Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Republic or Democracy?

The Bush Administration has consistently declared that democracy is the best way to prevent and eliminate "ideologies of hatred."

This is a basic misunderstanding of the difference between a democracy and a republic. A democracy, in simple terms, is rule by the majority. In an ideal democracy the majority sacrifices some of its rule to the rights of the minority. But, what happens when extremists are the majority, as in the case of Hamas? Democracy and intolerance exist in tandem. Thus democracy in this case did not overcome the ideology of hatred.

In a republic, a large population, spread over a large territory, elects representatives. Ideally, this representative, owing little or nothing to any one faction, is better able to judge what is best for all of the people. This is my basic understanding of James Madison's The Federalist #10.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote extensively in the Federalist Papers that there are evils inherent in any form of representative government. As Madison stated they, "...may forget their obligation to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust."

In our republic, the rights of the minority are protected in many ways, not the least of which is the Bill of Rights. However, as Alexander Hamilton stated, even freedom loving people such as Americans may at times be willing to sacrifice their liberties as a response to "the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger." Furthermore the people may, "...have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free."

No Amendment has been under more attack since 9/11/2001 than Article IV:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

So the next time you are searched at an airport think about Madison and Hamilton and realize that when we surrender our rights the "terrorists" have won.

Thus, Madison and Hamilton foresaw America circa 2008.