This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Democracy and the founders

I’m not going to spend much time on this idea, because frankly it has been beaten into the ground. The only reason I’m addressing it at all is because, despite the fact that it should be common knowledge, it isn’t.

The Founding Fathers established a republic. They had no interest in establishing a democracy. In the words of J. Hampden Doherty in his book, Electoral System in the United States:

The tendency in this democratic age is to overlook the fact that the Fathers of the Constitution were not believers in the rule of the people, and it was not until after 1800 that manhood suffrage was adopted in any of the states.

James Madison, in The Federalst, no. 14, lamented “the confounding of a republic with a democracy, applying to the former reasonings drawn from the nature of the latter.”

We can also refer to John Adams, second president of the United States, who wrote in A Defense of the Constitution of the United States of America, volume III, that: “No democracy ever did or can exist…in reality the word democracy signifies nothing more or less than a nation or people without any government at all.”

The Founders envisioned a ruling elite, even if this ruling elite would be expected to represent the people. Whether you like the sound of that idea or not, it is what it is, and must be acknowledged as such, so that whatever else we have wrong, at least we have our history right. This elite may not have been a hereditary aristocracy, but it was an aristocracy nonetheless. Jefferson himself was open and honest about his desires:

The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed men for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides most effectually for the pure selection of the natural aristoi into the offices of government?[1]

This notion is not very democratic, nor is it egalitarian.

Why, then, is there so much talk of American-as-democracy and so little of America-as-republic? Why, then, have we been able to embark on wars under the very pretext of “making the world safe for democracy”? The reason seems to be that democracy is a lot more pleasing to the man in the street than the more hierarchical structure of a representative republic. It is also simpler, as a concept. The mechanisms of a republic can become complex.

The result, then, is that we prefer the term democracy because we like what it implies: that everything is up to us, that everything is in our hands, and that there is no higher power beyond the will of the people. I am not governed, I govern myself.

The reality is quite different, of course, and so our ideas about our social condition tend to be at variance with life as we actually find it. This results in a good deal of confusion and frustration. This incorrect worldview ends up distorting the mentality of those who hold it.

This is why I will suggest that although we don’t have a democracy, we do have democratism, which is a very different thing.

Democratism is a mentality that results from an obsession with a principle–the principle of self-government. And it is this mentality that raises voting to the level of a sacred duty. But if democratism is a worldview that, in a sense, is not real, then the ideas about voting, which spring from democratism, will be equally unreal.

[1] Letter to John Adams, Oct. 28, 1814.

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