This post is the sixth in a weekly Constitution Revolution series that will cover the entire Constitution and many of the principles it was founded on. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Last week I talked about the fact that we create constitutions to protect our rights from the government. But how does that work in reality? Once you give power to a government, how can you actually prevent that power from being abused?
As I explained this weekend on TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show, there are ways to do that. But only if the government you are creating is a republic - and not a democracy:
It’s hard to overemphasize how important it is to get out of this habit of referring to our country as a democracy. Remember, democracy is basically majority rule. Whatever 51 percent of the people want, 51 percent of the people will get. As good as that might sound, it doesn’t work out well in the real world.
Earlier in this series we talked about the fact that human nature is flawed. It’s just a fact of life that human beings have a tendency to be greedy, selfish, and power hungry. And when people get organized into groups, the group will inevitably have those same characteristics. But a democracy does nothing to protect us from a majority group that is motivated by greedy or selfish intentions.
Another aspect of human nature that we’re all familiar with is that when people are in very emotional situations, they will have a tendency to make bad decisions. This is especially true of people in large groups. When you live in a world of majority rule, an emotional situation can quickly become very dangerous for anyone in the minority.
That’s why, as the Occupy Wall Street Crowd would say, this is what democracy looks like:
In a lot of ways, this clip from "Beauty and the Beast" is a perfect illustration of democracy. The majority has decided that the Beast needs to be killed and - since there is nothing to restrain them - that is exactly what the majority will get. It doesn’t matter that the Beast is harmless or innocent; majority rules.
Obviously, in the movie Belle and the Beast are miraculously able to save themselves and they live happily ever after. But life isn’t a Disney movie. If this were real life, it would have been nearly impossible for Belle and the Beast to defend themselves from this powerful and misguided - yet democratic - majority.
That’s the problem. It can be very easy to make democracy sound fantastic in theory. Unfortunately, the reality ends up looking a lot more like an angry, irrational mob.
[sharequote align="center"]It's easy to make democracy sound fantastic. Reality ends up more like an angry, irrational mob.[/sharequote]
The solution to this problem is to create a republic.
A republic can take a lot of different forms, but the characteristic that matters for this discussion is the fact that it gives us the flexibility to design our government in a way that will protect us from the flaws in human nature. As a part of that, we want to ensure that we take steps to protect the rights of the minority from an out-of-control majority. In that case, it wouldn’t matter how many people Gaston convinced to be a part of his mob, he still wouldn’t have the ability to violate the rights of the Beast.
Right there you can see the difference between the two forms of government. A republic allows us to take steps to protect the rights of everyone in society. But in a democracy, your rights are only protected for as long as the majority is willing to respect them.
Given all that, why should it matter to you when someone refers to our country as a democracy and not a republic? Well that depends. If you are one of the Beasts in society, it could mean the difference between life and death.
What are some of those ways that a republic can protect us from the flaws in human nature? That is what I’m going to cover over the next few weeks. Do not miss it!
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
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