Authors throw words around with wild abandon, as they come cheap. Sometimes the words used are wrong or not understood by the writer and sure get the reader confused as well. One such word is Democracy, which many labor under the misimpression is the type of government in the United States. On a recent thread which was banned by Amazon, one of the veteran contributors here, Thetimucan, posted this wonderful contribution:
"A pure democracy is mob rule! A democracy can vote that all of a certain race are slaves and not human beings with natural Rights. In the end, it was the Constitution with its blaring inconsistency with black slavery that finally forced the issue and the people ended it. Popular vote in the 1860s would have resulted in it continuing on for another generation. Yes, most in the North were not all that hot to end it then, though that "peculiar institution" was on its way out anyway because of economics. A democracy is two wolves an a sheep deciding on what to have for lunch. America has always made its worst mistakes when it ignored the Constitution and allowed the popular vote to rule. The Constitution tempers mob rule and helps to prevent such mistakes, but the Constitution must be followed and upheld before that can happen".
Other contributors are invited to offer their definitions of Democracy as well as other words often used in this forum, in the hope that perhaps a better understanding of these words may be obtained, and especially when some may define the words differently. This exchange of definitions may assist those struggling to pick the right word in dialogue and help produce better books.
Good luck to all with your writing.
Edited by: privateerclause325 on May 27, 2013 5:49 AM
My favorite definition of democracy comes from Winston Churchil, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
Seriously though, our representative Republic is best. Pure democracy is little more than mob rule.
In a Republic, the sovereignty resides with the people themselves. One may act on his or hers own or through a representative when he or she chooses to solve a problem. The people have no obligation to the government, Instead the government is a servant of the people. And obliged to its owner. WE the People. Many politicians have lost sight of the fact. When taking office, they swear to uphold the Constitution.
A Constitutional Republic has some similarities to democracy in that it uses democratic process to elect representatives and pass new laws, etc. The critical difference lies in the fact that a Constitutional Republic has a Constitution that limits the powers of the government. It spells out how the govenment is structured, creating checks and balance.
The goal being: to avoid the dangerous extreme of tyranny or mobocracy.
The greatest thing our forefathers did was to build a hedge between church and state. It showed great wisdom to realize that a state founded in religion is tyrannical by its very nature. Of course, they knew that because of the religious tyranny many of their families had just fled in Europe.
My understanding of a republican form of government (as used by the Founders at least) is that it is "a public thing", meaning that sovereignty does indeed lie in the people, and that it is true rule of law (as opposed to the rule of whim - whether in a majority (democracy/mobocracy) or a minority (an oligarchy); though the former is often a mask for the latter).
In such a republic any law, to be just, must meet the following two criteria:
1. It must be constitutional (it must have been specifically delegated by the people)
2. the power granted in the law must find its origin in a just right of the individual
We can thank the Age of Enlightenment for the concepts that shaped our "Great Experiment" here in America. Several of our forefathers were adherents to the social and political philosophies of John Locke, Roger Williams and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
During the 1600's these were the "big three" who helped nudge political thinking beyond the Hobbesian dependence on monarchs and tyrants to secure individual rights into the concept of a self-governed people relying on a social contract where one gave up some individual freedoms in order to protect the rights of all.
Bastiat was a classical liberal, what today would be called a conservative or Libertarian. He wrote that no government should be allowed to do what an individual is not allowed to do. One example is robbing people in the name of charity. We can't rob banks and hand out the loot to the homeless, and government should not be allowed to rob people either. His main reason for supporting some type of government over anarchy was the fact we all need protection from violent raiders, otherwise, how could we be free to live our lives? Having to be vigilant 24/7 leaves no time to pursue wealth and happiness. So, in his mind, military and police protection -- the protection of our natural Rights - was about the only reason for government to exist. Locke thought much the same.
Actually, you are wrong there. What was refuted was a state enforced religion, which was what the rest of Europe suffered under. Separation of church and state was for that very purpose, to allow every individual in this country to choose their own beliefs and follow their own religious practices without governmental interference. It is not a chain on the people, but a shackle for the state.
It is defined by the first amendment: It prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
Many of the current laws banning this or that in public or on government property are actually a breach of this amendment, and a joining of church and state.
I agree. There are two sides to that coin, and many only see the one side. The government is supposed to be neutral on religion and not support it or hinder it. There is a reason you don't need a license to be a preacher. Unfortunately, there are several Democrats who are at this moment trying to get some kind of federal licensing scheme in place that all reporters would have to buy and qualify to possess so they can pursue their profession! The attack on the free press has never been more dangerous than at present.
There are still European countries that tax their population to fund official national churches, and they include the most "progressive" countries. That hasn't died out completely. No, I don't want that here.
Paul, you are half right. Did you know that the term "Seperation of church and state" was first used by Roger Williams, the co-founder of the Baptist church in America? He was concerned not about religion intruding into politics so much as a government meddling in the affairs of the church. He proposed a "tall hedge, a wall of seperation between government and the spritual garden of the church" in the mid 1600's.
Some evangelic types conveniently forget that as a part of the social contract between state and citizen that protects their right to worship and believe as they will, THEY are obligated to respect the right of other citizens to believe and worship differently or not at all.