U.S. has never been a democracy

America is not a democracy and never has been. Democracy is rule by a majority of the people in the true sense — a complete assembly of all citizens as a law-making body. No civilization has managed to pull this off.

Even Athens in her Periclean Golden Age 2,500 years ago was incomplete. Athenian citizens (about 10,000 men) assembled to write legislation and appoint generals, admirals and government officials. Excluded were women and slaves — in other words, the majority of the population. Aristotle got to see the results firsthand and noted that it was a disaster. Aristotle instead favored timocracy — rule by those who own property (in other words, a landed elite).

The Republic of Rome was a timocracy. Rome was established to govern the people, not for the people to govern. There are many eerie parallels with us. After a Roman revolution ousted a king, Roman citizens substituted senior and junior consuls (executives) for the king but kept the rest of the government intact. For centuries Rome’s Senate, composed of 300 aristocrats, held absolute power. Though working-class Romans over centuries gradually earned civil rights codified in law, a succession of wars left many Roman farmers and craftsmen destitute, forced to compete with slaves (mostly former prisoners of war, others former Roman citizens who became debt slaves). In the end, growing disparities between ultra-wealthy aristocrats and the vast majority of Romans became fertile ground for all-out civil war and dictatorship.

Tea Party members speak of wanting government to fail, wanting to reduce or eliminate taxes. Yes, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. They are also an insurance policy against collapsing infrastructure and the social hazards associated with widening disparities of wealth. Those with nothing have nothing to lose and will risk everything for a better future. Wouldn’t you?

Eric Teegarden

Brier