We do not have to embrace the “tyranny of the majority,” but we could do with a dose of Athens’s obsession with open accountability. True, there were downsides to accountability by plebiscite. Is an active press and the threat of impeachment enough to hold politicians accountable? Public opinion sometimes checks politicians’ actions, but there is no guarantee that it will. “A democracy,” declares Cincinnatus, “which, thus bereft of its powers, and shorn of its strength, will stand a melancholy monument of popular impotence.”[6]  Not a raving support of such governmental structures flowing from the pen of Cincinnatus, disclosing the distain our Founders had for such a political structure. The Founding Fathers despised democracies. Have a question about our comment policies? Review our. The framers of our Constitution rejected … The word they used was “Republic,” which is not synonymous with “Democracy.” The word “Democracy” is not in the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights. Biden Camp Says Trump Is Within ONE State of Winning Re-Election, By the Data: Trump Campaign Predicts Absolute Landslide in Pennsylvania, Other States, A Hollywood Executive Reportedly Donated Millions Toward Trump's Reelection, More riots in Washington state after another police shooting, but with a twist, CCPA - Do not sell my personal information, Why The Founding Fathers Despised Democracy. All Rights Reserved. What is the hink-pink for blue green moray? The Athenian system worked because they were willing to punish even their most famous and influential leaders. The founders did not create a direct democracy for a good reason. Athenian history shows how democracies need entrenched accountability mechanisms. Taken from Patrick Henry, Robert Yates, and Samuel Byron, The Anti Federalist Papers, 2010 (originally published 1787-1790), “, (Lexington, KY:  Pacific Publishing Studios), p. 136. And it was these negative consequences that stood out to the framers of the U.S. Constitution, motivating them to reject Athenian-style accountability mechanisms because the “tyranny of the majority” could rule unchecked. [7]Constitution of the United States, September 17, 1787, “Article IV, Section 4.”   Also see Walter Williams, February 23, 2011, “Democracy Verses Liberty,” Townhall.com, [http://townhall.com/columnists/walterewilliams/2011/02/23/democracy_versus_liberty/page/full/]. But U.S. politics turned out to be far more democratic (and emotional, corrupt and factious) than the “aristocratic” framers expected. But regular scrutiny meant that even an esteemed statesman like Pericles had to watch himself. took in American History: The founding fathers were a bit divided Adam Smith elucidated in 1759 that “All government is but an imperfect remedy for the deficiency of [wisdom and virtue];”[9] thus acknowledging the fallen nature of man, as did our Forefathers and Founding Fathers. [10]Edward J. Erler, “From Subjects to Citizens:   The Social Compact Origins of American Citizenship,” in Ronald J. Pestritto and Thomas G. West, ed., 2003, The American Founding and the Social Compact, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books), p. 182. If either the vote or the investigation went against them, the assembly brought officeholders to trial immediately. The framers of the Constitution understood that simple majority rule could deprive the minority of important rights, and for this reason they did not form a direct democracy but rather a representative democracy, or a republic. Plato wrote in The Republic, “And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy.”[1]. Impeachment, the most powerful formal accountability mechanism in our system, can be hamstrung by partisanship. No amount of popularity or authority, no military laurels or aristocratic ancestry, provided a secure shield against punishment. The material on this site can not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Multiply. By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Adam Littlestone-Luria is a PhD Candidate in ancient history at the University of California, Berkeley, Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences, Share your feedback by emailing the author. The impeachment process reflects these assumptions: The trial takes place in the intentionally “aristocratic” Senate (which was appointed by the state legislatures rather than elected by popular vote all the way up to 1913) rather than by popular vote. It would have prevented the U.S. from emerging as a stable union. And although organizations such as Common Cause — a citizens’ lobby dedicated to “holding power accountable” — have been working from the outside to promote ethics and transparency for decades, it may be time to implement more formal mechanisms of review. In Athens, democracy and regular, formal accountability went hand in hand, a connection missing in today’s political climate. The views of the Founders on the subject of democracy are complicated and difficult to articulate in sound bites. [3], Madison reiterates the view of Plato over 2000 years prior when, in The Republic, Plato writes that the loss of principles sends a democracy spiraling into tyranny. [8]James Madison, 1800, “Report to the Virginia General Assembly,” (Virginia General Assembly, House of Delegates, Session of 1799-1800). Then, at the end of their terms, they had to undergo another round of scrutiny, called a euthyna or “straightening” — a financial and ethical investigation that examined whether they had been “straight” or “crooked” while performing their duties. Young Dems Voting...Trump? And Madison goes on to splendidly explain how this very same “erroneous” belief held by collectivists destroys property rights, which is foundational to any free society: Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions. After they were elected, but before taking up their posts, officials went through a vetting known as dokimasia, a comprehensive examination by the assembly of not only their legal qualifications for office but even their conduct and character. They believed that a representative democracy was a better alternative and believed that the people would elect the brightest among them to be their representative. Inflamed by impetuous democratic passion, the Athenians used accountability mechanisms designed to rein in misbehavior to punish honest failure. Taken from James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers: The Classic Original Edition, (SoHo Books), p. 26. The name Cincinnatus was taken from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (c. 519 – c. 430 BC), the great Roman statesmen and military leader during the early Roman Republic. 64, gives a description of a democracy. …democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.[2]. But they missed something vital about the Athenian system of accountability — its institutionalized regularity. What is the time signature of the song Atin Cu Pung Singsing? “[T]he same disease magnified and intensified by liberty overmasters democracy – the truth being that the excessive increase in anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction,” forewarns Plato, “The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess slavery…And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy.”[4]. Terms under which this service The functional deficiency of a democracy is unprotected majority rule – or tyranny of the majority. How much does does a 100 dollar roblox gift card get you in robhx? on how government in the new country should be. In practice, though, the press can be just as faulty and partisan as Athens’s institutional system. First, officeholders faced a vote called an epikheirotonia about whether they were executing their duties properly. Does Jerry Seinfeld have Parkinson's disease? 10. The “tyranny of the majority” is no fantasy if given free rein, and the framers were right to fear fickle plebiscites. So an unofficial system of public review took shape. Why don't libraries smell like bookstores? How long will the footprints on the moon last? Cincinnatus,[5] in Anti Federalist No. Copyright © Townhall.com/Salem Media. Copyright © 2020 Multiply Media, LLC. The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning.

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