Today, as I doctored up my morning cup of coffee at my local Starbucks, I glanced over at the newspapers and noticed the headlines on The New York Times:
“Islamists’ Ideas on Democracy and Faith Face Test in Tunisia” — By Anthony Shadid.
There was that word again—“Democracy”. I scanned the article and saw this:
TUNIS -- The epiphany of Said Ferjani came after his poor childhood in a pious town in Tunisia, after a religious renaissance a generation ago awakened his intellect, after he plotted a coup and a torturer broke his back, and after he fled to Britain to join other Islamists seeking asylum on a passport he had borrowed from a friend.
Twenty-two years later, when Mr. Ferjani returned home, he understood the task at hand: building a democracy, led by Islamists, that would be a model for the Arab world.
"This is our test," he said.
"I can tell you one thing, we now have a golden opportunity," Ferjani said, smiling. "And in this golden opportunity, I'm not interested in control. I'm interested in delivering the best charismatic system, a charismatic, democratic system. This is my dream.”
Wow! An Islamic democracy? Is that possible? I wondered what an Islamic democracy might look like? Perhaps some strange hybrid or close cousin to the U.S. democracy that is so often referred to by the media and some of our political leaders?
As I searched for some explanation of a Islamic democracy, I found this:
Some Western researchers support the Islamist claim that parliamentary democracy and representative elections are not only compatible with Islamic law, but that Islam actually encourages democracy. They do this in one of two ways: either they twist definitions to make them fit the apparatuses of Islamic government—terms such as democracy become relative—or they bend the reality of life in Muslim countries to fit their theories.
The word “democracy” can be confusing when the media and government officials throw it around without clarification (as a relative term), assuming we all understand what they are thinking.
The practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy. — Barack Obama's remarks at University of Michigan on May 1, 2010
Democracy is ... the only path to national success and dignity. — George W. Bush
We must revitalize our democracy. — Bill Clinton
The world must be made safe for democracy. — Woodrow Wilson
Are Obama, Bush, Clinton, Wilson, and Ferjani talking about the same democracy? Both in theory and in practice there are as many systems of democracy as there are democratic countries--all dangerous.
On the surface, democracy can be made to sound like a good thing, as its main purpose is aimed at the “good of the people” and tries, in its own way, to ascertain the will of the people and to bring public affairs in line with it. However, in the purist sense, a democracy is an evil thing.
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%. -- Thomas Jefferson
Democracy is the road to socialism. -- Karl Marx (father of communism)
The Founding Fathers had good reason to think of “democracy” with contempt, due to their knowledge of history of democracy in the early Greek city-states which produced some of the wildest excesses of government imaginable—in every case ending up with mob rule leading to anarchy and finally tyranny under an oligarchy.
We sometimes hear the U.S. referred to as a "representative democracy" or a "constitutional democracy". That sounds fairly tame and of no real threat—easy on the eyes. In what appears to simply be an issue of semantics, the constant association of the word “democracy” with the U.S. lulls you to sleep with thoughts of freedom and a system that has the "best interest of the people" in mind.
Forms of Government:
Anarchy: Chaos – Ruled by Nobody
Republic: Rule of Law: Constitution
Democracy: Majority Rules
Oligarchy: Ruled by Elite Group
Monarchy: Ruled by King or Queen
Some try to explain: A “constitutional democracy” is a “representative democracy” in which the government's power is restricted by a constitution. For those of us who love our Constitution, this might, at first, sound acceptable. But I ask, “Why isn't the word ‘Republic’ being used? I thought the U.S. was a ‘republic’”. It is. However, the media continues to convince Americans that the U.S. is a “democracy”.
Make no mistake about it; The United States of America is a “constitutional republic” not a democracy. A constitutional republic is a state where the head of state (President) and other officials are elected as representatives of the people and must govern according to existing constitutional law that limits the government's power over citizens. Because the head of state is elected, it is a republic and not a monarchy. Unlike a "pure" democracy (without a constitution), in a constitutional republic, citizens are not governed by the majority of the people but by the rule of law—that law being The Constitution.
Free Market: A self regulating system in which all parties are completely free to transact with one another, and where force, fraud or injury damages one party, the government’s role is only to punish those who commit such offenses and to vindicate the rights of the other party, which protects the integrity of the free market.
Fascism: The government doesn’t own businesses, but they control them through taxes and regulations. The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–1943), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach."
Socialism: Government officials acquire possession of major industries (transportation, communication, utilities) in order to leverage control over the entire economy; a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
Communism: All capital is owned and controlled by the state. A political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned, and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.
Like many nations before us that have declined, we too are now brewing up a formula for failure. The three things these failed nations have in common:
1. enamored by sports, entertainment, lifestyles of the rich and famous
2. turning a blind eye to political corruption
3. loss of moral compass.
Here is one last simple example of how you can remember and hopefully see through the overuse of the word "democracy":
Democracy: Two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
Representative Democracy: Two thousand wolves and one thousand sheep electing two wolves and a sheep who vote on what to have for dinner.
Constitutional Republic: Two thousand wolves and one thousand sheep electing two wolves and a sheep who vote on what to have for dinner, but are restricted by a Constitution that says they cannot eat sheep. The Supreme Court then votes 5 wolves to 4 sheep that mutton does not count as sheep.
Liberty: Well-armed sheep contesting the above votes.
The original framers of the United States Constitution were notably cognizant of what they perceived as a danger of majority rule in oppressing freedom and liberty of the individual. For example, James Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 10, advocates a "constitutional republic" over a "democracy" to protect the individual from the majority. The framers carefully created the institutions within the Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights. They kept what they believed were the best elements of majority rule. But they were mitigated by a constitution with protections for individual liberty, a separation of powers.
1892: “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
I just wish they would call it like it is--Constitutional Republic--and stop pushing the word "democracy".