Have you ever referred to this country as a “democracy”? I have made that mistake in the past but I know better now. I’m not alone – I’ve heard many intelligent, educated people call this country a democracy, including the former occupant of the White House. Actually, our country was founded as a republic and there is a big difference between that and a democracy. Here is an excellent explanation from http://www.whatourforefathersthought.com :
A Republic is representative government ruled by law (in our case, the Constitution). A Democracy is government ruled by the majority (mob rule). A republic recognizes the unalienable (endowed by God, not by government) rights of the individual while democracies are only concerned with group wants or needs for the “good of the public” or, in other words, social justice. Lawmaking is a slow, deliberate process in our constitutional republic requiring approval from the three branches of government – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial – to assure checks and balance. Lawmaking in a democracy occurs rapidly, requiring approval from the majority by polls and/or voter referendums. 50% plus 1 vote takes away anything from the minority. Here is one example: if 51% of the people don’t pay taxes they can vote a tax increase on the 49% that do, which is mob rule.
Democracies always self-destruct when the non-productive majority realizes that it can vote itself handouts from the productive minority by electing the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury. To maintain their power, these candidates must adopt an ever-increasing tax and spend policy to satisfy the ever-increasing desires of the majority. As taxes increase incentive to produce decreases, causing many of the once productive to drop out and join the non-productive. When there are no longer enough producers to fund the legitimate functions of the government and its social programs the democracy will collapse, always to be followed by a dictatorship.
Mitt Romney famously got in hot water during his 2012 presidential campaign when he said that he knew the 47% of the voting population who were receiving some form of public benefits would not be voting for him (this comment was made at a private fundraising event and was surreptitiously recorded and released to the press by Jimmy Carter’s grandson). The scary thing about this (aside from the fact that no one seems to be allowed to express an opinion anymore) is that 47 is precariously close to a tipping point. Without the serious reform of all public welfare programs, the tax code, and enforcement of immigration laws, we could very easily reach the point where there are not enough taxpaying, productive citizens to pay for the legitimate functions of government and its social programs.
I worked in social services for 22 years – both private non-profit and public sectors – and also did a lot of volunteer work for social service agencies over the years. I was able to help a lot of people who were in need as a result of circumstances beyond their control. I also saw more than my share of people who took any “free” assistance an organization or government program had to offer, whether they actually needed it or not. I was taught there is no such thing as a “free lunch” – someone has to pay for everything you call “free” – and that it is wrong to take a handout when you are perfectly capable of earning a living and getting it for yourself. Even your freedom isn’t free.
I believe in maintaining the legitimate functions of government and its social programs. I believe in helping those who are vulnerable or in true need. I believe in protecting our country. These are the things for which I don’t mind paying taxes. What frightens me is how close our republic is to being turned into a democracy as a result of entitlement programs that foster dependence on the government for everything, and the thousands of regulations that worm into every aspect of our lives. This is the exact opposite of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
If you’re interested in reading some intelligent thoughts about the promise of government and the threat it poses to individual freedom I highly recommend Milton Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom”.