People, and by “people” I am mostly referring to snooty undergrads who think they have a clue or faux-intellectuals who think their intelligence directly correlates with the type of beer they drink, love to theorize about what democracy is. The discussion is predictable, if not entirely cookie-cutter: the topic of freedom via our democracy is raised, some asshole in a beret or Prohibition Era jacket holding a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon points out that we don’t have a “true democracy”, and may even point out how some recent academics have considered that our democracy is actually a lot more like an oligarchy. While the contention that our democracy has in fact evolved over time is a correct one, the spirit behind such discussions is based on false premises of what democracy is and ignorance surrounding what our democracy was meant to be like in the first place.
Democracy does not enable freedom. It does not permit freedom. Democracy does not necessarily create room for liberty, and it does not imply or facilitate equality. The most glaring evidence of that fact is the practice of the electoral college, which reminds us that the vote of a person from California is about 20 times more important than the vote of a person from Delaware. When the discussion about democracy is raised, usually as a means of backing an argument based upon pro-socialist theories (universal healthcare, income redistribution, confiscating privately owned firearms, etc.), what goes entirely amiss is that the nation was envisioned as a republic, which enabled a democracy. Democracy was a measure of control implemented to protect people from government, and not to deter the will of the people and empower those elected to lead them. It was meant to make America anything but the monarchy it had run from; anything but the monarchy that was dead-set to maintain the New World as a group of British colonies and not its own, independent nation.
In today’s America, Republicans do a terrible job of promoting republicanism. Democrats, today, don’t even like to pretend that republicanism ever existed. The concept of a republic enables liberty– personal autonomy and freedom from the inherent tyranny of federal control that sometimes goes unchecked. Liberty, via the framework of a republic, allows democracy to happen. In other words, republicanism gives democracy permission.
Governance through democracy is intended to limit the power of the federal government and enable governance via the states. The federal government’s role, as intended from the start, is to provide that which states cannot provide themselves– nothing more. And though we like to pretend like there is no precedent for that notion while things like “hope and change” become justifications for the constant nullification of liberty, there is actually a ton of literature on the matter; let us take a glimpse at just a few of them.
An excerpt from “The Liberty Song”, the first patriotic American ballad, written in 1768 by John Dickinson:
Come join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty’s call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America’s name.
In freedom we’re born, and in freedom we’ll live,
Our purses are ready,
Steady, friends, steady,
Not as slaves, but as freemen our money
The incredible thing about that excerpt is that the “purses” and “money” being referenced to do not have to be thought of as wallets, or actual hard currency. The purses can hold anything– your possessions, your ideas, your individuality, your freedom of choice, the healthcare plan you used to have that was cheaper and worked better for you and your loved ones, or your goals. These are all things that progressives make a living of either condemning you for having, dictating what these should be for you, or ripping from you what they deem the “excess” and redistributing that to others undeserving. The “money” needn’t have the face of a former President emblazoned on it– it can be your time, your effort at work, or even your opinions. Every one of those are examples of things that progressives like to either tax you on, lie to you about, or label you erroneously for. The Liberty Song predates the Constitution, and is but another example of something we are more apt to ignore than revere, or learn by its example.
In the wake of the Boston Tea Party, and the subsequent British response to it which saw ports shut down and colonies deprived of their outlets to sustenance, a few men from Virginia called for the Continental Congress with this justification:
…We are further clearly of opinion, that an attack, made on one of our sister colonies, to compel submissions to arbitrary taxes, is an attack made on all British America, and threatens ruin to the rights of all, unless the united wisdom of the whole be applied.
Is there anything more arbitrary and ridiculous than a nation’s highest court validating a penalty for not buying something, under the justification that it can be considered a “tax”? Yeah, we as Americans just cheered for that, and let it happen (not me though!). Peter the Great actually implemented a tax on citizens for sporting beards sometime around the start of the 18th century, and that even makes more sense than the Obamacare mandate. Hell, it would be especially applicable today in a place like the gentrified, and hipster-infested borough of Brooklyn. Bring this one back, guys– in hindsight, it was pretty smart!
Patrick Henry wrote to the President of the Continental Congress in 1775:
Gentlemen may cry peace, peace!– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stay we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me: give me liberty, or give me death!
The most amazing thing about how we view “liberty” today, to me, is that we so rarely look at liberty as being on par with something else we cannot exist without– oxygen. We sit back and watch people push bullshit initiatives, in the name of liberty, when they are anything but.
“Access to” (i.e “free”) healthcare, is pushed as a universal right that directly coincides with the notion of liberty– yet to enable this in reality we allowed the federal government to monopolize it and dictate what “good healthcare” is, we cheered on the creation of a “marketplace” that offered an incredible selection of three whole healthcare plans and told you that you had to choose one, and we allowed that same government to pretend like such proceedings would have no ill effect on a market that already sorely lacks an inroads to competitive innovation (which is how you lower the cost of medical care, by the way). It has also completely forgot about the motivation necessary to lead intelligent youths down the path of medical education in the future. We somehow managed to allow the government to do this in the name of liberty, while it did nothing but carry on its tradition of enslaving the public will– a public that in the end, remains populated with people who do not give much of a damn so long as their birth control is free.
The problem with our understanding of liberty today is that it is not revered as something important enough to die for– a level of dedication to it like Patrick Henry must have had in calling upon his fellow colonists to take up arms, and to start taking action, even if it meant that they would not be alive to see their children, or their grandchildren playing in the yards of the homes they owned– built on American soil. In 2014, Patrick Henry would have been the guy that got his rifle ready, and jumped on his horse, if 300 little girls were kidnapped by the British. He would not appeal for someone else to do something about it via Twitter, and pretend like he had done his part.
Today, we look at liberty like something given to us as a gift by the people we elect. We place it below a good, but naturally flawed system we call democracy. In doing so we allow the keepers of democracy to use liberty as a tool; a means of controlling popularity, directing public opinion, or guaranteeing subservience. And that is a travesty. Liberty is a gift bestowed upon the people, by the people who spilled blood to make such a gift possible. It is liberty that motivated the founding of the nation as a republic, and allowed citizens to seek the honor of making decisions and acting as the voice of the people by way of public life. If liberty was ever to be a tool, it was exclusively meant for the people and no one else. Politicians– people who were expected to serve in politics as a secondary profession, and not a career– are not the ones who own the sow that reaps the fruits of liberty. Today, we have this backwards.
Such a backwards situation would not be so bad if we regularly enjoyed leadership that understood that civilizations exist most efficiently when markets are free, and when people maintain a hold on the liberty that directs their personal decisions and lives. Healthcare is but one of many examples in which the government has told us that we are no longer capable of being autonomous decision makers for ourselves and our families.
The unfortunate thing, in the end, is that many Americans are just fine with the way we perceive what liberty is, how we skew its meaning, and spit upon it daily. Similarly, the British ruled over the colonies for a century and a half, and some even liked it, before people like Thomas Paine decided it was time to kick things into action and enable a revolution. In Common Sense, buried deep in the parts that people don’t bother to Google, he states:
Small islands not capable of protecting themselves are the proper objects for government to take under their care; but there is something absurd in supposing a continent be perpetually governed by an island. In no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its primary planet; and as England and America, with respect to each other, reverse the common order of nature, it is evident that they belong to different systems. England to Europe: America to itself.
We do not understand what it is to be ruled by a foreign power- a satellite. But we are doing an impeccable job of recreating that satellite, and giving it an American flag to wave while it exercises control upon matters of importance not applicable to a need for federal concern. We have turned D.C. into colonial England.
While big-R Republicans might be disappointing these days, if you ever encounter a republican, that supports republicanism, you should say “thank you”. They support a cause that enabled your country to be what it is. When the idea of free-anything (markets, choice, etc.) becomes something vilified, or entirely condemned by the progressive clowns who infest our nation’s leadership ranks, a great disservice is done to the history and the tradition imparted upon us by those who fought, and sometimes died for what became the United States of America.
If someone wants to pat themselves on the back as a progressive (which, really, is the sole purpose of their existence), and tells you in their next breath about how much they believe in the idea of liberty and the freedoms it should guarantee, kindly remind them that they are not only living examples of their own hypocrisy, but traitors to the cause. Progressivism does not exist without a complete indifference to the nature of what is a free individual exercising their liberty, on republican soil.
Progressives, like the colonial British, are enemies of the dream that was liberty and became the republic. In turn, they also exist as enemies of the State(s), and they need to be reminded of it more often.
Author’s note: You may have noticed that I have not linked my quotations to any online sources or documents in this article. That is because I have hand-written each one, from hardcopies I own, that are open right in front of me in my apartment. I do not say this to sound pretentious like someone sitting at Starbucks reading Kerouac, but I think Americans would most assuredly prosper from seeking out, and purchasing the original documents that we so often pull up on computer screens and pluck pieces from to suit our needs. In that regard, if you feel like you might want to read these documents in their entirety, I suggest you run down to your nearest Barnes & Noble (or whatever’s out there these days), and you grab a copy of some of the documents and publications that set forth the foundations for our country’s framework and its escape from tyranny. Yes, you’ll have to deal with another arbitrary tax much like the colonies did called a “sales tax”, but I think there are more pros to be had than cons in reading every single word of these pieces we rarely see in full. Just my opinion, though. Take it or leave it.