We have come to believe in democracy almost like a religion. But I think it is time to rethink it because it is not working well. Therefore it is useful to start from first principles by looking at what America's Founders were thinking when it crafted the Constitution of the United States.
'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.'
- James Madison 1
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
- John Adams 2
[T]he experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.
- John Quincy Adams 3
[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.
-John Adams 4
From this we can see that America's Founding Fathers did not intend for the US to be a democracy but a Republic with elected leaders. They were concerned more with liberty than with democracy.
You can see this with the way the Constitution was drafted. It has an electoral vote system which is still in use today. The people vote for these electors who then choose the President. If they had absolute confidence with democracy, they would have a direct vote system to choose the President.
Then there is the Supreme Court who can strike out any law that they regard as 'Unconstitutional'. That is also why the US has a Bill of Rights which they forsaw will protect the individual against the tyranny of the majority. This has worked well in some cases but not in others in ways that the Founding Fathers did not forsee. For example, unjust laws discriminating against blacks were ruled unconstitutional. But on the other hand, abortion was legalised angainst the wishes of the majority. So was pornography.
America's Founders understood, more than today's politicians, that liberty is the foundation for prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. They wanted secure property rights which they know that a true democracy will endanger.
You can see this from James Madison's comment about democracy being incompatible with the rights of property and time is proving him right. Private property rights have been eroded by the tyranny of the majority. In France for example, you cannot fire or hire at will. You have to keep sluggards in your work force. This of course will affect your rights as a property or business owner. In some modern democracies, you cannot easily kick out a tennant that you no longer want again affecting your property rights. Thus you cannot hire who you want and you cannot accept whatever tennants you want.
Like John Adams, I am worried that democracy will soon degenerate into anarchy and anarchy will in turn begat a dictatorship. I see this as a distinct possibility and even probability in the next few decades. I see the irrational decisions made by western democracies and wonder how long they can get away with it. How long before the cumulative effects of bad decisions cause system failure?
For example, governments are overspending all over the western world and Japan. As can be seen in my first article, 'Democracy needs a Reformation', the budget deficits in the OECD averages about 4% of GDP. The shortfall is made up for typically by borrowing money. Thus democracies are spending money to benefit this generation at the expense of future generations who must pay the bill eventually. Of course they can't vote and the current crop of politicians won't be in power by that time. This is a result of the problem I highlighted in my first article.
For a politician to win power, all he needs to do is to promise to redistribute income from the haves to the have-nots. This is also what James Madison feared. In 1792, he wrote, 'Government is instituted to protect property of every sort....This being the end of government....That is NOT a just government...nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has...is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.'
In other words, the Founding Fathers of America clearly saw the danger that one man one vote will bring about a redistribution of wealth from the able, diligent, disciplined and daring to those less able, diligent, disciplined and daring. The Socialist welfare state that we see today in most western democracies would, I am sure, appall America's Founders. Under democractic government, your property risks being taxed away by votrepreneurers so that they can win elections.
Secondly, there is the immigration time bomb. America has lost control of its borders as millions of illegal immigrants have found their way into the country and it looks like most will be allowed to stay legally. Now, both major parties panders to them because they both want to court the Hispanic vote even though they are a minority. It should be remembered that in a close election, even a few percentage of votes can make a difference.
In Europe, the immigration problem is even worse as the immigrants are usually Muslims who have an even more different culture than the Mexicans that go to America. The difficulty of assimilating them is compounded by the religious differences on top of linguistic and racial differences.
A sensible immigration policy should admit those with valuable skills and come from cultures that readily assimilates with the host. But if they stick with their own language and refuse to assimilate, you run the high risk of dividing the nation. A civil war is not unimaginable. The track record of people of different cultures living peacefully together is not good.
Of course the present day politicians won't be around when or if the problem becomes serious and so they don't care. In addition, instead of screening them so as to accept the best and brightest, it seems to me that most of the illegals lack education and skills. This does not make sense.
How long can this last? I see democracies unable to solve serious problems. The solution of these problems require short term pain in order to achieve long term gain. But the voters won't accept this and politicans cannot deliver the bitter medicine. This is the Achilles Heel of any democracy.
1. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison, The Federalist on the New Constitution (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818), p. 53, #10, James Madison.
2. John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), Vol. VI, p. 484, to John Taylor on April 15, 1814.
3. John Quincy Adams, The Jubilee of the Constitution. A Discourse Delivered at the Request of the New York Historical Society, in the City of New York on Tuesday, the 30th of April 1839; Being the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States, on Thursday, the 30th of April, 1789 (New York: Samuel Colman, 1839), p. 53.
4. John Adams, The Papers of John Adams, Robert J. Taylor, editor (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), Vol. I, p. 83, from "An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, with the Author's Comment in 1807," written on August 29, 1763, but first published by John Adams in 1807.