There was an excellent article in the Daily Bell on Saturday. Although rather lengthy, it is well worth your time to read. Children are raised being taught that America was founded as a democracy. Even elected officials and media persons often make this reference. Study of the writings of our Founding Fathers proves that they very much feared the results of a Democratic form of government.
Below are excerpts from Nelson Hultberg’s article. Yes, the excerpts of themselves are lengthy, but it was difficult to cut anything more away.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. – Alexander Fraser Tytler, 18th century Historian and Jurist
It is the view of most Americans today, that as long as all legislation in a country is democratically established by a majority vote of the people, then that country is politically free, and justice reigns. This modern view of course would be considered grievously naive by the Founding Fathers, who in their perusal of history had acquired a thorough grasp of the follies of ancient Greek democracies. In their minds, it would be ludicrous to consider freedom and justice to be determined merely by “democratic approval” of government laws.
America doesn’t have a personal dictator and is not visibly like the Chinese, South American, or Middle East tyrannies. How then can there be such widespread disenchantment with the amount of freedom and justice we have in this country? The answer, of course, is that America does have a dictator. It is difficult for many to recognize, for the dictator is not the President, or the Congress, or the Supreme Court. It is the people themselves. It is the majority will.
What is the difference whether a government’s dictates emanate from a single autocrat like Hitler in Germany, or from a group of oligarchs like the Politburo in China, or from fifty-one percent of “the people” like in America? If they are absolute dictates that are arbitrarily arrived at, if they are widespread and cannot be refused by the individual, then freedom no longer prevails. Our dictator is the dinosaur bureaucracy in Washington that is taking our money from our paychecks, our freedom from our businesses and families, and our meaning from our lives — but that dinosaur receives its orders from the majority will of the people.
What we are to make of it is that America was never meant to be a pure democracy with “absolute majority will” ruling the country under the bumptious guidance of unruly masses. She was meant to be a strictly limited Constitutional Republic governed by level headed, high-minded men of sagacity and self-discipline whose chief function is to preserve individual rights rather than render them senseless and non-existent.
In other words, the Founding Fathers recognized that, because of the nature of life itself, all men possessed a certain set of rights that were never to be put up for vote. One of the most important of these was a man’s right to his property (which meant also his wages and his profits). This is the fundamental cornerstone of our system and precisely where it differs from the rapacious tumult of a democracy. The majority will is supposed to be severely limited and have no power to redistribute a man’s earnings. America’s Founding Fathers knew their history well, and had seen the ultimate result of democracies — that they vote themselves into tyrannies marked by constant unrest and sedition.
James Madison gave us sage advice when he warned that, “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security and the rights of property; and have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” 
John Adams advised his fellow countrymen: “There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” 
Thomas Jefferson, writing in relation to the Virginia legislature, stated, “One hundred and seventy-three despots” are “as oppressive as one,” and that “an elective despotism was not the government we fought for.” 
Even the intellectuals of Rome recognized that their empire’s greatness and freedom were directly related to their republican form of government. In the words of historian, Will Durant, Cicero believed, that “without checks and balances…democracy becomes mob rule, chaos and dictatorship.” Cicero went on to say that the man usually chosen as leader in a democracy is “someone bold and unscrupulous…who curries favor with the people by giving them other men’s property.”
Are we in modern America any different? Are not our political leaders “bold and unscrupulous?” Do they not attempt to “curry our favor” by advocating the redistribution of more and more personal wealth for social services? Is this not the same as giving the people “other men’s property?” Have not all our modern era administrations throughout the 20th century been possessed of the same dictatorial inclinations? Have they not all advocated that the productive people of the nation give up progressively more of their earnings every year for those who do not wish to be productive?
Here then is the evil of a democracy with the “majority will” ruling absolutely. It allows dictatorial control and confiscation to be utilized against the individual simply because the masses desire such control and confiscation to be utilized. The concept of individual sovereignty is thus destroyed, a dangerous cloud of confusion develops in the area of social ethics, and the might of numbers becomes our only guide as to what is right and wrong.
No businessman would ever think it right to walk in and rob the corner grocery store (at the point of a gun), to obtain money to help his faltering dry goods business. Yet most Americans today do not think it wrong in any way for the “majority will” to vote for the government in Washington to force the owner of that grocery store (under the threat of a prison sentence) to give up a substantial portion of his money (in the form of higher taxes) to subsidize corporations that are unprofitable, or to support able-bodied men and women until they decide they would like to go back to work, or to support pretentious mediocrities through the National Endowment for the Arts, or to pay highly profitable farmers to refrain from planting certain crops for a year.
What is the difference, though, ethically in the two acts? Both are violations of the individual store owner’s right to the product of his labor. The democratic thievery is just so indirect that responsibility for the act is largely diffused, and thus not so noticeable to the perpetrators. But is it somehow right because fifty-one percent of the voters are advocating it?
What if the majority of the people suddenly decided that the free exercise of religion was a detriment to the public interest? Or, overwhelmed with the envy that lurks in the hearts of men everywhere, they decided to require all people earning in excess of $30,000 a year to give that excess to the Federal Government to be dispensed out equally to anyone earning under $30,000 a year? Would such bigotry and persecution and envy be right because the “majority will” had ruled them so? Certainly not. The “majority will” has the same capacity as any graft-swilling despot in any Third World dictatorship to destroy a man’s freedom and a nation’s justice. Its power cannot be enacted on whim for whatever the masses wish.
By their very nature, an individual’s rights are not to be abrogated by the mass. They are not to be subject to open assault by frenzied mobs in search of covetous gratification. Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, Henry and Adams would be inflamed with outrage at the Constitutional violations taking place in America today — violations that strike viciously at the heart of the very existence of the Republic itself.
As Constitutional scholar, Gottfried Dietz, points out, the Founders of this nation believed that “popular government, being as human as any other form of government … was not immune from the corruption that tends to come with power. An expansion of popular power…could bring about despotism as much as had the expansion of monarchial power….In a word, the growth of democracy could conceivably reduce the protection of the individual. It could pervert free government into a sheer majority rule which considered democracy an end in itself.
“It testifies to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers that they recognized this danger. The oppressive acts of Parliament and of some state legislatures had brought home to them a democratic dilemma which was expressed by Elbridge Gerry’s remark in the Federal Convention: ‘The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.’ The recognition that American government had to be democratic was accompanied by the realization that democracy could degenerate into a majoritarian despotism. To prevent this, democracy was bridled. While men were deemed worthy of self-government, they were not considered so perfect as to be trusted absolutely. They were not given free reign.”
Our primary fault today then is that we have misconstrued what the democratic process is really for by giving men the right to vote themselves special privileges and redistributed wealth from the pockets of their neighbors — i.e., by making democracy “an end in itself.” We now think the election process can be used to determine what the entire role of government should be. We now presume that indulgent throngs of voters, in collusion with Congressional opportunists, will somehow form through their devious ruminations a proper method of governing.
This is not what America’s republican form of democracy was meant to be. The democratic process, in its republican form, was meant to be mainly the ability to remove politicians from office peacefully. It was meant to be a method to transfer power, not a method to define the scope and size of government. The task of defining the scope of government had already been accomplished through the centuries of reason and experience that went into the writing of the Constitution. Thus government was already defined, with its functions prescribed for it in that sacred document. The laws and services that citizens were to be allowed to vote for were strictly limited and were to always be provided for on the local or state level. Only in a few clearly designated areas, were the people to be allowed to vote for the Federal Government to provide them with laws and services. If it became overwhelmingly necessary to alter such functions, there was an amendment process provided that would require the electorate to operate deliberately and prudently. This was America’s republican form of limited democracy.
Most pundits, when confronted with the majority will dilemma, reply that such concern over the tyranny of the mass is paranoid; that the country has endured till now and will continue to do so; that the erosion of rights spoken of here could never happen. But it already has happened egregiously and continuously throughout the past eighty years, and to a lesser degree throughout the 19th century.
The progressive income tax (passed in 1913), which basically destroyed our right to the product of our labor and our right to equality under the law, was justified by the fact that the “majority of Americans” approved of it. In this case, three-fourths of the state governments eliminated the constitutional ban on direct taxation and then fifty-one percent of our Congressmen made it steeply progressive over the years.
The fact that it takes three-fourths of the state governments to alter the Constitution, however, does not check a covetous majority will from usurping the basic rights of the individual. Fifty-one percent of each single state’s legislators is all that is required for that state to ratify a fundamental change in the Constitution, and those legislators are put in office by a fifty-one percent vote of the people of that state.
Thus if fifty-one percent of the voting constituents of thirty-eight states can take away a man’s fundamental rights, then we don’t really have the iron clad guarantee against tyranny that we think, do we? In this way, it takes even less than fifty-one percent of the nation’s voters to alter the structure of the Constitution itself, and abrogate all the freedoms we possess. Thus even our “deliberate process” of amending the Constitution is susceptible to exploitation at the hands of ill-informed masses.
If the Federal Government can take away our right to our property (i.e., our income), our right to trade openly, and our right to associate freely because of “majority approval,” then it can also at some later date take away our right to speak and write freely, our right to worship freely, our right to habeas corpus, or any other right we now possess. Yet are any of these usurpations proper or legal because the “majority will” rules them so? Or even three-fourths of the people? The answer is automatic to stalwart men of honor and principle: Might does not make right. The majority will must always be limited. And this is the reason why the Constitution should be interpreted literally, and why it should hold certain rights that transcend the electoral process.
This was the vision of America’s revolutionaries in 1787. They gave us a REPUBLIC, not a DEMOCRACY. And though they fell short of achieving a perfect document of control over the government of their republic, they at least gave the world a spectacular start toward an understanding of the value of a written Constitution. They recognized that all humans have a basic set of rights that are essential for the living of life — the chief of those being freedom of thought, association and trade, and the control and disposal of one’s property — rights that were not to be taken away by single dictators, oligarchic groups, or majority wills.
In end, the immediate and personal committing of an evil act clearly shows one its evil, such as the individual robbing of a store. This is easily seen as wrong. But the delay and diffusion of that same evil act (such as that which takes place in a democracy, when fifty-one percent of the people vote for their legislators to slowly confiscate the store owner’s wealth over the years through higher and higher taxes), clouds the concepts of right and wrong and allows the evil to become entrenched. In such a covetous climate of ethical confusion, tyranny is not far away.
Allow unthinking masses to vote their whims, and we have signed a death warrant for the ideals of liberty and high culture, for Burke’s “unbought graces” of life, for equality of rights and the dream that gave birth to our nation — the dream that said a man is what he makes of himself through individual effort to produce new wealth, rather than through legislative coercion to redistribute his neighbor’s wealth. Look around America today. Where is there true liberty and high culture? Where are there any of the “unbought graces” of life? Where is there equality of rights? Where is the American Dream of life built solely upon individual effort?
Few authorities are willing to discuss it, but here is the main impediment to freedom and justice in America today — our blind worshiping of the majority will. We are making slaves out of those who are productive, and rulers out of those who gather together in bumptious mobs. We are allowing the destruction of individual rights to be justified by the might of numbers in pursuit of public handouts. The democratic majority, overwhelmed with corrosive envy, is stepping all over the individual; and we the people have lost the clarity of mind to recognize such a crime for what it is.
Read the full article at the Daily Bell.