don’t get holier than thou all you teachers out there. Get to work. You obviously have a big job ahead of you.
Democracy has been tried many times in history. Greece, Rome, all over Europe, a short stint even in China. There were even some American Indian republics. None of them lasted. The average has been about 200 years. Let’s see. How old is the USA now? 230+? Maybe you & I ought to think about that.
The problem was always in some way, the people. You can’t have democracy without the people. I say again, you can’t have a nation of, by, and for the people without the people. They are the key. They are the one’s who benefit. A small rich group would be happy with a kingdom. After all aren’t the few supposed to boss the many? (Who the heck thought that one up?) The problem is that is what usually happens. Then, after much grief, the people revolt and form a democracy. Then about 200 years or so later they fall asleep at the switch and let it die.
It takes work. It takes effort – continued effort – not just a protest or two now and then. If You the PEOPLE don’t do your job, guess what? Someone else will do it for you. Then they become the rulers and you go back to slavery – or whatever it will be called the next time. That’s history people. That is the long and the short of it. If you want freedom you have to work at it. There is always some ambitious group of people out there ready to job you. You may know of some right now, right there, where you live. You are right. It is human nature. If you let them, they will take over. And if it isn’t these people now it will be others later. You have to keep on working. Democracy is never “over”.
That’s the problem. People think, “well after 200 years the USA has seen it all and the country is still here, so it will get through this too”. That’s what the Romans thought too. They were wrong. They lost what was the world’s greatest republic at that time. The Ceasar types said, “I will fix things for you”. Just give me all the power and I will fix things and then give it back. The Roman Senate did that. They gave away the Roman people’s power that they had been trusted with. Do you think they asked the people if that was OK? Later the big head took over and it was “ha ha, the jokes on you”, and an empire was born. It can and will happen again if you don’t do your job. Be aware of what your representatives are doing when there is not a crisis as well. Madison said that the greater danger was from slow little steps allowing more and more government control sold to the people by well meaning people in the name of safety and security.
Don’t think WE will do it. If YOU don’t do it, it won’t get done. If YOU can all get that idea, you & I will be safe. If YOU don’t, the country, as you know it, will be gone in a hundred years or so, maybe sooner. That’s the way it works. And it’s sneaky. Maybe there will be crisis where the Congress will give a President some extra powers. Then after the crisis he or she doesn’t give it back. Then later people elect another President who uses it against us. That’s how it happened before. It usually sneaks up on you.
Then when you see it, it is too late. Because once the power is gone from you it is gone. There are no second chances in this game. Remember, those who have power will use it to keep it. You have the power right now in this country. You need to use it to keep it. I know you & I give it to others to use for us. They are called representatives. That’s great as long as you remember it is YOUR power they are using.
Remember the McDonalds? Say you owned it and only went there every two years. Do you suppose this manager is going to be loyal to you? Do you suppose he or she will hook up their friends at your expense? And when you don’t care? Well I suppose they will hook them up again. Pretty soon there goes the profit. After a while you’re out of business and big time out of cash. The manager walks away free as a bird with your money in his or her pocket. You are left holding the bag.
A word about community service. A lot of people confuse that with being a good citizen. It is not. It is a wonderful thing that develops many good human traits, but it is what it is, service. As a citizen you are not a servant here. You are the boss. That requires a whole other type of thinking and action, which we will talk about in Chapter 10. Don’t confuse community service with citizenship. They are not the same. In fact some of my more cynical friends call community service, “Velvet bread and circuses”. They think the elite do this specifically to keep the people thinking they are good citizens which keeps them from doing what they should do as citizens – watch that elite group and control it.
The bottom line is, if you want this country to work for you – then you had better work at it and for it.
That’s the short history of democracy.