Tuesday, April 6, 2010
“Democracy is the Worst Form of Government…”
You might be saying a hearty 'AMEN!’ to the first clause of Sir Churchill’s observation* out loud right now after all the machinations of Congress and the White House over the past year or so. We have heard many say lately that ‘our system of government is broken’; ‘it doesn’t work anymore’ and the words ‘nullification’ and ‘secession’ seem to be creeping up in conversation more and more.
Well, to that, we say a hearty ‘Boo!’. We also say we have not been this optimistic about our democratic republic in a long, long time.
“Why?’ you say. Because people in this country are finally understanding just how important and precious the freedoms are that we have been guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution as individuals, as a nation and as a society. They were not won ‘lightly’ and without major costs, and they can be taken away in a moment in time if a democracy is not always on its guard to protect those freedoms.
We human life forms live on a pendulum in government that swings from total control from on-high (think ‘Kings’) to total freedom of individual thought and action (think ‘America’ in its finest hours). Based on our calculations, we think we are due to start moving away from the 'total control' camp right about now and this fall election we will see a radical departure back towards freedom and fiscal sanity.
Our gut feeling is this: 'Just wait til the GenXers and the Golden Millennial generations get a load of the taxes they are going to pay for this expansive government on top of the $13 trillion debt already now in place! They are going to go bonkers! Most college students today don't even have any idea of what a 'FICA' tax is!'
If you want to find out why we have a democratic republic in the first place here in the United States of America, you owe it to yourself to read the truly great book, ‘The Peloponnesian War’, by Donald Kagan of Cornell University. Joseph Ellis, who wrote another great book that you owe it to yourself to read, “Founding Brothers’ said that if you really want to understand the thoughts and rationale behind the decisions made by our founding fathers during their consideration of the Constitution, you need to read the same books they read and grab the concepts they thought would work based on their reading of history, which was enormous.
Dr. Kagan’s great book is based on one of the great books our Founders all read by the same title by Thucydides and probably had major passages memorized. His book will show you how the democracy of Athens, from 439 to 404 BC engaged in the first true ‘World War’ with the Spartan Empire which later also involved the Persian Empire. Complicated international affairs, conniving, cheating, stealing, governments running out of money, clever political gamesmanship and leadership, great and flawed military strategy; the Peloponnesian War had it all and then some.
And mark this name of perhaps the greatest ‘politician’ the world has ever seen, and you have never heard anything about, Alcibiades. His name runs through the 30 Years War of the Peloponnese like George Washington’s runs through our history, except Alicibiades started out as a George Washington-type of leader of Athens, and then defected to head up the armies of Sparta, their mortal enemy, and then switched over to help lead and advise the Persians against both the Athenians AND the Spartans, and then was triumphantly returned to power in good old Athens near the end of the War!
For these reasons, we say he might have been the greatest ‘politician’ ever, not the greatest moral or ethical leader, for obvious reasons. Can you even imagine W or Bill Clinton being President of the US; changing over to become the Soviet Premier during the height of the Cold War tensions; defecting to go over to Beijing to become their Secretary of State with war powers, and then coming back to the US where he would be elected again to be President unanimously with 435 electoral votes in the presidential elections, all within a 30 year time frame!
Anyway, our point is not to sell Dr. Kagan’s book but rather to give you a solid resource to read for yourself and make your own determination about what will happen next in America’s political evolution. Without ruining the ending, the Athenian Democracy lost this 30-year war, only to restore it less than a year later and return it to its radical democratic roots of equality for all and freedom for the individual.
We have attached a syllabus of sorts of other books below that James Madison devoured before he went to Philadelphia to present his main draft of the Constitution as he thought it should be written. (He lost on many points in debate and we still wound up with the greatest written Constitution in history)
Read them yourself and get armed for the ‘battle’ ahead. You don't need to arm yourself or hoard gold and food and hunker down in some bunker in Montana. You just need to get prepared for the intellectual and political debate that is about to ensue.
Democracies get rejuvenated every now and then by vigorously opposing the encroachment of 'Oligarchs' in Washington like 'The Ossified Entrenched Leaders of Both Parties', 'The Trial Lawyers', 'The AARP' and so on (see Kagan’s book and you'll see why they should all be called Oligarchs because of their united position to 'Keep Things Just The Way They Are').
When democracies push the reset button, things get a lot better really quickly.
Do your part. Reading this Kagan book is one great first step.
* (actual full quote: ‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’ Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, November 11, 1947 British politician (1874 - 1965))
-Madison’s research was compiled in a paper called “Of Ancient and Modern Confederacies,” which outlines the structure and history of the Lycian, Amphictyonic, and Achaean confederacies of Ancient Greece; the Holy Roman Empire, the Swiss Confederation, and the United Provinces of the Netherlands. He recorded his notes in a booklet of 41 pocket-size pages. He referred to this booklet in both the Federal Convention and the Virginia Ratifying convention. Large portions of these notes appear almost verbatim in Federalist # 18,19, and 20.