Saturday, January 16, 2010

Term Limits: A Ridiculous Policy

The failing economy has turned many Americans into ‘garage-politicians’: people who become political and economic experts by religiously watching Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann. Many of these garage-politicians are blaming their legislators for their apathy, laziness, or indifference towards their constituency’s economic and financial needs. This heated view of their elected officials has led many Americans to support a policy change that would flush out the legislature and allow the American people a new start with a fresh set of legislators. This new policy is term limits. This change in policy is ridiculous, because our Republic has built-in term limits: voting.

Some Americans argue that imposing term limits will save the country from the political ravishing of career-politicians who care more for reelection than in performing their duties as entrusted by their constituencies. While it may be true that some legislators care more for reelection than in adhering to the Constitution, this point is irrelevant for enacting term limits. The bedrock of our country is the ability of the people to elect new leaders when they dislike or disagree with the job their leaders have performed. Voting reflects the beliefs, biases, knowledge, ignorance, desires, and social temperance of the people. If the people like the results of their leaders, the voters will reelect them into office – regardless of the personal motives of the leader. If the people cannot vote out their elected Representative who is violating the Constitution, what safeguard will term-limits provide from the people reelecting another scoundrel who will violate the Constitution?

Further arguments promoting term limits seek to protect the voting minorities. By reducing the amount of time an elected-leader can serve in office, the minority-voters can be given a greater chance of electing a candidate that reflects their views. This is preposterous. Voting reflects the will of the majority, and, in a society that openly accepts Democracy, the voting citizen should maintain consistency by showing little interest to the losing minority. The minority has never been graciously granted the win. Even if term limits were applied, the majority would continue to elect the new legislator.

By voting in career-politicians, a larger social problem is observed than what term limits will solve. Voters should concern themselves with the motives of their legislators, not just the results the leaders can produce. Reelecting politicians that only care about their occupation shows the apathy and carelessness of the people electing them into office. Changing the face of a career-politician every few terms will not solve the issues of an apathetic and careless society, nor will term limits have any positive influence on an interested and careful society. In fact, term-limits will only provide the illusion of protection, as the people more ignorantly trust term-limits to save them from Constitution violating legislators instead of their own scrutinizing gaze. The people are the problem, not the politicians. Our Republic has a built in term limit policy that is directly connected to the will of the people, and it should stay that way.

Update: March 9th, 2010

I had a recent conversation with a fellow who argued that our elections systems were corrupt and that the voting polls were fixed. He had several convincing examples to illustrate his point. He used these examples to reason that we should support term limits: to get the corruptly elected officials out of office!

While this sounds reasonable, I am still left wondering why this guy thinks that if -- perchance -- our voting system is so corrupt that a candidate was elected through fraud (without being caught), then what made him believe that hosting another election would produce a different type of candidate? Wouldn't the same group who successfully/fraudulently got the last man in to office also have the ability of doing it again after term of years? Term limits would do nothing to solve this problem.

If any particular group has hijacked our elections systems, term limits are the least of our concerns.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"A Republic, If You Can Keep It."

The longer I am involved in the political scene, the more I see the need for a consistent understanding of the basic philosophical difference between Democracies and Republics. The necessary distinction is often confused by so-called 'constitutional authorities' who loosely throw around terms like Democracy or democratic Republic without realizing the harm they are causing newcomers to the philosophy of liberty. This post is intended to dispel many false notions concerning the foundation of our country, and to reestablish a consistent and fundamental understanding between the two forms of government. There is much to write concerning this issue, and this post is not intended to be all-inclusive; however, as time permits I will edit and add to the post to constantly make it more comprehensive.


As he stepped out of Independence Hall, it is said that a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government we were given. His response, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Whether this story actually happened is irrelevant, it carries a necessary truth -- that a Republic was the form of government intended by the founders, and that they knew it would take hard work and eternal diligence to maintain it.

What does this mean? What is a Republic? Today we hear all about Democracy or a democratic Republic, but we don't hear much concerning a Republic. Are these forms of government synonymous? Are they different? If so, how are they similar and different?

The only guarantee in the U.S. Constitution is for a "Republican form of government" (Article IV, Section 4). This is certainly not to be confused with the Republican Party. What does it mean "a Republican form of government"? The answer is actually more important than most give credit for.


I grew up in a very political and pious home where the principles of liberty and freedom were common discussion. Yet, even in my youth I remember hearing my mother speak of our 'democratic Republic'. Once I set on my own path to discover the truth of our American foundation, I constantly asked myself -- why didn't the Constitution include anything concerning our 'democratic Republic' or 'Democracy' in the text? Why did it only include the one word Republic?

It is all too often that those who are steeped in the ill-gotten traditions of our fathers will perceive this country in such a way that denies the glorious heritage that was bestowed upon us. Good people with sincere intent often promote inconsistent philosophies that necessarily tear-down the very freedom and liberty they seek to maintain. No wonder why the Latter-day prophets and authorities have told us that it is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support -- we must be right (President Marion G. Romney, October General Conference 1960).

Amidst all the confusion, what is the answer? What is the difference between a Republic and a Democracy -- or are there any differences at all?

The answer is found in a discussion of law.

Origination and Source of Law


In a Democracy, the only source of law and rights is a majority's rule -- nothing more, nothing less. The minority has no protection in a Democracy except what society's conventions will permit, because rights and law themselves are a fabrication of the majority; furthermore, there are no inherent and inalienable rights in a Democracy, because the majority decides what rights everyone has. This, by its very nature, makes individual rights alienable at the whim of the majority.

Any perceived security the minority has is merely the social acceptance of society at large. While this system of government and source of law may work in times of peace, the founders were nervous for times of national excitement, fear, and panic (e.g. after 9/11, regarding instances of "illegal" migration, etc.) -- those times when people do not think rationally and are apt to give up their rights for perceived security.


A Republic founds all government action on law -- even before it turns to the social will. Even if 99.9% of the nation accepts the infringement of .1% of the populace, a Republic looks to the law first before ever addressing the desires of a majority. The majority may want to lynch a thief before the rule of law may be enacted, but a Republic protects the rights of the individual until he is found guilty (or innocent) by due-process of law.

The necessary question here is who exactly makes the law? Is law simply a rule that society must obey, or is the law a representation of reality? If the law is merely a rule derived from the majority, the distinction between a Republic and a Democracy is futile. This is why a democratic Republic is a worthless phrase. Any Republic that stipulates that the law is merely derived from the majority's consent (i.e. a democratic Republic) is merely a Democracy in hiding. Any Republic that is built on the understanding and belief that the law is merely at the whim of the majority is inherently flawed and will necessarily fail.

There is no universal political dictionary that stipulates what a Republic is and how it should operate. Yet, the basic philosophical foundations of a Republic is that law reigns supreme. But what is this law that a Republic should adhere to that makes a Republic distinguishable from a Democracy? This necessarily supposes the discussion of legal positivism and natural law, but I will refrain on speaking of that in depth here and direct readers to a previous post concerning the issue.

Although the Declaration of Independence is not considered a 'legal document', it clearly shows the intent of the founders (if nothing, Jefferson and Franklin's ideal) to appeal to and establish a government according to the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." The Declaration of Independence proclaims the foundation of law wherein our Republic was built: the natural law.

Why is this important? Because a Democracy is at the whim of social frenzy and excitement -- i.e. the will of the masses. In a Democracy the people surrender their rights in a heightened and emotional state, as they combine into a mob against the minority in feeling that they can abdicate their rights for perceived security. However, our Republic negates such a frenzy by adhering to a law that is outside the majority's scope and ruling power -- a universal moral ethic that transcends emotionalism: the Laws of Nature.

In our Republic, all positive (human) law is required to bind itself down to a natural moral law; however, this is not necessary in a Democracy. Whereas the will of the majority is the moral law in a Democracy, the law in a Republic (as seen through the Declaration of Independence) is independent of any frenzied majority. The law in a Republic must find cause to move within the "laws of nature" to pass positive rules upon society. The majority, in a Republic, may act, it is true, but the majority's action is limited by a codex of universal realities and principles that transcend a majority's opinion. Government, through a majority, is not the source of rights, but we are 'endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights' -- this is to say that our Republic is built on the idea that God is the source of a moral law.


If the people are not aware, our Republic can easily slip into a Democracy (in fact, I argue that it already has). This can only happen through the ignorance of the people. When the people believe that their voting power is all that is necessary to grant them their position, then the people have necessarily supposed that might makes right and that a majority is all that is necessary to create law and rights. This is expressly against natural law and against the intended course of our Republican form of government as established by our founders. The people are to be moral and ethical, it is true. However, when the people believe that they can turn their moral behavior onto society at large (outside the scope of the direct infringement of life, liberty, and property) then the people accept Democracy at the expense and death of our Republic.


It is necessary to distinguish between the two forms of Government and to realize why we have a Republic. If anything, we have a constitutional Republic -- but I still prefer the words of the Constitution itself: "a Republican form of Government".