Govt 101 – Democracy
--By Ben Gilmore
GOVERNMENT … – direction …, regulation …, control …, restraint ….
[Webster 1828 (my paraphrase)]
DEMOC̵RACY, n. […] Government by the people; a form of government, in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the people collectively, or in which the people exercise the powers of legislation. Such was the government of Athens.
When democracy works –
X-ville is a 50 family village in colonial Massachusetts. The good folks of this small community meet monthly in their meeting house (the church is the community’s largest room) to do the community business. We’ll call it a “town meeting”. Majority rules.
The well is dry. They must tax themselves to dig a new well. They vote for a $50/family tax. Everyone will be drinking from the well.
The widow Jones and her 16 kids (You’d think she would have died before the husband!) is already having a hard time clothing and feeding her family. These were pre “government-welfare” days. The new $50 assessment will hit her hard.
X-ville folks have good character. Without anyone saying anything, her share gets taken care of. BUT – Suppose the folks lack that good character and the widow Jones has to go without food and shoes for her kids so they can drink. — Every time the townsfolk walk past her house they and their consciences see the results of their majority vote. They don’t enjoy that, and the problem gets corrected.
My point – In a small community, the majority has to live with the results of their majority vote. Conscience makes it a self-policing system.
When democracy does not work –
Suppose the folks in the county (X-ville, Y-ville, Z-ville) decide to have just one “town meeting” in place of the three held in each town. All 150 families gather monthly in the Y-ville church – majority rules. Will the majority (100 families from Y-ville & Z-ville) know anything about widow Jones? Not likely. Will their consciences serve to self-police their majority rule?
My point – In a large group, the minority is often overlooked. The majority becomes a tyranny.
A system ruled by a majority is called a “democracy”. The ultimate “democracy” is a lynch mob. Only one person in the group objects!
America’s founders recognized the significance of small electorates (those who may vote in an election). The president is elected by the states. Congressmen are elected by CD (“congressional districts” with more or less equal number of voters).
Before the 17th Ammendment [April 8, 1913] U.S. Senators (2 per state), were elected by their state legislators. Thus – Since CA has 80 Assemblymen and 40 state Senators [120 legislators], Senators Boxer & Feinstein would be elected to the U.S. senate by a majority of 120 votes.
After the 17th Ammendment was (passed by the people!), Boxer and Feinstein are elected by a majority of ALL the voters in CA (18 million voters!!!!).
Think about it.
Would you rather take great care in your choice of a state legislator and trust him and at least 60 others to send a CA Senator to Washington – or – Leave it to the good judgment of at least 9 million plus 1 (a majority of voters). Which system better limits the behavior of a U.S. Senator? What size “tea party” group will it require to threaten re-election of a State Senator answerable to 9,000,001 voters?
So why did the people vote away their sovereignty over the U.S. Senate? They were duped. They did not understand the difference between “democracy” (majority rule) and “republic” (representation). They needed a course in “Principles of American Government!”Ben Gilmore