Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the republic last …
That line paraphrases Paul Simon’s song that recommends moving slowly. President Obama stated that he will not accept delay in passing health care reform. What’s wrong with a little delay? This country has done quite well without health care reform for 233 years, so what are a few more months? Other leaders have said that they would not tolerate delay, but they’ve generally been from countries we didn’t like very much.
“To delay action is the same as death.” Vladimir Lenin
Perhaps President Obama should review the thoughts of some of our Founding Fathers in this regard.
“Delay is preferable to error.” Thomas Jefferson
“When in doubt – don’t.” Benjamin Franklin
This rush to create greater dependence on the government demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the intent of our Founding Fathers and our Constitution. The left envisions a democracy ruled by the unlimited power of an increasingly liberal majority. However, our Constitution does not mention the words “democracy” or “democratic” at all! Some constitutions do, such as the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and we know how democratic they are.
“The People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class. …”
Democracy, from the Greek Demokratia, or “people power,” is a system in which the majority rules. Why, then, is there no mention of democracy in the Constitution? Why does it direct that the states shall ensure a republican form of government and not a democracy? The reason is that our Founding Fathers never intended that we have a democracy. Many citizens would be surprised to learn that the United States is not a democracy; it is a republic.
The word “republic” is from the Latin “res” or “thing” and “publicus” or “people.” Our republic (thing of the people) is designed to protect the rights of the minority from the majority while ensuring representation in a constitutionally limited government. In a democracy, majority decisions can eclipse individual rights. In our republic the law rules, individual liberty is the goal and the people elect representatives. Thomas Jefferson said: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.” The founders knew that democracy was unsustainable. Thomas Jefferson said: “Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
The founders understood history, something our liberal brethren have neglected to study. They therefore established a republic to prevent rule by a simple majority, not to promote it. Unfortunately, civics is being taught by an education system long ago taken over by the far left. American educators are more likely to teach the thoughts of Marx than those of Jefferson.
Our founders didn’t consider the Constitution perfect. They agonized over the writing of this document. They understood that things change in the course of time and instituted a process for amending the Constitution. An amendment was purposely designed to require a substantial, not a simple majority. Presidential fiat, congressional circumvention and legislation from the bench were not considered to be substitutions for this process. The founders were very clear with regard to limits on the powers of government. They held individual freedom, initiative and responsibility in highest esteem. They understood that producing a dependent underclass could only lead to abuse of power, with that power vested in the hands of a political elite that would take from those who produce and give to those who don’t in exchange for votes. Jefferson said: “Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”
Those elected to office were supposed to be educated and wise; able to analyze issues in greater depth than would be possible for the average person. They were not supposed to be career politicians, with energies directed mainly to re-election, but citizens who wanted to contribute for a limited time, leaving us better off, but leaving nonetheless. They were expected to understand the reasons for the constraints on government that were enshrined in our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers dared to change the course of the world by establishing what would become the greatest republic that has ever existed. They were possessed of wisdom that is even more pertinent today. If self-promoting politicians are going to legislatively tear down our republic, they should at least be expected to take the time to understand what they are demolishing.
The president’s arrogance is counterproductive and contradicts the principles espoused by our Founding Fathers. It shows contempt for the very document he has sworn to preserve, protect and defend and proves he is oblivious to the mistakes that the framers of our Constitution predicted would lead to disaster. This country was not established so that the government could take care of the daily needs of citizens, but so that all citizens would have the freedom to take care of themselves and decide their own destinies. Thomas Jefferson prophetically stated: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. ”
Our president and the majority party have redefined rights to include those services the government must provide. Our founders had thoughts on that, too. Benjamin Franklin eloquently explained the interplay of individual rights and personal responsibilities when he said: “Our Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. They have to catch it themselves.”
No good can come from this rush to pass prohibitively expensive and ill-conceived legislation that expands the power of government and undermines our republic. When a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him what form of government the founders had given the country, he replied: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
Can we keep it? The question is moot if we don’t even know what “it” is.
Frank S. Rosenbloom, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine and practices general internal and hospital medicine in Portland, Ore. He is president of Oregon Right to Life and recently finished writing a book: “Mis-Managed Care.” Rosenbloom blogs at summacontraprobus.blogspot.com.