Why America’s Founders Didn’t Want a Democracy


Gary M. Galles provides a book review of Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History by Randall Holcombe. The Holcombe book and review author Galles provide a civics lesson certain to drive Dem Party members and their MSM propaganda machine nuts as it explains the Founders disdain for a government by democracy as opposed by a Republic by consensus.

 

JRH 12/21/19

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Why America’s Founders Didn’t Want a Democracy

In his book “Liberty in Peril,” Randall Holcombe challenges the presumption that liberty and democracy are complementary.

 

Constitution

 

Book Review by Gary M. Galles

December 17, 2019

Foundation for Economic Education

 

When I took history and government in school, many critical issues were misrepresented, given short shrift, or even ignored entirely. And those lacunae undermined my ability to adequately understand many things. Randall Holcombe’s new book, Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History, fills in some very substantial gaps, particularly with regard to American constitutionalism and how it has morphed from protecting liberty to advancing democracy at the expense of liberty. It does so with a host of novel and important insights rather than the disinterest generated by the books I suffered through in school.

 

The Role of Government 

Holcombe gets right to the main point:

 

The role of government as [America’s founders] saw it, was to protect the rights of individuals, and the biggest threat to individual liberty was the government itself. So they designed a government with constitutionally limited powers, constrained to carry out only those activities specifically allowed by the Constitution. This book describes how the fundamental principle underlying American government has been transformed from protecting individual liberty to carrying out the will of the people, as revealed by a democratic decision-making process. (p. xxii)

 

Holcombe begins by laying out the case that “the Founders had no intention of creating a democracy, in the sense of a government that would be guided by popular opinion,” (p. 5) in sharp contrast to current “understanding.” And what makes the transformation from a central focus on liberty to a central focus on democracy that routinely invades liberty particularly significant is that

 

the powers embodied in America’s twenty-first-century democratic government are those that eighteenth-century Americans revolted against to escape. (p. 7)

 

Since I do not have the space to dissect all of the issues in Liberty in Peril, I would like to highlight a few particularly noteworthy things.

 

Holcombe starts with John Locke, which is a common place to start for those interested in advancing liberty. But he also calls attention to Cato’s Letters, which was one of the most influential—but now almost completely ignored—influences leading to the birth of the American Revolution. I have long been struck by how many of the insights our founders are credited with that actually trace back there (see the first major chapter of my book Lines of Liberty), and I echo Holcombe’s invitation for more people to discover it.

 

Are Liberty and Democracy Complementary? 

Liberty in Peril challenges the typical current presumption that liberty and democracy are complementary.

 

The principle of liberty suggests that first and foremost, the government’s role is to protect the rights of individuals. The principle of democracy suggests that collective decisions are made according to the will of the majority…The greater the allowable scope of democracy in government, the greater the threat to liberty…In particular, the ascendency of the concept of democracy threatens the survival of the free market economy, which is an extension of the Founders’ views on liberty. (pp. 14-15)

 

This is reflected in the changing nature of elections.

 

At one time, elections might have been viewed as a method of selecting competent people to undertake a job with constitutionally-specified limits. With the extension of democracy, elections became referendums on public policy. (p. 20)

 

Consensus vs. Democracy

The book also challenges commonly held presumptions that our Founders wanted democracy. But while “the Founders wanted those in charge of government’s operations to be selected by a democratic process,” they “also wanted to insulate those who ran the government from direct influence by its citizens” because “[b]y insulating political decision-makers from directs accountability to citizens, the government would be in a better position to adhere to its constitutionally-mandated limits.” (p. 15)

 

“Thus, the Constitution created a limited government designed to protect liberty, not to foster democracy.” (p. 16) But the United States “consistently has moved toward more democracy, and the unintended side effect has been a reduction in liberty.” (p. 25)

 

Holcombe lays out issues of consensus versus democracy, with consensus illustrated by market systems in which all those whose property rights are involved agree to transactions, (p. 29) but in government, “a group is able to undertake more extensive collective action if it requires less consensus to act.” (p. 30) And the slippery slope is that

 

[t]he more citizens want to further national goals through government action, the less consensus they will demand in the collective decision-making process. (p. 33)

 

An In-Depth Study of the Constitution

Another notable aspect of Liberty in Peril is how far beyond the typical discussion of constitutional issues it goes, substantially expanding readers’ understanding in intriguing ways. For instance, how many Americans know of the Iroquois Constitution, which focused on unanimity? How many are aware of the Albany Plan of Union, drawn up in 1754, or how it was influenced by the Iroquois Constitution? How many know that a “clear chain of constitutional evolution proceeds from the Albany Plan of Union to the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution of the United States”? (p. 43)

 

How many have noticed that “when compared with the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution clearly less constraining than the document it supplanted…the Constitution did not limit the powers of government; it expanded them”? (p. 48) Yet,

 

[w]hile the authors of the Constitution did deliberately expand the powers of the federal government, they just as deliberately tried to prevent the creation of a democratic government. (p. 52)

 

How many are aware of what the Confederate Constitution tells us about the US Constitution and the drift from its principles since its adoption, especially because “the problems that the authors of the Confederate Constitution actually did address were overwhelmingly associated with the use of legislative powers to impose costs on the general public to provide benefits to narrow constituencies”? (p. 107)

 

The Constitution often is portrayed as a document that limits the power of the federal government and guarantees the liberty of its citizens…When compared to the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution places less constraint on the federal government and allows those who run the government more discretion and autonomy and less accountability. The adoption of the Constitution enhanced the powers of government and laid the foundation for two centuries of government growth. (pp. 66-67)

 

The Elitist Constitution

Holcombe’s section on “The Elitist Constitution” is fascinating. It lays out the case for why “[t]he Constitution devised democratic processes for collective decision-making, but the Founders had no intention of designing a government that would respond to the will of the majority,” (p. 70) as illustrated by the fact that citizens “had almost no direct input into the federal government as the Constitution was originally written and ratified.” (p. 70)

 

The section on the Electoral College is even more striking, as it stands in sharp variance from the presumptions behind almost the entire current debate over the National Popular Vote compact:

 

[A]t the time the Constitution was written the Founders anticipated that in most cases no candidate would receive votes from a majority of the electors. The Founders reasoned that most electors would vote for one candidate from their own states…and it would be unlikely that voting along state lines would produce any candidate with a majority of the votes. (p. 75)

 

Consequently,

 

The Founders envisioned that in most cases the president would end up being chosen by the House of Representatives from the list of the top-five electoral vote recipients…Furthermore, there was no indication that the number of electoral votes received should carry any weight besides creating a list of the top five candidates…The process was not intended to be democratic. (p. 76)

 

I found the issues discussed above to be of particular interest. But there is far more in the book to learn from, and often be surprised by, in comparison to what history courses usually teach.

 

America’s Evolution Away From Founding Values

Such issues include the evolution of parties, the influence of Andrew Jackson, who “fought for democracy, but, ironically, the result of making the nation’s government more democratic has been to expand the scope and power of government in response to popular demands for govern programs,” (p. 91) which “the Founders foresaw and tried to guard against by limiting the role of democracy in their new government,” (p. 91), the War Between the States (“the single most important event in the transformation of American government,” (p. 93) including the elimination of state succession as a real possibility, the Reconstruction Era amendments, the origins of interest group politics, the evolution of federal regulatory power, the evolution of the incentives of civil servants, the Sixteenth Amendment (income tax) as “a response to the demand for a larger federal government,” (p. 149) a different take on the 1920s, in which “[f]ar from representing a retreat from progressivism, the 1920s extended the now-established orthodoxy, (p. 154) added insight into the New Deal and the courts, Social Security as the “one New Deal program for the responsibility for fundamentally transforming the historical, constitutional role of the federal government,” (p. 175) how “The Great Society represents the ultimate triumph of democracy, because for the first time a major expansion in the scope of government was based on the demands of the electorate, with no extenuation circumstances” (p. 205), and far more.

 

In sum, there are very many good reasons to recommend Liberty in Peril. In it, Randall Holcombe provides not just a powerful and insightful look into crucial aspects of America’s evolution away from the principles of the revolution that created it but also an important warning:

 

Unfortunately, many Americans do not appear to fully understand these dangers as they continue to push the foundations of their government away from liberty and toward democracy. (p. 225)

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Blog Editor: Rather than capitulate to Facebook censorship by abandoning the platform, I choose to post and share until the Leftist censors ban me. Recently, the Facebook censorship tactic I’ve experienced is a couple of Group shares then jailed under the false accusation of posting too fast. So I ask those that read this, to combat censorship by sharing blog and Facebook posts with your friends or Groups you belong to.

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Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except for material where copyright is reserved by a party other than FEE.

 

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A Bit Of History: The Crusades Were In Fact A Response To Islamic Jihad


Truth about Crusades

These days if you hear or learn about the Crusades in an academic setting, from a Leftist Apologists or Muslim Apologists; the info is usually disdainful against the Crusader Knights.

 

There was indeed some brutality committed by the Crusaders; ironically as much against (Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Rite) Christians and Jews as against Muslims. Except perhaps the bloody conquest of Jerusalem involving Jews and Muslims, the Muslims as even today were just or more brutal. In fact, Muslim acts of brutality began from day one Mohammed’s conquest of Medina and through the next four hundred or five hundred years against Christians (and Hindus in India) that has not abated to this present day. Hmm … When did the Crusades end?

 

Those years of activity by Crusaders lasted roughly from 1095 to 1291 and perhaps a few extra decades as Muslims mopped away – QUITE BRUTALLY – the Crusader remnants in the Middle East and Mediterranean.

 

Dee Fatouros found this brief history of the Crusades and cross posted at The Realistic Observer that accurately portrays the real reason the Crusades came about.

 

As a bonus after the Brian English history lesson, I am posting an approximately five-minute video about the Muslim White Slavery trade. The video format is vidmax.com. I couldn’t figure out how to embed that format so I cross posted the video on my YouTube page at John Houk.

 

JRH 4/11/16 (Hat Tip: Dee Fatouros)

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A Bit Of History: The Crusades Were In Fact A Response To Islamic Jihad

 

By Brian M. English
Crisis Magazine

Posted by Dee Fatouros

April 10, 2016

The Realistic Observer

Crusader vs Saracen battle depiction

No matter How much you may or may not know about the Crusades, you will undoubtedly learn a great deal more from the following article.

 

Following 9/11, there was renewed interest in the Crusades as explanations were sought for the brutal attacks. As terrorist attacks have continued throughout the years, and now with the rise of the Islamic State, this interest in the Crusades has not abated. Unfortunately, increased interest has not necessarily translated into increased knowledge. Prof. Thomas F. Madden has lamented: “An interested person who simply strolls into a bookstore looking for a history of the crusades is much more likely to walk out with a book written by a novelist, journalist, or ex-nun than one written by a professional historian and based on the best research available. The heightened public interest in the crusades since 9/11 has created a market for popular histories, many of which simply retell myths long ago dispelled by historians.”

One particularly persistent myth is that the Crusades were the catalyst for conflict between Christianity and Islam. From President Clinton’s speech at Georgetown University less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, to President Obama’s speech at last year’s National Prayer Breakfast, and in pieces of popular culture like Ridley Scott’s film Kingdom of Heaventhe theme is consistent—the confrontation between Christianity and Islam began at the end of the eleventh century when a band of Christian savages invaded the peaceful lands of Islam. History tells a very different story.

In the seventh century a new faith stormed out of Arabia and sought to engulf the world. The Arab armies seeking to spread the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed in the East destroyed Sassanid Persia and drove the Byzantine Empire back into Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Included among the early conquests of the soldiers of Islam was the city of Jerusalem, which fell to them in 638. In the West, Muslim armies surged across North Africa and in 711 engulfed Spain.

The Islamic march towards Europe from the East was halted in 718 when the Byzantines, led by Emperor Leo III, annihilated the Muslim army that had besieged Constantinople for over a year. Muslim expansion in the West was halted by Charles Martel and the Franks in 732 at the battle of Tours, in what is now central France. However, the blocking of the land routes into Europe did not end the Muslim conquests. The Muslims, who became known in Europe as “Saracens,” took to the seas in a campaign of conquest and pillage that terrorized the western Mediterranean for three hundred years.

Early in the ninth century, both Corsica and Sardinia came under Muslim control. In 827, the Saracens began a 50-year conquest of Sicily and over the next several decades established bases in Italy and southern France. From these bases, Saracen raiders struck with impunity throughout Italy, into France, and even into Germany. The most symbolically horrifying of these raids took place in 846, when the suburbs of Rome were burned and the basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul were desecrated.

War raged in Sicily for 50 years, ravaging the land and people. Finally in 878, Syracuse, the preeminent city of Sicily, fell. Its citizens were slaughtered and the fabulous wealth of the city was looted. That victory effectively completed the Saracen conquest of Sicily, although the fortified town of Taormina held out until 902, when its walls were finally breached and its inhabitants massacred.

Throughout the tenth century the raiding continued, sometimes on a massive scale. Genoa was devastated in 935, its people killed or enslaved, by a fleet from Africa. In 950–952, Calabria was sacked and Naples besieged. However, the tenth century also marked the first stirring of the counter-attack of Western Christendom—a counter-attack spearheaded by the Catholic Church. In 915, the main Muslim base in Italy, located on the River Garigliano, was destroyed by a force organized and partially led by the warrior Pope, John X. That initial success was merely a precursor of the response that would later be generated by a call to arms by the Church.

The eleventh century marked the turning point in the clash between Islam and Western Christendom. At the end of its first decade, the Egyptian Caliph al-Hakim destroyed the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem—the Church built on the location of Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection—and no military response was possible. Before the close of the century’s final decade, Christian warriors were storming the walls of the city.

In 1016, Pope Benedict VIII forged an alliance between Genoa and Pisa, and the combined fleets of the trading cities destroyed a Saracen force from Spain that had occupied Sardinia. The Muslims were permanently ejected from Sardinia and the Pisans occupied the island. This military success by two of the leading commercial cities in Europe demonstrated the growing economic vitality of the West; a vitality that would translate into the ability to launch a major offensive aimed at recapturing territory conquered by the Muslims.

The Christian reconquest of Europe began in earnest in the second half of the eleventh century. At the forefront of that reconquest were the ubiquitous Normans. The Normans were descended from Vikings who had settled in northern France at the start of the tenth century. They took the land as a bribe from the king of France so that they would stop their raiding of French territory. They converted to Christianity and established an energetic and adventurous kingdom.

The most famous Norman Conquest took place in 1066. However, a few years earlier, a group of Normans led by Robert of Hauteville, who would become known to history as Robert Guiscard (“Robert the Wary”), and his younger brother Roger, had landed in Sicily and embarked on a conquest of their own. The Hautevilles and their men arrived in Sicily in 1061. They soon conquered Messina and by 1072 the city of Palermo, which under Muslim rule had replaced Syracuse as the leading city of Sicily, had fallen. During this campaign, Roger and his men marched under a papal banner, which signified the Church’s approval of their mission.

During the same time period that the Normans were prosecuting their conquest of Sicily, the Christian kingdoms in the north of Spain, aided by Norman and French knights, embarked on a second offensive in the counter—attack of Western Christendom. Just as in Sicily, papal approval was granted to the campaign. This effort culminated in 1085 with the capture of Toledo, the city in Spain with the greatest religious significance for Muslims, by the forces of Alfonso VI, king of Leon and Castile.

A dramatic change in the character of the West’s counter-attack took place in 1087, when the Genoese and Pisans allied once again pursuant to papal requests; this time they carried the war home to the Saracens in north Africa. The city of Mahdiya on the north-African coast was the chief port used by Muslim raiders and pirates. The Genoese and Pisan force, serving under the command of a bishop acting as a papal representative, plundered the city and burnt the Saracen fleet in the harbor.

While the power of Muslim forces waned in the West, Muslim expansion in the East was reinvigorated with the conversion of the Seljuk Turks to Islam in the second half of the tenth century. These ferocious horse-archers from Central Asia conquered both Iran and Iraq by 1055. In 1055, a Seljuk chieftain, Tughrul-Beg, entered Baghdad and in 1058 was proclaimed “Sultan,” the secular leader of the Sunni branch of Islam.

By 1059, the Seljuks controlled an empire that stretched from Iran to the Byzantine border in Asia Minor and the border in Syria of an Islamic kingdom, the Fatimid Caliphate, whose power emanated from Egypt. In 1071, the Turks struck a blow against the Byzantine Empire that sent shock waves throughout Christendom. In that year the Byzantine Emperor, Romanus Diogenes, gathered a large—but poorly integrated—army and marched into Armenia to face the Turks. The Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan, hearing of the Byzantine advance, galloped with his army to confront the emperor. The two armies met at the Armenian city of Manzikert, located near Lake Van.

At the Battle of Manzikert, the Seljuks destroyed the Byzantine army and captured the emperor. The Byzantine Empire was thrown into disarray. Emperor Alexius I, who seized the imperial throne in 1081, managed to stabilize the situation during the 1080s through a combination of military force and diplomatic skill. However, a series of disastrous reversals between 1091 and 1095 in Asia Minor brought the Turks within 50 miles of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. Alexius, fearing the encroaching Seljuks, sent a delegation to Pope Urban II begging for military help against the Turks. Fortunately for Alexius, Urban and the knighthood of Western Europe were ready to hear and respond to this call for help.

On November 27, 1095, Urban appeared at Clermont in southern France and called on the knighthood of France to liberate the Christians of the East and the Holy City of Jerusalem from the scourge of the Turks. This liberation would be accomplished through the use of a new form of pilgrimage: the armed pilgrimage. Urban’s pilgrims would not be the simple penitents dressed in plain garments who had been traveling to Jerusalem in the past; they would be warriors clad in iron, with the goal of wresting Jerusalem from the Turks by force. This pilgrimage appeared so difficult and dangerous that Urban decreed that all past sins of those who shouldered this burden would be forgiven.

Although Urban’s appeal had been specifically aimed at the French, knights from all over Europe pledged to fight their way to Jerusalem. The only knights who were turned away were the Spanish: Urban reasoned that the efforts of Spanish knights in the Holy Land would be futile because their absence endangered Christians in Spain. Urban intended that the crusade in the East would be the opening of a second front in the war of Christian liberation that was already being fought in Spain.

Contrary to popular belief, the primary motivation for the majority of the crusaders was not the acquisition of wealth or land in the East. Nor was the crusade seen as an easy way to ship off younger sons who, by the laws of inheritance, would be denied a share of their father’s lands.

A crusader and his family endured crushing hardships and incurred enormous expenses to obtain the resources to support the crusader’s dangerous journey to Jerusalem. These costs were only magnified when, as was often the case, several members of a family joined the crusade. It is unlikely that many of those who joined the crusade were foolish enough to believe that they would recover their costs and would go on to amass great wealth. The vast majority of West European knighthood either did not consider answering the pope’s appeal or considered the obstacles to responding to Urban’s call too daunting.

In the minds of the knights who actually took the cross, the primary benefits of joining the crusade were of a more intangible nature. The forgiveness of sins was certainly a powerful inducement: most crusaders had spent their lives immersed in a culture of violence and that violence had been directed at other Christians. Many had probably committed acts they were ashamed of and achieving forgiveness for those transgressions would be a powerful motivation.

Joining the crusade also appealed to a spirit of adventure. Heading out into the unknown on a divinely ordained mission represented a union of the secular and the sacred that must have been difficult for an idealistic member of the knighthood to resist. The crusade offered not only an opportunity for heroic acts, but heroic acts performed in the service of the Church.

The great army that responded to Urban’s call had gathered at Constantinople by the spring of 1097. The Age of Crusading was about to begin—a chapter in, not the beginning of, the history of conflict between Christianity and Islam.

 

Source: Christian Action Network

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Islam Unveiled Facebook Group info on VIDMAX VIDEO:

 

Caroline Ghorayeb

Facebook Islam Unveiled Group

April 8, 2016 10:08pm

 

The history you seldom hear about, Millions of White Europeans enslavement for nearly 1000 yrs

 

This is the history that some activists in the United States refuse to acknowledge even took place, regardless of the fact that it did and it lasted…

VIDMAX.COM

 

At Vidmax.com posted by RagnarLothbrok

 

My YouTube Page Cross Post:

 

VIDEO: The history you seldom hear about, Millions of White Europeans enslavement for nearly 1000 yrs


Posted by John Houk

Published on Apr 11, 2016

 

This is a five-minute audio history of Muslim White Slavery with pictures taking place roughly after the USA became a Constitutional Republic.

 

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A Bit Of History: The Crusades Were In Fact A Response To Islamic Jihad

 

Edited for this blog by John R. Houk

Intro by Editor

 

The source link given about Prof. Thomas F. Madden quote is from Crisis Magazine.