“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
~ Winston Churchill
“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”
~ Winston Churchill
Executive Summary: As the preceding quotes suggest, Winston Churchill was deeply ambivalent about democracy. On the one hand, he was not about to regurgitate the civics class twaddle we all ingested about Democracy with a capital D. On the other hand, he could see no better alternative. Alas, Churchill’s political education was incomplete. The great statesman, for all his far-ranging political knowledge, was wrong. Democracy is not “the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” Democracy is the worst form of government ever tried, period. Democracy ranks among the gravest threats to individual rights and individual liberty in human history. Democracy is, in certain respects, even worse than absolute monarchy. Ignorant and arrogant modern day “champions of democracy” need to get a clue. Assuming they are sincere when they sound off about valuing the sovereign individual above the omnipotent state, then the people they most need to educate about democracy are not the leaders of the PRC in Beijing, but themselves.
Modern Ignorance, Modern Arrogance
Modern day “champions of democracy” consider democracy, or liberal democracy, (or is it Liberal Democracy?) their secular religion, and “free and fair elections” their holiest of sacraments. Let’s hear what some of them have to say about their religious faith.
According to the right wing, global interventionist Freedom House, which purports to employ “rigorous analytic standards” in its annual reports on the state of freedom in the world:
“Democracies… are political systems whose leaders are elected in competitive multi-party and multi-candidate processes in which opposition parties have a legitimate chance of attaining power or participating in power. Freedom House is a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world. Founded… by… Americans concerned with the mounting threats to peace and democracy, Freedom House has been a vigorous proponent of democratic values and a steadfast opponent of dictatorships of the far left and the far right… Freedom House is a leading advocate of the world’s young democracies, which are coping with the debilitating legacy of statism, dictatorship, and political repression. It… promote[s] human rights, democracy, free market economics, the rule of law, independent media, and U.S. engagement in international affairs.”
According to the federal Leviathan’s compulsory, involuntary, decidedly unfree, taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy, whose motto is “Supporting freedom around the world”:
“The Endowment is guided by the belief that freedom is a universal human aspiration that can be realized through the development of democratic institutions, procedures, and values… the NED makes hundreds of grants each year to support prodemocracy groups in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.”
According to exiled mainland Chinese champion of democracy Wang Dan, of Tienanmen notoriety:
“We make no attempt to conceal the aim of the current student movement, which is to exert pressure on the government to promote the progress of democracy. People’s yearning for democracy, science, human rights, freedom, reason, and equality, which lack a fundamental basis in China, have once again been aroused.”
According to exiled mainland Chinese champion of democracy Wei Jingsheng, author of “The Fifth Modernization”:
“People need prosperity… to pursue their first goal of happiness, namely freedom. Democracy means the maximum attainable freedom so far known by human beings. It is quite obvious that democracy has become the goal in contemporary human struggles.”
What can one say in response to these “champions of democracy,” except that they are wrong, wrong, wrong? Freedom House is wrong. The National Endowment for Democracy is wrong. Wang Dan is wrong. Wei Jingsheng is wrong.
Freedom House for example, purports to employ “rigorous analytical standards” in its self-congratulatory annual ritual of passing judgment on the nations of the world.
One can only wonder what “rigorous analytical standards” Freedom House employed when it classified Bush II’s post-911 “Secure Homeland” as “Free” and awarded it a rating of 1 for Political Rights and 1 for Civil Liberties; while awarding mainland China, which takes from “Unfree” Chinese less than a third of what the US federal government takes from “Free” Americans in taxes, a rating of 7 for Political Rights and 6 for Civil Liberties.
One can only wonder what “rigorous analytical standards” Freedom House employed when it classified Taiwan, with its unelected US puppet squatting in the ROC Presidential Palace since May 20, 2004, as “Free” and awarded it a rating of 2 for Political Rights and 1 for Civil Liberties; while classifying transparent, uncorrupt Singapore as “Partly Free” and awarding it a rating of 5 for Political Rights and 4 for Civil Liberties.
The “rigorous analytical standards” Freedom House employed were apparently double standards.
It’s bad enough that flagrantly biased judgment calls such as these cast doubt on Freedom House’s integrity. What’s worse is they cast doubt on Freedom House’s grasp of political science, of cause and effect, of the catastrophic consequences of imposing defective political systems such as democracy upon hapless human populations.
Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, Wang Dan, and Wei Jingsheng are united in their ignorant conflation of liberal democracy with political liberty, and their arrogant demand that China adopt their failed and discredited system of government.
Free market economist Thomas Sowell had some choice words for this kind of facile thinking: “To include freedom in the… definition of democracy is to define a process not by its actual characteristics… but by its hoped for results.”
Ancient Wisdom, Ancient Humility
Modern champions of democracy, who fancy themselves courageous defenders of the American political ideal, have either totally forgotten or never learned what America’s Founding Fathers knew two centuries ago democracy is the worst form of government ever tried.
Don’t believe me? Consider the following quotes:
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”
~ Benjamin Franklin, leader of the American Revolution
“We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy… It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.”
~ Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury to George Washington, author of the Federalist Papers
“Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
~ John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
~ Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States
“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.
~ James Madison, 4th President of the United States, Father of the Constitution
“The experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived.”
~ John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States
“Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”
~ John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 1801-1835
Surprised? You shouldn’t be, not if you know your political history.
America’s Founding Fathers were visionary political philosophers confronted with the most daunting task imaginable. Their task was not merely to found a new nation, but to invent a new system of government. They diligently researched history to learn what to do. History rewarded them. It taught them not only what to do, but even more importantly, what not to do. The most important thing they learned not to do, was to adopt democracy, the worst form of government ever tried.
Given the Founding Fathers’ fully warranted fear and loathing of democracy, we should not be surprised that the Constitution of the United States does not contain a single solitary reference to the word “democracy,” but instead stipulates that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government.”
The distinction between a democracy and a republic is hardly trivial. That the distinction between a democracy and a republic could inspire the Founding Fathers to such passions speaks volumes. The Founding Fathers considered the distinction between a democracy and a republic to be the distinction between freedom and slavery, between civilization and barbarism, between prosperity and poverty.
Not so Ancient Wisdom, Not so Ancient Humility
The following are excerpts from a 156 page citizenship manual issued by the US War Department, November 30,1928, explaining the difference between a democracy and a republic.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt White House later ordered all copies of this manual withdrawn from the Government Printing Office and all US Army posts and destroyed without explanation:
Prepared under the direction of the Chief of Staff.
This manual supersedes Manual of Citizenship Training The use of the publication The Constitution of the United States, by Harry Atwood, is by permission and courtesy of the author.
A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of “direct” expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether is be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Results in demogogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.
Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them. Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences. A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass. Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy. Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress. Is the “standard form” of government throughout the world. A republic is a form of government under a constitution which provides for the election of
(1) an executive and (2) a legislative body, who working together in a representative capacity, have all the power of appointment, all power of legislation, all power to raise revenue and appropriate expenditures, and are required to create (3) a judiciary to pass upon the justice and legality of their government acts and to recognize (4) certain inherent individual rights.
Take away any one or more of those four elements and you are drifting into autocracy. Add one or more to those four elements and you are drifting into democracy.
Autocracy declares the divine right of kings; its authority can not be questioned; its powers are arbitrarily or unjustly administered. Democracy is the direct rule of the people and has been repeatedly tried without success. Our Constitutional fathers, familiar with the strength and weakness of both autocracy and democracy, with fixed principles definitely in mind, defined a representative republican form of government. They made a very marked distinction between a republic and a democracy and said repeatedly and emphatically that they had founded a republic.
By order of the Secretary of War: C.P. Summerall, Major General, Chief of Staff. Official: Lutz Wahl, Major General, The Adjutant General.
That was 1928. By 1952 however, the new Army Field Manual read:
“Meaning of democracy. Because the United States is a democracy, the majority of the people decide how our government will be organized and run and that includes the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The people do this by electing representatives, and these men and women then carry out the wishes of the people.
~ The Soldiers Guide, Department of the Army Field Manual, issued June 1952
As we can see, after being subjected to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fascistic New Deal, the once free American people forgot their constitutional republican roots, and allowed themselves to be led down the populist democratic path toward slavery.
Heaven Protect China from Democracy
That modern day “champions of democracy” are so woefully ignorant about something that America’s Founding Fathers knew backwards and forwards, makes one want to weep with despair. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Mankind was supposed to become more sophisticated with the passage of time, not more simple-minded. Mankind was supposed to profit from precious wisdom acquired at immense cost in human lives, not blank it from memory within a few short generations.
That modern Chinese intellectuals would wind up reflexively parroting pro-democracy slogans is deeply discouraging, but is at least understandable. Democracy after all, is a western innovation. Chinese intellectuals eager to be perceived as progressive and forward thinking can be forgiven for conflating western progress in general with western democracy in particular.
But what excuse do American intellectuals have? The wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers is not foreign history. The wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers is not Chinese history. The wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers is the vital core of America’s proud history.
Demands from Chinese citizens on the mainland for the PRC government to adhere to the Rule of Law are entirely legitimate. In fact, they are absolutely essential. Idealistic PRC leaders at the central government level are pressing for such reforms themselves.
Demands from Chinese citizens on Taiwan for the PRC government to adhere to the Rule of Law are also entirely legitimate. Ironically, the current ROC government on Taiwan is far less committed to the Rule of Law than the current PRC government on the Chinese mainland.
Demands from Chinese citizens on Taiwan for the PRC government to adopt democracy before they are willing to see the two sides reunited however, are myopic folly, especially coming from Pan Blue political leaders.
Demands from foreign governments for the PRC government to adopt democracy are the most despicable of all. Demands from foreign governments that China be saddled with the worst form of government ever tried, can rightly be construed as overtly hostile gestures and looked upon askance.
Heaven protect China from Democracy!
The Best Form of Government Ever Tried
Democracy, as we have seen, is the worst form of government ever tried. But what is the best form of government ever tried?
The best form of government ever tried, sadly, has largely been lost to mankind’s collective memory. The best form of government ever tried flourished on Iceland between 930 and 1262.
It is time the modern world reclaimed the best form of government ever tried and gave it another chance. But that is the subject for another essay altogether.
America and China, Republics not Democracies
democracy n. pl. democracies
1: Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives 2: A political or social unit that has such a government 3: The common people, considered as the primary source of political power 4: Majority rule 5: The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community
~ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
1: the political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives 2: a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them [syn: republic, commonwealth] [ant: autocracy] 3: the doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding on the whole group [syn: majority rule]
~ WordNet 2.0, 2003 Princeton University
The Progressive Era … began in … the 1890s and lasted through the 1920s … Many reforms dotted this era, including Prohibition with the 18th Amendment … the Income Tax with the 16th Amendment and direct election of Senators with the 17th Amendment. Muckrakers … reaction-producing writers … were among … the best examples of progressive reformers … Initiative, Referendum and Recall, all parts of the … fully democratic state, were … pioneered during the movement.
~ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
China, like America, was never intended to be a democracy. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Founding Father of modern China, like Benjamin Franklin, intended that the nation he bequeathed to posterity would be “A republic, if you can keep it!” This much is beyond dispute. The name of the nation Sun founded, after all, is “The Republic of China.” This would hardly be worth mentioning were it not for the fact that so many people have forgotten it.
Yes, Sun made frequent and abundant use of the term “min zhu,” i.e., “people rule,” i.e., “democracy.” But Sun was using “democracy” in the greatly expanded, grossly inaccurate 20th Century sense of the word, as if it were a synonym for republic and an antonym for autocracy. When Sun used the word democracy, he meant republic. No one who knows anything about Sun’s “San Min Zhu Yi” (Three People’s Principles) can have the slightest doubt about this.
Sun, like America’s Founding Fathers, was a firm believer in republican government, not democracy. Sun, like America’s Founding Fathers, was a firm believer in indirect as opposed to direct government. Sun, like America’s Founding Fathers, was a firm believer in structural constraints as obstacles to “democracy,” aka “mobocracy.”
All this should be abundantly clear from the structural constraints Sun incorporated into the Chinese constitution, which closely mirror the structural constraints the Founding Fathers incorporated into the American constitution. The National Assembly is a good example. The National Assembly was Sun Yat-sen’s answer to the Electoral College. The National Assembly, like the Electoral College, is a proudly, unabashedly “undemocratic” feature of the Chinese constitution. The Control Yuan is another. The Control Yuan represents Sun’s attempt not only to emulate the American constitution’s checks and balances, but to enhance them.
What is the difference between a republic and a democracy?
A republic is a nation ruled by law. The highest law in a republic is its constitution. In a republic everyone obeys the constitution.
A democracy, on the other hand, is a nation ruled by men. The highest law in a democracy is the “Will of the People.” In a democracy, everyone obeys a man who represents the Will of the People. A man who represents the Will of the People is better known as a dictator.
It is no accident that Pan Green Taiwan independence fascists spearheaded the elimination of both the National Assembly and the Control Yuan. The aptly named Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) understands only too well that democratic political institutions such as Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, are highly compatible with fascism, whereas republican political institutions such as Constitutionalism, Original Intent, and the Rule of Law are insurmountable obstacles to fascism that must first be eliminated before the Pan Green camp can implement their fascist agenda.
It is no accident that Pan Blue “Da Zhong Guo” (Greater China) reunificationists spearheaded the successful boycott of Chen Shui-bian’s illegal and unconstitutional “Defensive Referendum.” Pan Blue reunificationists, after all, are true blue champions of the Republic of China Constitution and the Rule of Law.
George Orwell, in “Politics and the English Language,” observed that “The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts… to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration… the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.”
Truer words were never written. What language could be more slovenly than modern political language? What thought could be more foolish than modern political thought?
Terms such as “liberal” and “democracy” once had exact meanings.
The term “liberal” originally meant “an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism.” A liberal was a disciple of Adam Smith and John Locke.
Today “liberal” means “an advocate of redistributionist welfare statism.” Today a liberal is a disciple of John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith. Today, the term “liberal” means the diametric opposite of what it meant during the Enlightenment. Today bona fide liberals have no choice but to refer to themselves as “classical liberals” or “libertarians.”
The term “democracy” originally meant “people rule,” or more idiomatically, “rule by the people.” A democracy was a form of government that stressed universal suffrage, multiparty elections, and majority rule. Nothing more. The term did not contain any unwarranted positive connotations. It did not imply superiority over other forms of government. It did not imply, la Neoconservative polemicist Francis Fukuyama, that mankind had arrived at “The End of History” and that democracy was the final stage of political evolution.
Today democracy is defined as the only legitimate form of government. Rejecting democracy is not an option. “Non-democratic” is equated with “undemocratic.” “Undemocratic” is equated with “autocratic.”
Today “democracy” is no longer a scientific definition. It is a religious catechism, to be invoked in the same breath as motherhood and apple pie. It is a catch-all phrase for “good government,” for “enlightened government,” for “progressive government,” for “social equality and respect for the individual within a community.”
Today, two centuries after the American Revolution, one century after the fascistic, populist Progressive Era, the critical distinction between a republic and a democracy has been thoroughly obliterated. Today “democracy” is considered a synonym for “republic” and an antonym for “autocracy.”
This sort of equivocation, enormously useful for enforcing pro-democracy Political Correctness, has made our political language as worthless as fiat currency following runaway inflation.
Alexander Hamilton warned that the essential nature of democracy is tyranny. Thomas Jefferson warned that democracy is nothing more than mob rule. James Madison warned that democracies are spectacles of turbulence and contention, incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.
In today’s America, the solemn warnings of these far-sighted champions of republican government and opponents of democracy are treated as “er bian feng” (wind whistling past the ears), and the proud republic established by America’s Founding Fathers has been perverted into the very system they feared and loathed the most democracy.
The Republic of China under the Two Chiangs was a republic a flawed, imperfect republic, but a republic nonetheless.
The Republic of China under Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shiu-bian is a “democracy.” Not a democracy in today’s ambiguous, equivocal sense of the word, but a democracy in the Founding Fathers’ semantically precise sense of the word, i.e., an elective dictatorship.
What Taiwan needs today is not a Pan Green “deepening of democracy,” but a Pan Blue rebirth of republican government.
August 31, 2005
Bevin Chu [send him mail] is an American architect of Chinese descent registered to practice in Texas. Currently living and working in Taiwan, Chu is the son of a retired high-ranking diplomat with the ROC (Taiwan) government. His column, “The Strait Scoop” is published on his website, The China Desk.