Sunday, August 14, 2011

Democracy: From Definition to the Constitution

First let's examine two types of democracy and see how the founding father chose the type they did..

Pure Democracy

A pure democracy is one in which the power to govern lies directly in the hands of the people. Hence, it is sometimes also referred to direct democracy. All citizens are allowed to participate on an equal basis with fellow citizens in establishing policies, regulations and laws, and their enforcement. This form of democracy can work well for organizations or small towns, but it becomes unwieldy and virtually impossible at a national level. Attempts at pure democracy in a few colonies failed, which helped lead our country toward a different form of government.

Democratic Republic

To overcome the unwieldiness of a pure democracy, the drafters of our Constitution turned to a representative form of government. Instead of direct participation of the people in day-to-day governance, they set up a system that provided for elected representatives to enact executive and legislative policies and laws on behalf of its citizens in accordance with the common good and the welfare of our country. Therefore, our country was founded not as a pure democracy but as a democratic republic.

The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation were this country's first attempt to draft a constitution, uniting thirteen states under a weak federal government whose primary responsibilities were overseeing the revolution against England, conducting diplomatic discussions and negotiations with Europe, and dealing with territorial matters. There was no president, no cabinet, and no federal departments of any significance. It had no power to levy taxes (which was understandable considering the issues at that time), and was totally at the mercy of the states to make voluntary contributions for its support. This confederation did not establish a new country. Rather, it established only a loosely knit association of thirteen separate, diverse, and independent states. While this confederation was relatively successful in the three areas outlined above, it was totally ineffective in dealing with other urgent matters that required a stronger central government to be effective in other critical areas.

The U.S. Constitution

The United States Constitution was written in 1787 and took effect upon ratification of nine states in 1789. In framing a new constitution, its drafters had to walk a very tight line between national rights and states' rights. Many concessions had to be made on both sides to develop a document that would be acceptable to states with widely varying principles and practices. As a result our Constitution as drafted was considered by many to have been imperfect, even for the times, and had many defects which needed to be corrected after ratification. 

Where Do We Go From Here? 

Our Constitution has served us fairly well for more than 200 years.  It has endured thousands of challenges to our democratic republic.  However, it was not written to address every possible event or development that could arise in the indefinite future.  There is no way our founding fathers could ever, in their wildest dreams, have conceived that one day corporations would be recognized as persons, entitled to the same rights of free speech as private citizens, and that money would be considered free speech.  They could never have perceived of our government and our political system essentially being bought by big money interests. Most of all, they could never have envisioned that this country would one day (today) have established an aristocracy that rivals the very one they sought and fought with their life's blood to escape.  It is small wonder that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently made the comment,  "I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.,".

Our Constitution could not anticipate the challenges of the distant future, and our government has failed to guard our country from adapting it to changing times..  The bottom line is that our beloved Constitution  is in critical condition and needs to be revised.  The only real question that remains now is whether or not we are up to that challenge.

Next Topics:
                      Are We a Democratic Republic or a Plutocracy?

Major Threats to Our Democratic System

The Great Economic Divide

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