Republics Vs Democracies

Ben Franklin's chair

Ben Franklin’s Rising Sun chair

We read the below for school today with my teens:

“The real father of the theory of modern democracy was not Locke or Montesquieu, both of whom distrusted rule by the masses, but Rousseau.
This morbid, erratic genius based the conclusions in his ‘Social Contract‘ and in his ‘Second Discourse‘ upon pure imagination. Man in his state of noble savagery was free, equal, and happy. It was only when some men began marking off plots of ground, saying ‘this is mine’ that inequality began. In order to restore their lost freedom and happiness men entered into a compact, each with all the others, surrendering their individual liberty to the whole. Since sovereignty is indivisible, the general will is all-powerful. Members of the majority are free because they are in harmony with the general will. The minority are free only to join the majority. Here is a democracy with a vengeance. Rousseau’s influence on the leaders of the second and more radical phase of the French Revolution was great. But since it is only a short step from this kind of unrestrained democratic government to state worshiping dictatorship, the influence of Rousseau is also clearly seen in the fascist and communist systems of the 20th century.”

From: A Short History of Western Civilization (Second Edition) Harrison and Sullivan

Barbara Morris wrote in The Philosophy of Humanism (free online):

Education has been and is now, in accord with the dictates of the Humanist Manifesto II, creating autonomous children with a world view who will accept chaotic democracy over a Constitutional Republic with representative government 

While some would dismiss her because of the reference to the Humanist Manifesto (the humanism scare is so 1980s), I would bet not one high school graduate in 10 knows that we are supposed to be a Constitutional Republic and not a democracy at all, and those who do know, largely dismiss the distinction as irrelevant, or worse, some sort of conspiracy theory fear-mongering.  WHY and how has this happened?  Isn’t it something worth thinking about?  More about that here.

I’m sure we all know about the saying that a Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch- that’s attributed to Ben Franklin.

In 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin said that he had often looked at the sun on carved on the President’s chair without being able to tell “whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.” When asked what form of government the Constitutional Convention had worked out, he replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Somewhere along the way, it became the sort of thing only zealots and cranks pointed out, that we are supposed to be a Republic and not a Democracy. I think that might have signaled that we were not able to keep it.
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