Our Founding Fathers really didn’t like democracy, and didn’t have any kind words to say for it. A quick reading of the history of Athens should help anyone understand why, particularly the episodes with Socrates and the Peloponnesian War. And yet we have demonstrators streaking through the state capitol in Wisconsin shouting, “This is democracy!”
A thumbnail sketch of raw democracy will show that the problem with it isn’t at all the inefficiency of the system, as we have been told in our public schools. The problem is that individuals have no rights in a democratic system, and the passions of men are the principle method of decision making. That is, whoever is more angry gets to choose what to do.
In Socrates’ day, he made quite a few enemies by preaching about the virtues of logic and against the vices of sophistry. In that day, sophists would argue that it is ok to lie to people as long as it if in their own self-interest. For instance, it’s ok to tell a man with a sore tooth that there is no pain at all when the dentist pulls the tooth out. Whatever it takes to achieve a good goal, is good. Apply the above reasoning to science and religion, and you have, well, ancient Greece, where Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were the exception, not the rule.
The way the sophists defeated Socrates was to whip the crowd up in a wild frenzy about how Socrates was leading the youth astray and worshiping false gods. With the mood properly set, nothing Socrates could say could change his chances of survival. And so, the great logician died as a result of democracy.
The Peloponnesian War is another episode of raw democracy, its history all but erased from our history books. Why? Because the democracy of Athens failed miserably against the top-down tyranny of Sparta, despite having every advantage imaginable. The democracy in Athens ate the top generals alive. One general, upon annihilating the Spartan fleet, was brought before the people in a trial, where he was charged as a traitor for the crime of allowing sailors to drown because wiping out the fleet of Sparta was a higher priority than sparing the sons of Athens. Many similar episodes of the same and eventually, the great democracy of Athens became a footnote in history. The underdog, Sparta, rose up and completely obliterated the once supreme power of that city-state.
Why don’t you hear about this in school? Because we are supposed to learn that democracy is good. Democracy, after all, means the people are in charge, and that people are free, right?
Nothing could be further from the truth. In a democratic system, the people are subject to the orators, and no individual can ever hope to protect his own rights against the onslaught of public opinion. In the words of our Founding Fathers, “Democracy is two wolves and one sheep voting for what’s for dinner.”
Democracy is, indeed, on display in the Wisconsin State Capitol. The same democracy that murdered Socrates is threatening the very lives of the elected government, and turning the once-peaceful and open capitol into a spawning ground of violent leftists and fear mongers who outright lie about what is being debated mere feet away.
We, as a nation, are not democratic. Yes, we have democratic elements, but we have republican and autocratic elements as well. We also have theocratic and aristocratic elements, all by design. Our nation combines all these different styles of government and sets them at opposition so that the negative aspects of each is canceled while the positive aspects are emphasized. We would do well to stop equating democracy (rule by the popular opinion) with our system of government.