One of the greatest problems threatening our freedom is the idea that America is a democracy instead of a republic. Think of the pledge of allegiance, which states, "and to the republic for which it stands." It does not say, “and to the democracy for which it stands.” Substituting democracy for republic when talking about the American system is a deliberate attempt to move people away from the true principles and ideals that founded America.
To understand the difference, we first need to understand that there are two, and only two, basic concepts of government. This is very different from the left versus the right idea of government, with fascism on the far right and communism on the far left.
The real difference is between ruler’s law and common law. Ruler’s law is by far the most common form of government and both fascism and communism are examples of it. The thought experiments, proposed in Chapter One, were both exercises in ruler’s Law, where you, as the ruler, get to decide what the law will be.
The other, more rarely practiced, form of government is a common law republic. In a common law system, it is the law that rules the people, not the ruler. That’s why it is also known as the “rule of law.”
Ruler’s law says, “He who rules makes the law.” This means that the authority of the government is vested in a person or group of people. This person or persons who decide what is right and wrong and use their power to seek to force obedience to what these standards onto everyone else. So, under ruler's law, it is the people who run the government who decide what is and what is not a crime. Under ruler’s law, the idea of justice is to punish people who disobey the government.
Kings and Dictators
We readily recognize the danger of ruler’s law when the authority to make the laws and enforce them upon others is vested in a single person, such as a monarch, emperor or dictator. This person may decide to use the power of government to trespass against those under his or her rule. The ruler may steal from his subjects, force them into slave labor and even kill them and claim it is moral because he, the ruler, is the source of the law.
The fact that the King of England was trespassing against the rights of the people, rather than protecting them, was the reason the thirteen colonies rebelled. The Declaration of Independence primarily consists of a list of ways in which the colonists were being unfairly treated by England. These abuses of dictatorial power were forth as the justification for refusing to consent to the King’s rule. (As a side note, most of these abuses of power have also become a part of our current government, showing how far we have strayed from the principles of freedom.)
However, ruler’s law is not confined to governments in which there is a single leader. The power to determine the law can also be vested in a particular group of people. For instance, one can have a theocracy, where those who adhere to a particular religion are the rulers. Communism is also a form of ruler’s law. In this case, a particular group of people who adhere to a common ideology (the Communist party) makes the laws with no respect for unalienable rights.
Communism and theocracy are similar in many ways. They are both built on an ideology that is imposed upon society using government power. Under both, those who have differing views are silenced, suppressed and punished.
Democracy is a Form of Ruler's Law
Under any system involving ruler’s law, there is no equity in society. Society is divided into two, unequal camps, the ruling class and the common people. As an interesting side note, one of the astonishing things to Europeans visiting America after the revolution was the general of social classes in American culture. As we've strayed from the founding principles, there has been increasing class division in America.
What most Americans fail to recognize is that a democracy, based on majority rule, is also a government based on ruler’s law. In such a democracy, the majority can impose their will on the minority. That’s why democracy has been called mob rule and why the current concept of democratic socialism is still a form of ruler’s law. Whoever can persuade the mob (a majority of the people) gets to make the rules, which are then imposed on the minority. That certainly creates inequity in society.
The only way to avoid this is a democracy based on consensus, where everyone has to agree. That may be workable on a small scale, but I doubt we could ever get 100s of millions of people to agree on much of anything. This is why John Adams said in a letter to John Taylor in 1814, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
Benjamin Franklin was concerned that “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.” Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America predicted a similar problem for America when he said, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”
The contention in American party politics stems from a belief in democracy, rather than believing in a democratic republic. The parties represent ideas that groups of people wish to force the rest of society to follow. So, we are fighting and arguing, primarily through the political parties, each of which is vying for the power to force the other half of our society to comply with their point of view. The result is a growing political division. If one side wins, the other side loses. Unhealed, such a division pushes us towards civil war—which is pretty much the “suicide” that John Adams warned about.
It also leads to a bigger and bigger government with more and more control over our lives. Each party pushes for bigger government in its own way whether it’s military spending or spending on social programs. The argument isn’t over whether the government should have that power over our lives or not, but only who should get the money and the power.
No wonder politics stirs up such anger in people. Our love of liberty causes us to fear people with imposing views forcing us to conform to their rules. In all of this, we are missing the fundamental ideal as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, which is that we are all equal and have equal, unalienable rights.
The Consent of the Governed
A republic is the other form of government. It is based on the common law and the governing power lies with “we the people.” But “we the people” does not mean the majority opinion. We the people are the individual people in this country, who are forming a government to protect and preserve their individual, unalienable, God-given rights.
Referring back to the Declaration of Independence, we read: “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…" In other words, the purpose of the government is to secure the rights of each person living within the country, not the opinion of one group or another. When the government steps outside of this role of imposing equity or justice, the government is no longer just and according to the Declaration of Independence, the people have the right to alter or abolish it.
Remember that this passage says that government derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” In contrast, government can derive unjust powers from the majority view. When the majority decides to try to use the government to take away the inalienable rights of the minority, we cannot have a safe or peaceful society. I’ll deal more with this in a later chapter.
The word republic means “re-public,” or having reference to the public. While communist countries can claim to be republics, as in the People’s Republic of China or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), they are not republics in any real sense of the word because they do not protect the rights of individuals in their countries. The belief instead is in some sort of collectivist rights.
In a true republic, it is the common moral law understood by the public that is the basis of the government. Righteous people resist tyranny and government leaders really do depend on the “consent of the governed” to maintain their power. If enough people rise up in rebellion against government policies, politicians cannot maintain their power. To a certain extent, this idea also applies to all governments. They depend on the consent (or at least the general compliance of the governed) for a stable society.
The leaders of the Jews in the time of Jesus wanted Jesus arrested and killed because he spoke against their authority, but they “feared the people” (Mark 11:18 and 12:12 Luke 20:19, Luke 22:2). All unrighteous governments “fear the people” because if the people wake up to their immoral actions, they will turn against those who govern them. So, governments can only exist as long as a large percentage of the population “consents” to be governed.
The Founders knew that the constitutional republic they had created could not survive if the majority of the people in America become immoral. They knew that the “mob rule” of democracy will cause the government to trespass on the rights of others, destroying the equity in the society. That’s why John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this when he visited America. He wrote, “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
That quote points to the very issue that prompted me to write this book. Good government is based on the morality of the people. As people become increasingly immoral, the government will increasingly violate people’s unalienable rights. As the story goes, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, “What have we got a republic or a monarchy?” He is said to have replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Unfortunately, we are on the verge of losing our republic by misapplying the principle of democracy and because of the increasing lack of moral understanding about the foundations of good government. Let me explain.
Hiring Public Servants
In our American republic, those who are the elected officials of the government are not rulers; they are public servants. In other words, they are the employees of the public, charged with assisting the public in the protection of their life, liberty and property. To understand the concept of a republican form of government (and we’re not talking about the philosophy of the political party that call themselves republicans here), we can use a simple analogy.
Let’s say that we have a town consisting of 100 people. Under the common law, each of these 100 people has the unalienable right to protect their own life, liberty and property. This means that they individually and collectively have the right to use force, including deadly force, if necessary, to protect their God-given rights.
The town decides that they can better protect their rights by pooling their resources and hiring a security guard to patrol the town. Because they possess the right to protect themselves, they can delegate some of that responsibility to a security guard and hold their employee accountable for his or her performance at the job. They draw up a contract, delegating limited authority to their security guard to assist them in protecting themselves.
Now they have to find someone to fulfill the job. Several candidates apply and the citizens decide who to hire by voting. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes is selected for the position. However, in hiring this security guard, the citizens are not surrendering their unalienable right to protect their own life, liberty or property. The security guard is their public servant, their employee, hired under a contract which specifies his role is to protect them. Therefore, they, the public, are the source of the security guard’s authority.
Granting Moral Consent
In American government, the essential idea is that town charters, state constitutions and the federal constitution are the contracts under which our public servants are hired. These social contracts delegate limited powers to these public servants, which are always subject to the review of the “bosses,” or “we the people.” We hire these people as employees of “we the people” and they take office swearing to uphold their contract with “we the people.” Their power is limited to protecting our unalienable rights because these are the only just powers we can delegate to them.
America is also the only country in the world whose military does not swear allegiance to a government power, but rather to the constitution, the government’s contract with “we the people.” Again, the idea is that all those who work for the government have volunteered to be employees of “we the people” and thus to defend our unalienable rights.
When one looks at all of the evil actions undertaken by corrupt governments in the last century and sees the tens of millions of people murdered and imprisoned for just disagreeing with their government, it is a sobering thought that these actions could not have taken place if a large percentage of the people had not given their moral consent by allowing the government to get away with these things. That’s why we need to take a serious look at the issue of what we should and should not ask government to do.
Morality and the Delegation of Authority
Moral retribution, the harvest reaped by our actions under the law of the harvest, is not escaped by hiring another person to do your dirty work. If I pay someone to murder another human being, and they do so, both the hired gunman and I are guilty of murder. In fact, according to the legal definition, we conspired to commit murder, or to put it another way, there was a “conspiracy to commit murder” and both parties are equally guilty under the moral law.
Understanding this, let’s return to our hypothetical community of 100 people who have hired a security guard to help protect them in their life, liberty, and property. There are two people in this community whom we will call Joe and Sarah. Sarah is financially well off, whereas Joe is not. Even though this is the case, as long as Sarah has derived her wealth from honest activities, she has an inalienable right to the wealth (property) she has acquired. If Joe breaks into Sarah’s house and steals from her, he has committed a crime.
Because Joe has trespassed against Jane’s rights, Jane can morally delegate the authority to the security guard to arrest Joe. He can then be tried and appropriate action can be taken to restore the peace and equity of the community.
However, what would happen if the security guard took it upon himself to take Jane’s property and give it to Joe? In this case, the security guard would have committed the crime. Because he is a public servant, charged with protecting the life, liberty, and property of those who hired him, the security guard has violated the terms of his contract. He has become a criminal himself, since the people did not grant him this authority, and Jane has every right to seek to have him arrested and punished.
This is the nature of law in a republic. No one is “above the law” as everyone is subject to the same moral code. There are no rulers, only public servants, employees who assist the citizens in protecting their rights.
But this concept goes much further. What happens if a group of concerned citizens witness Joe’s plight? Being concerned about his welfare, they create a referendum and ask the town to vote to authorize the security guard to take property from Jane and give it to Joe. If enough people in the town are jealous of Jane’s wealth, they may actually win a majority vote to order their employee to take some of Jane’s money and give it to Joe.
Does this vote make the action moral? Does the number of people involved in an action have anything to do with its morality? I would argue that morality is not dependent on scale. If it’s immoral for one person to do it, it’s immoral for a million people to do it.
Majority Agreement Does Not Define Morality
The number of people involved in a trespass against the life, liberty or property of another has no effect on the moral nature of the act. If 51 people in our imaginary community get together and authorize the security guard they have hired to trespass against another person’s property, then all 51 people have conspired to commit a crime. They are in fact, co-conspirators. And, if the security guard obeys their orders and commits the crime, then the security guard is also equally guilty of this crime.
Of course, they will have the illusion that they are morally justified if they believe in “democracy,” because the majority were in favor of the act. The problem is that the universal, inescapable “law of the harvest” still applies. It will swiftly and immediately require restitution on everyone who acted as part of the conspiracy, not just the security guard who “followed orders.”
How can this be? Well, before this event, each member of the community was equal before the law. They lived with equity and therefore in peace. Now, Jane is angry because her unalienable right to property has been trespassed against. She also has friends and supporters and they are also angry. Those who voted for to “help” Joe will sense this anger and feel fear. They will realize that if Jane and her followers can sway the majority opinion, that they may be able to order the security guard to move against their liberty and property, too.
Two parties have formed, each seeking to sway the majority to its point of view so they can gain control of the security guard. The peace has been broken. Liberty, founded in the moral principle of unalienable rights and the Golden Rule, has been violated. As soon as the rights of one member of the community were violated, the rights of all members of the community were put at risk.
Let me repeat that in a slightly different way. As soon as the government violates the unalienable rights of any citizen in a society, the equity has been broken, and every member of that society’s rights are at risk.
The Robin Hood Myth
The Robin Hood myth that permeates our culture is that taking from the rich (someone who has) and giving to the poor (someone who has not) is somehow moral. It is the idea that the ends justify the means. But, the law of the harvest really tells us that the means create the ends. An unjust means will not create a just end.
By the way, the story of Robin Hood is really about fighting against an unjust government, not against the rich. While the king is away, the corrupt leaders who have been left in charge are plundering the common people for the benefit of the social elite. Robin Hood is taking back (seeking restitution for) money unjustly taken from the poor.
If a person has committed trespass against others, then we have a crime, which justifies seeking moral retribution as described in the previous chapter. But, if someone has prospered through strictly voluntary transactions which have benefited others in the process, it is immoral to covet their property and use force to take it away from them, even if we think it’s for a “good cause.”
We cannot morally give consent to a government to perform functions we could not morally do ourselves. In fact, we must not if we want to reap a positive harvest of good in our own lives. If we ignore the moral law and give our moral consent for the government to trespass against the rights of others “we the people” are morally accountable and responsible for the crimes committed by the government. Therefore, “we the people” will reap the moral retribution required by the law of the harvest. This unpleasant crop is often referred to as “God’s judgments.”
We’re seeing the results of our violating these principles in our country today. We have political parties, each striving to gain the will of the majority so they can force their ideas on the minority. This is not a free society. Instead, it is a society where anger and fear are driving the people to seek to use government to force their ideas on others. The moral compass, set forth in the Declaration of Independence, is lacking in today’s social fabric, which has corrupted the government, divided the people and threatens to tear our country apart with civil unrest.
How do we escape this moral problem? First, we need to realize that when we defend and support government actions that trespass against the unalienable rights of others, whether in this country or in other countries, we are entering a conspiracy to commit crime. This means that the “law of the harvest” will immediately take effect on our culture and society, causing us to live in anger and fear. In order to restore our own inner peace, we must first adopt moral principles that respect the unalienable rights of others.
Then, we need to withdraw our own consent by no longer lending support and approval to actions of government that trespass against the life, liberty or property of others. We need to step up and start seeking a return to the principles of equity by promoting and defending the moral law. This includes demanding the government to follow “due process,” which is described in the next chapter.