There’s a story often told of Benjamin Franklin leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia when he was approached by a group of women who asked him, “What have you given us?”
Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Today, most politicians, people who work in academia, and mainstream news media folks refer to “our democracy.” We do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic (lower case “r”).
And thank God the Founding Fathers were brilliant men, because they knew what a democracy was. They hated it, and with good reason.
You won’t find the word democracy in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, but you will read that the Constitution guarantees every state a “republican form of government.”
Okay, so what’s so bad about democracy?
In the simplest of terms, a democracy would go like this. There are three people, and two of them just voted that they get to take and keep everything the third guy owns. That’s it. They can now take everything the minority owns. It’s legal. It’s official theft. It’s a democracy.
Democracy is mob rule, and it means that the majority gets to act like a mob and trample all over the minority.
What the Founders knew is that most people would fall in and out of a minority and a majority, depending on the issue, and that’s no way to live in a society.
A republic, on the other hand, is a much more stable system with a Constitution that limits the powers a government has over its people and declares citizens get to vote for representatives they want to represent their values and ideas for how they get to live. A republican – again, little “r” – form of government protects the minority from majority rule in a society and protects the people from an overbearing government.
So, what did Franklin mean when he said, “… if you can keep it …”? To maintain a republic takes hard work and active responsibility from every member of society.
There are always going to be people who want to fundamentally transform our republic into a democracy, because they mistakenly believe they will always be in the majority, and therefore, they will always get to rule over the minority.
Democracy is a form of tyranny of the majority over the minority, something about which the Founders knew a thing or two. They fought a war for independence to get out from under the tyranny of King George III.
Remember, the key difference between a democracy and a republic is the limits placed on government by the law, which has significance for minority rights. Both forms of government tend to elect people to represent their views, but in a republic, a Constitution, and in our case, a Bill of Rights, lists certain inalienable rights, that is, rights given to us by God, that cannot be taken away by the government, even if a majority of people has elected it.
In a democracy, the government, or the majority, isn’t restrained on how they rule over the minority, and government isn’t bound to any set of rules or principles the way it is under a republic. That means the rules get to change on the whim of the majority, and it would mean the end of our republic and our way of life as we know it.
You can fight for the republic by educating everyone you know about the differences between the two forms of government. The more people know and understand what a democracy really is, the more they will reject it the same way our Founding Fathers did when they created our Constitutional republic, and subsequently, the greatest nation ever created by mankind.