Saving the Republic

Written by:
C. Lee Barron
Winter 2009

One evening in mid September in the year of 1787, a woman met a very old man leaving the State House in Philadelphia and anxiously asked, “Mr. Franklin, what type of government have you delegates given us?” He replied, ”a republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

Many people have mused and commented upon what it means to “keep the republic.” Presidents, philosophers, historians, preachers and common men, the renowned and the little known, have spoken to the value of a republic as was constructed in our Constitution. It goes without saying that this audacious experiment has been the greatest success, to this point, in the governance of man of all time. There is no doubt about the results of the efforts, over a long summer, from May 14, 1787 to September 17, 1787, of a sincere group of men, probably as devoutly religious, studious, dedicated, honorable, and educated as any deliberative body ever assembled. They strove to perfect a government that would insure the survival of the political union of the diverse colonies that had been secured by a revolutionary movement against a tyrant in war. They had shed their blood and that of their colonial brethren, in hopes of securing individual liberty and political freedom. They and their supporters wanted to be free of oppressive and abstruse laws and bureaucrats. They wanted to be free … free from the interference of other men and of the oppression of fiat laws and taxation. Their fear of failure in their magnificent experiment had brought them, in good will, to Philadelphia to solve the problem.

The individual colonies (they now were viewing themselves as sovereign states) had had good and democratic processes for local governance long before the revolution. However, their national charter, The Articles of Confederation, was proving to be ineffectual. The Articles had not proved to be a viable vehicle for peaceful trade and commerce between themselves. Nor did they provide an effective way to communicate with or be protected from nations unfriendly to this new experiment on the American continent. The job of providing a vehicle to do this was enormously complex and the issue was in doubt. Our constitutional republic was their gamble.

We all know that, after 220 years of experience that their efforts were well rewarded. Their Constitution has given rise to the greatest country of all human experience. The people of this nation have been the freest population of all time. The republican form combined with a populace of free men working for themselves and their families living under the invisible hand of a free market economy has provided an electrifying explosion of invention, wealth, and prosperity unimaginable to the framers of the Constitution. This country is the envy of all human history.
However, as friends of the doddering old man in Philadelphia and others as yet unknown noted on that and other occasions, and as many of us were taught in school, its survival requires “eternal vigilance.” Andrew Jackson, said in his farewell address, “but you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.  It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.”
So, with this legacy, for the last 220 years, our forefathers and we, as good citizens, have debated the virtues and the attacks upon this great document amongst ourselves ever since. My generation began our debates in high school, continued in college bull sessions and now as we have grown older, in the daily coffee klatch, which convenes every day in my community and in every other community in America as the day dawns. Where I live this ritual is known as “show and tell” and comes to order each day at the “Sandwiched Inn.”

The boys (and sometimes the girls) at the Inn are a diverse group, some highly educated, some not. Many well traveled. Certainly an interesting group, most are over fifty and much experienced, some are retired, so they are at their leisure, but others, the younger ones, stop on their way to work. Housewives, librarians, farmers, soldiers, ranchers, sheep men, business men, politicians, school teachers, mechanics, hunters, fishermen, pilots, doctors, truckers, attorneys, nurses, postmen, cowboys, loggers, bureaucrats, peace officers, high school students, salesmen, strangers and many others have participated. Very little of current events gets by without discussion or comment … and sometimes argument. But it is always civil, though not always politically correct … it is de facto democracy in action, modern day citizens discussing republican government and its enemies.

Ordinarily the group consists of regulars; UD and Wes are octogenarians; Norm is retired from the naval intelligence; Linda, the owner of the Inn is an ex-butcher, divorced like most of the men, a mother of two; Les is a retired engineer, well driller, ex-politician; Claude and Steve are both retired school administrators living on teachers pensions and investment portfolios; Roger is retired from the forest service and the air force; Hank is a telephone lineman; and last but not least is Bill, who worked as a welder early in his life, turned to farming his wife’s farm for a while and then worked for the state highway department for a living until he retired a couple of years ago. Doug and Jane both work for the local pipe company. Jane’s five-year-old daughter gives us insight into the kindergarten click and high school refugees from the daily school lunch program keep us posted up to date there. Just about every day we include a stranger or two, like a cowboy or a tourist or a traveling salesman or a hippie from Sun Valley, all kinds of folks, who have done just about everything. One lady lost her leg when she got run over in Katmandu … kind of an interesting story. Once in a while either the local movie star or billionaire are seen going by. When you look around the table, everyone that you see has a high school diploma (or is on the way to getting one) and you are generally looking across the table at least a half dozen college degrees.

Conversation ranges widely … the weather, crops, the war, gray wolves, big trout, elk and deer, sage hens, but most of all current events and in particular, politics and how these other topics are inexorably bound to our political life.

Bill is a hide bound democrat, always has been and always will be … he loves Obama and hates, absolutely hates, George W. Bush although, when pushed, can’t say why he feels the way he does about either. He knows that Democrats are for the “little man” and Republicans are for “big business.” He can’t understand why anyone would be for the rich and would want to exploit the poor working man. He doesn’t often participate in the conversation because he knows he is right and doesn’t want to hear the lies of contrary views. He once said, “ don’t confuse me with facts … my mind is made up.” He is angry as hell and he has lots of company.

A while back Bill was railing about how George W. had fixed the 2000 election. He said, “ Those Republican SOB’s fixed the election by packing the Supreme Court … Gore got a majority of the vote and he should be the President. We Democrats believe that it should be one man, one vote. Majority rules and it is clear that the Republicans stole the election.”

His assertion perked every one up and the debate was on.

Norm, who used to be a Democrat, but is now an Independent, said, “hell, Bill, you are wrong, this is a republic and since Florida went for Bush, their electors voted for Bush and because of that he won the election. It was fair and it is what the Constitution demands, the vote of the Electoral College. The Supreme Court just upheld the Constitution.”

“Damn it, Norm, that just isn’t fair … who ever gets the most votes should win. The damn Constitution ought to be changed. To hell with Electoral College, they taught us years ago when I was in high school that it was an archaic anachronism … it ought to be abolished.”

At that, Les, the self appointed local philosopher, joined the fray. He said, “Bill, I don’t think that you know why we have a republic. Have you ever stopped to reflect why a little state like New Hampshire or Rhode Island would have joined a federal government with the likes of New York or Pennsylvania, when one city in either of those states could out vote their entire state?”

“Well no, why did they?”

Les, who knows that he has a reputation for being somewhat of a blow hard, answered, “It’s a long story, do you have time?”

Immediately Doug and Jane got up to go out the door. Watching them Norm mused, “Les, I have been trying to understand just that. After the Revolutionary War, the states seemed to be getting along all right under the Articles of Confederation. After all, almost all of them had had good civil governments long before the war. They formed pretty good legal systems at the time that they became colonies.” “As a matter of fact,” he continued,” I just read that the Pilgrims signed their governing document, the Mayflower Compact, before they left the ship to found Plymouth in 1620. The people in the states really didn’t need a better government.”

“That’s true, the colonial states had good local civil government,” answered Les. “But they did have a lot of issues from state to state. There was no effective way for the new states to deal with matters of common purpose concerning foreign countries. Also, there was no way to legally resolve issues of commerce, boundary disputes, criminal fugitives and such.”

“Yeah,” chimed in Ned, a history buff. “For instance, New York began to charge New Jersey, a mile acrosst the Hudson River, import tariffs on any produce coming into the city from the ‘Garden State.’ It kind of pissed the New Jerseyians off, so when New York built a lighthouse to improve navigation into its harbor there was a fight. New Jersey found out that the signal light had been inadvertently erected on an island in their territory, so they charged New York rent.”

“But weren’t there lots of disputes like that?” asked Les.

Ned went on … “There was no standing army to put down Indian uprisings and no united way to deal with the Indians, let alone to deal with British to the north, the Spanish to the south or the French to the west. There was no way to protect ships and shipping at sea. The Confederation didn’t have the authority to act in a timely way, and if the authority had been there couldn’t have acted anyway, because there was no money to do anything. The Confederation had to get unanimous permission to act and had to depend on the largess of State donations for funds. Neither the permission nor the funds were often forthcoming. The states were tiny republics with no way to assert their common cause. Things kind of came to a head when Maryland and Virginia got into a border dispute that they couldn’t resolve. The Virginia Legislature, following the recommendation of James Madison, called a meeting of the several states in Annapolis in September 1786 to mediate the dispute and consider strengthening the Articles. However, when only a few delegates from five states showed up, a call was made for a broader convention to be held in May of 1787 in Philadelphia. That’s how the Constitutional Convention came about.”

“What has that got to do with a republic?” asked Bill.

Les answered. “The men that showed up at the Convention, 55 of them, from all over the colonies, in addition to being among the best known and most respected men from their states were almost all very well educated. And their education was classical. They had studied, among other things, ancient republics and democracies.”

“What do you mean by classical?”

“To begin with they were taught read’n, write’n, and ‘rithmatic. Later they studied language, grammar, logic, rhetoric, astronomy, music, and geometry, among other things. Most educated people in those days knew the Latin of the Romans and had read the ancient writings of the likes of the philosopher Lucretius, the politician, Cicero, and of course Julius Caesar’s ‘Gallic Wars.’ Since the Romans owed much to the more studious Greeks, many of them also read Greek. They were very familiar with Greek plays, histories, mathematicians, and philosophers.”

“So what?”

“Well … a lot of people don’t know that Rome was originally a Republic or that the first Republic was in Sparta, Greece. Or that Sparta’s archenemy was Athens, the first Democracy. Or that the Roman Republic was very much modeled on the Spartan Republic. The way that those governments worked, and why, had been the subject of much study by our forefathers.”

Bill was incredulous. “I’ll be damned,” he said, “I didn’t know that. Tell me more.”

“After the fall of Rome in 453 A.D., there weren’t very many tries at Democracies or Republics. That’s why the years after the Fall were called the ‘Dark Ages.’ All there was were kings and tyrants, serfs and barbarians.”

“There were too other Republics,” chimed in Linda, the owner of the Inn, becoming interested in the conversation. “Weren’t there Republics in places like Venice and in the Netherlands?”

“Yes there were those two and probably other minor ones that I don’t know about,” piped in Ned. “I know that the Venetian Republic was established in about 800 A.D. in the chaos after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and lasted for about 1000 years until the time of Napoleon. They were very active in the history of the Eastern Mediterranean. Early on they were alternately allies and foes of the Byzantines and later constant foes of the Ottomans. Their republic had close similarities to the Roman Republic, but, although I am sure our forefathers studied it, I know of no real innovations that accrued from them.”

“That is not the case with the Dutch,” he continued. “The Dutch Republic also flourished for a long time, from the time of Francis Drake (about 1588) more or less until Napoleon came along.”

“Our forefathers knew a lot about the Dutch Republic. The guns of Fort Orange on the Dutch island of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean saluted the American vessel Andrew Doria that was flying the red and white striped flag of the Continental Congress on November 16, 1776. It was the first recognition of the new American nation by a foreign power. That salute and the subsequent feelings of empathy for the Americans in the Dutch Republic allowed no less a personage than John Adams to become Minister to the Netherlands during the Revolutionary War. His mission culminated in bank loans that probably saved the cause.”

He went on, “the Dutch Republic at one time was a world naval power, with a mighty navy and the world’s largest merchant fleet. They established the modern banking system, the first stock exchange, promoted free trade amongst their merchants, and promoted science and religious freedom. Their scientists included, the physicist Huygens, Leeuwenhoek inventor of the microscope, the philosopher and mathematician Descartes, and the co-inventor, along with Isaac Newton, of calculus, Leibniz. In the arts they produced the painters, Rembrandt and Vermeer and not the least the composer, Beethoven.”

“Being European, their government, by far the most enlightened yet seen, still had undesirable features. While John Adams was very complimentary, the framers of our Constitution were influenced by the Dutch constitution, in that they found it more an example of things to avoid than of things to imitate.”

“Don’t forget,” he continued, “the Dutch had a lot of roots in America. After all, they did found New York City. Everyone knows about them buying Manhattan Island for 24 dollars.”

“Yeah,” said Linda, “The only place on Earth where there was religious freedom was in Holland and here in America. Did you know that the Pilgrims, who were Englishmen, immigrated here from Holland?”

“A lot of the colonization of America came about because of persecution of one form or another,” added Les. “The Pilgrims were dissident Protestants who fled England for Holland because of persecution in England and then left Holland to preserve their community and their English character.”

“Many of the colonists of America came for religious reasons,” he continued, “ The Catholics were also persecuted in England, so they formed their colony in Maryland in 1634. Leonard Calvert, a brother of Lord Baltimore, began the settlement of Maryland at St. Mary’s, near the mouth of the Potomac.”

“Religion” said Ned, “ wasn’t the only reason that people came to America; the whole damn state of Georgia was settled by convicts. And don’t forget the Cajuns who were refugees from the ‘French and Indian War’, coming to Louisiana from Atlantic Canada.”

“Convicts in Georgia,” interjected Claude, one of the retired schoolteachers, “ is a little harsh and certainly disingenuous. Those convicts were bankrupts from England. I happen to know that Henry the Eighth made the first bankruptcy law ever in 1542. His law was ‘ if you don’t pay your debts, you go to jail until you pay.’ Needless to say, with a policy like that, the jails in jolly old England were pretty full of broke people doing life sentences. Bankruptcy policy made sure that there were plenty of people available to come to colonize Georgia.”

Hank, the lineman, who had been listening for a while added, “A lot of the people who came over came because of people pressure.”

“What do you mean?” asked Bill.

“People trying to get away … lots of reasons like, well … there was the remittance situation in the old country where only the oldest son in the family could inherit the family estate … all the younger siblings had to go elsewhere or find something else to do. Men were paid ’remittance’ money, a pension, to stay away from their families. Unlanded people all over Europe were living either like or as serfs, with no hope of a better life. Europe was beginning to urbanize and lots of people in the cities lived in abject squalor. Nowhere in the Old Country was there a tradition of freedom, it was ruled by kings and aristocrats, ever more indolent and ever more powerful. They treated the little people like property. These rulers fomented war after war for their own aggrandizement, ostensibly for religious or territorial reasons. Many people fled Europe to get away from the eternal wars. As a matter of fact many of the poorer people in Europe willingly enslaved themselves for a limited amount of time by indenturing themselves to entrepreneurs or the governments in the colonies in order to get sea passage to get here to establish themselves in a better life.”

“Yeah, and a lot of people were just running from the sheriff,” offered Linda.

“Looks like most of the people in the new world were here to get away from conditions or situations in Europe,” said Bill.

“Yes, it does,” agreed Ned, “everyone in this new country was pretty much on an equal footing, they came here more or less naked and penniless.”

Les added, “ With a citizenry like that, it is little wonder that the colonies had a strong tradition of equality, of democracy. In those small communities, like our town or this group, ‘ Show and Tell’ here, every one is on equal footing and everyone has a vote. But when they had larger issues, those little democracies would elect someone to go to meetings in communities with similar problems to represent them. Generally they would go to a central point like the big city, where a bigger meeting could be held. The man delegated to go would meet with other representatives to give them their local view of mutual problems.”

He paused, “Get that? A representative, a delegate, … a republican. That is what a Republic is. People at the local level elect people they trust to represent their beliefs to bodies where the common interest is being considered. Many little communities meet to solve the problems in which they have mutual interest. It doesn’t make sense for all of us to go to the Fish and Game meeting a hundred miles away in some big city to express our feelings. We’ve talked it all out here and everyone knows how everybody feels, so we just send Roger here to the meeting because we trust his judgment.”

“Now if you thought that Steve would do a better job,” he continued while Linda, who doesn’t like Roger, was glaring at him, “You could object and we would have a vote. That is a democratic republic. The people elect a representative, presumably for his judgment. That is what happened in the Constitutional Convention. The legislators of the various States had all been elected locally. On the State level, they picked from amongst their number those they trusted the most to go to Philadelphia to solve the problem of a national government.”

“Precisely,” interjected Ned. “Most of the delegates thought that they were going to Philadelphia to modify Articles of Confederation, but after looking at the problem, it didn’t take long for them to start considering an entirely new approach. Since they were representatives, with no statutory mandate and because they were sent there for their judgment, they had no pause about considering a new document. They knew that they would get heat at home, but since they thought that they were doing right, they were prepared to defend their action to those who had sent them in the first place. Besides, the process demanded that to be put into effect, the local state legislatures had to ratify what was done in Philadelphia. The delegates had to have confidence that their actions were defensible, so they did the best that they could do.”

“OK,” said Bill, “So now I begin to see the difference between a democracy and a republic. In a republic, everybody votes for someone to take his or her views to a larger meeting. But, I still don’t understand why we don’t have everyone vote on every issue. Hell, nowadays we could watch the debates on C-Span and then get on the computer and register our vote anytime that we want … Easy!!”

“Good point,” replied Ned, “But, you know that you wouldn’t, though. And would you be privy to the testimony and debates in committees that were held before the issue came to the floor of Congress on C-Span? You know that you wouldn’t. Where would you get your information so that you could make an intelligent vote?”

“Well, I would have to talk to someone who knows,” he offered.

“Who would you trust to do that? ABC? NBC? CBS? PBS? … TV ads? How about a lobbyist? Maybe the local newspaper?” Ned was kind of stirred up, “I know that you don’t trust any of them. What you would have to do is to study the issue in every way that you could find in order to make an informed decision. I know you and I know that you wouldn’t give up watching football or the ‘Simpsons’ to study political issues. You know, I don’t think that democracy works very well except on the local level. You would need to hire … or elect someone the represent you.”

“Why don’t you think that democracy works very well?”

“Let’s look at the last election. The Democratic primary election was the most hotly contested one in modern times. Hillary was quoted several times saying, ‘We democrats count every vote!’ … Now let’s see how that works. Hillary got 15 million votes and Barack got 15 million and one votes, more or less. That means that in a population of over 300 million, that Barack was nominated and then elected President by 5% of the population. And I might add that that 5% of the electorate is the most leftistly motivated portion of our population. Did you vote in that primary, or were you watching the ‘Simpsons?’ The point being, that very, very few Americans participate in our Democracy and those that do are being manipulated.”

“I’m not being manipulated,” scowled Bill.

“Of course you are,” interrupted Les, who had been silent for a while. “To understand what democracy is it is probably helpful to look into the meaning of the word. Democracy is a Greek word meaning mob (demos) rule (cracy). Throughout history crowds, I prefer to visualize them as dissatisfied mobs, have gathered to hear enlightened men speak. The ones that are particularly good at speaking are called demagogues. The word demagogue in Greek means mob teacher. Ancient demagogues like Demosthenes of Athens were eloquent enough to convince the crowd (mob) to do anything, quite often to go to war. Our forefathers were very cognizant of the ability of one demagogue to convince the crowd to do one thing on one day and in his absence, the next day, another demagogue could convince the same crowd to do the opposite. The men at the Constitutional Convention distrusted democracy because of that feature, because of the inequity of playing on the emotions of men with passionate speeches in dire times and because of the obvious impossibility of getting the vote of all the people.

“Yeah, but we are not exposed to demagoguery today, are we?”

“By all means,” replied Ned, “We see it all the time, in many ways. Think of advertising … ‘Duz Does Everything’ was a detergent commercial when I was a kid. ‘Pepsi Cola hits the Spot, two full glasses, that a lot.’ Not one TV gadget, but two for only $19.95 … plus shipping and handling … the handling that covers all the purveyor’s costs. If you don’t tithe to our church, you will surely ‘Go to Hell.’ And on and on!”

“What about in politics?”

“Well, in ancient Rome, some examples are Cicero and Julius Caesar. In more modern times, one thinks of Napoleon, but in the 20th Century there were many. Here in the USA one of my particular favorites was Huey Long from Louisiana. But the ones that tipped countries over were Mussolini, twice the ‘Time Magazine’ ‘Man of the Year’ in the 1930’s; Adolph Hitler, probably the Grand Master of fomenting crowd excitement (Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil!); but don’t discount FDR (‘Happy days are here again) or Winston Churchill (Never, in the history of human endeavor …). Nowadays, in this century, no one has ever seen the likes of Barack Obama.”


“Indeed, he is also a master. Handsome, well dressed, well educated, likeable, charismatic, He speaks vacuous platitudes like: ‘Change …’, which is convincing and totally meaningless.”

“Vacuous, for Christ’s sake what are you talking about?”

“It’s part of the drill. Don’t ever say anything positive that will pin you down. Speak in broad generalities about lofty goals so that everyone will empathize with you. The definition of a demagogue is: A person, especially and orator or a politician, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. Does that sound like anyone that you know?”

“He preaches that disaster is befalling us caused by someone other than he or his troops. Always something or someone else’s fault … and he is going to save us … by spending lots of money … but it won’t cost us or any of our friends anything, because he is going to take it from the greedy rich … but whoever is rich is undefined, as a matter of fact it is a moving target.”

Claude piped in, “Yeah, with Hitler the national demon was the ‘Jews’, now the national demon is W or the rich. He understands how to appeal to people’s baser instincts, class against class, color against color, race against race, sex against sex, young against old … that’s the populist way to manipulate crowds and it has been working here in the US for at least 100 years.”

Ned added, “Yeah, that method is from an idea in the ‘Communist Manifesto’. It is the basis of socialistic and communistic intellectual philosophy … it is called dialectical materialism … straight from Marx and Lenin.”

“Do you think,” asked Bill, showing some alarm, “are you saying that Obama and his troops are attempting to be socialists, maybe even communists?”

Again, after some thought, Les ventured, “The jury is still out. It is hard say if they are, and if they are if it is intentional. However, they are borrowing enough money from the future to bankrupt the country. And the irony is that they are using this borrowed money to buy, in the name of the government a lot, if not a majority of the nation’s biggest businesses … banks, insurance, and the automobile industry. Additionally, they are instituting nationalized health care, and are making a play for all of the energy providing businesses. When the government controls business, by running it, that is called fascism, another form of socialism.”

Ned said, “The word fascism, coined by Mussolini and his pals comes from a Roman symbol of authority, the fasces, a bundle of wooden rods tied up with leather thongs and with an axe head sticking out. The symbology is one of the peaceful powers of the state with the threat of being able to untie the bundle and use the rods first to beat the populace into order and failing that to use the axe to execute judgment upon them. That was the Italian model and it is on the back of our dime. The fascists in Germany were the German National Socialist Workers Party, which they abbreviated from its German words as NSDAP, from which, in turn, the acronym NAZI was gleaned. Both the Fascists and the Nazi’s were national socialist movements.”

“It looks like we are making a helluva run at Fascism,” came Linda’s comment from the kitchen.

“I think you are right, and if what they are doing is not just blind stupidity … if it is being done conspiratorially, we are looking at a genuine coup d’ etat,” added Les.

The little group fell silent for a minute or, thinking about this exchange.

Hank digressed, “I guess that to understand how our government can get to this state, we should follow through and try to answer Bill’s question about the republic.”

Getting back on track, he offered, “I suppose that the biggest benefit that was accruing in the colonies almost by default, was the almost de facto freedom the people were experiencing.”

Les picked it up, “An interesting insight into individual freedom began early on. Like Norm said before, in 1620 when the Pilgrims were still at anchor in the harbor, before they landed in Massachusetts, they signed the Mayflower Compact, a document which pretty well committed them to communal living.”

He went on, “The first year the leaders decided that any building or other work would be done communally and that there would also be a community farm. Everyone was required to work in the communal gardens equally and was entitled to an equal share of the produce. Kind of like the Karl Marx said in the Communist Manifesto … ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.’ It didn’t work. The most able didn’t have to tax themselves much and the least able worked their tails off. The slackers ate as much as the hard workers. Those that could have produced more didn’t because no matter how hard you worked, you got the same ration. What really happened was that the whole colony damn near starved. The situation was intolerable, and desperate.”

“So what did they do?” asked Bill.

“The governor, William Bradford I think, talked it over with the other leaders and they took a real chance. They decided that everyone should raise their own personal garden and could keep what they grew for themselves.”


“Well, husbands and wives along with their children got out and got busy. Pretty soon some of the women started spinning yarn, weaving and making clothes. The husbands let the kids water and weed so that they could do other things like plough the neighbor’s gardens, chop wood or hire out to help those who needed it. As soon as it was apparent that they could keep the fruits of their labors, commerce began; people traded work, services and goods amongst themselves. The colony never looked back. By the end of the century, the colony had over 7000 people.”

“You’re telling me that as soon as people started doing for themselves, the colony prospered?”

“Yup, not only that, pretty soon everybody had surpluses and began shipping goods back to Europe for trade. It wasn’t long before some people started getting rich. By the time of the Constitutional Convention, there were some who were very wealthy. The members of the Convention, who were the cream of the crop, were wealthy enough either through their own efforts or because of the wealth of their families to be well read and well educated. But, they were not indolent; they were patriots, veterans of the fight for independence. Don’t forget that most of them had risked everything, ‘life, liberty, and sacred honor,’ during the Revolutionary War. They were fighting to protect the ideals of human liberty and true free trade.”

Bill mulled that a little. “ Human liberty and free trade.” “You know, human liberty lets other people do dumb things and those free trade agreements really hurt our industries here in America because of cheap foreign labor and poor quality goods. How are you going to protect American jobs?”

Les hesitated for a minute and then replied, “You know, Bill, I’ve thought about that a lot. I know that you value your personal freedom above everything. Your ability to come and go as you please, to hunt and fish, snowmobile or to pick and choose to do about anything else is just about the most important thing that you have going. I also know that you think that the Koreans, Germans, Japanese and Chinese are cheating Detroit with their cars and retailers with their consumer products. And you think that the government ought to do something about it.”

“That about hits it on the head.”

“Do you think that foreign cars are poorly made or that they are inferior to American ones?”

“They used to be, but now I’m not so sure. As a matter of fact Linda’s Toyota gets better mileage than my Ford and she’s got a hundred and seventy five thousand miles on it.”

“Yeah, and you had a factory recall on your Ford and all I have ever done to my car is a brake job,” she added while continuing to make her luncheon special in the kitchen.

“After the war, the Japanese stuff was junk,” was Hank’s comment, “but now it is first quality. And most of the Chinese stuff in Wal-Mart is of good quality and a lot cheaper.”

“That’s my point,” replied Bill, “there ought to be a law to protect us from that foreign stuff.”

Steve jumped on that, “Are you saying that the government ought to put a tax on those goods so that they would cost as much as those made by the American manufacturers? Do you know that that tax is called a protective tariff? And why should the government get the benefit of the price difference instead of us consumers?”

Norm continued that line, “When the government interferes in the pricing of things it always costs the consumer, the little man. You shouldn’t have to pay more to someone for a product that costs more than others will sell it for. If a man can’t compete he will have to change his methods or it is only right for him to go out of business. No one should have to subsidize me and I shouldn’t have to subsidize someone else. You yourself can make the judgment about quality. If two things are of equal quality, you should be able to buy the cheapest one … its your call, you are the consumer.”

“Yeah,” added Hank. “When the Japanese cars first appeared on the market here in the States, they were pretty sad; their advantage was that you could buy them for half price. They sold a lot of them and made a lot of money. They took the money and improved the product. Now you can’t tell who makes the best car, them or us. And they still cost less, because they don’t have all the baggage of bad government policy and unionism.”

“That’s what I am talking about,” Bill shot back. “There ought to be laws that they had to have unions, with the same benefits, health care and retirement policies; they should have to comply with the same regulations as American companies. And … I am really pissed about what American manufacturers pay their executives.”

“Who could do all that?”

“The government! Of course.”

“You think that the American automobile business ought to run by the government?”

Hank was incredulous. “You think that because that union built American car manufacturers can’t compete with American built Japanese cars that government bureaucrats ought to take over those businesses so that the American made Japanese cars will cost as much as the Detroit cars? I think that the American way is, if you can’t compete, adjust what you are doing or go out of business.”

“Well …”

“Do you think that a government bureaucrat, politically appointed for a $ 145,000 GS- 15 salary, from God knows where,” Hank went on, “can do a better job of running one of the biggest businesses in America. Can he do better than someone hired by an expert board of directors who have for the most part dedicated their lives and fortunes to the industry? Do you know why the CEO’s get the big salaries?”

“No, why?”

“The board of directors, the real power in the management of the company, the ones with the most experience in the business are charged by the stockholders, people like you and me, with finding the most capable person possible to run their business. The fact is that there is only a small pool of people who have the ability to run these companies and there is a lot of competition to hire them. The directors bid for this talent by offering the packages that the executives get. The CEO doesn’t do the salary, the board, the people running the companies do. Do you think that Chrysler would have survived 20 years ago without Lee Iacocca? Could Chrysler use a new Iacocca now? How much would he be worth?”

Bill was deflated. Everyone around the table was kind of staring down. Norm was pretty hot and every one could see it. After a while, Les broke the silence.

“There is another aspect to it, Bill. One that really bothers me. If the government takes over the companies, they are no longer run by innovation, intuition and common sense. Bureaucrats don’t work that way. They have to have a recipe; they need to have laws or rules and regulations, to guide them. I have had a lot of contact with bureaucrats in my life. They are an interesting study in human nature. They know that they have it really good. An easy job, good working conditions, good health insurance, liberal retirement benefits, a nice office, prestige, probably a secretary to do the menial office work, 13 paid holidays, 2 weeks or more paid vacation, lots of other perks and a written job description. If there is anything that terrifies a bureaucrat, it is the specter of having to make an independent decision that is not in their job description. Some, but not many, realize that if they make an intelligent independent decision that it could be their ticket to advancement, but most fear that if they make a bad decision that it could be a black mark on their career file. Too many black marks and their job and therefore their retirement could be jeopardized. Most of the bureaucrats I know are living day by day for their highest desire, their retirement. I always assumed because they hate their jobs.”

He continued, “If the government runs business, that is called Socialism. When people’s lives are circumscribed by rules, regulations, and laws, they are not free to anything other than what others tell them to do. They are no longer free. If you work at a government run job, you have lost your freedom to innovate. Pretty soon, when the government controls all business, all innovation will be gone along with all freedom.”

Steve observed, “Our forefathers had speculated on this a lot. Just as the American Revolution began, a Scotsman, Adam Smith in 1776, published a book called ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ which is still considered one of the greatest treatises on trade, business and freedom. Smith pointed out that most free men are motivated to labor or endeavor in their own self-interest. For him, it followed that each man will do what he perceives will benefit himself the most. He will then trade the objects of his labor and industry for the good and services that he views to be the most beneficial to himself.”

Les carried on, “The philosophical ideal of human freedom absolutely rests on the proposition that each man should believe that he alone is the most important person in his own life. I know that some will take exception to that idea, but if you don’t think of yourself as the most important person in your own destiny, who will? Once that this ideal is established in a man’s mind, then it follows that each person himself is the master of his actions, responsible for himself. Of course, lots of people make bad decisions, but are you, who can barely control your own comings and goings, going to be capable of directing someone else’s life when the control your of own is in doubt? If you understand that you alone are responsible for what happens to you, then all the actions that follow in your life begin to make sense.”

“The individual free man is self governing,” he continued, “It is your self interest to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Once you start on this path, it becomes apparent that if you would occasionally like to be helped, you should occasionally help others. If you want to be loved, you should show love for others. If you are sorry, say so. If you are never sorry, look deeply into your soul, for I am sure you will find a darkness that you will want to correct. Know that if you harm others, harm will surely befall you. If you are harmed, if possible, forgive, ‘for to forgive is divine.’ There is an Arabic proverb, ‘He who strikes the second blow starts the fight.’ Do like Christ admonished, ‘when struck, turn the other cheek.’”

“The free man is free right up to his neighbor’s nose,” he finished. “After that, society needs just a few more constraints. These are all covered in the ‘Ten Commandments.’ The only legitimate function of government, under the concept of freedom, beyond the ‘Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule’ is to provide for the equitable application of these principles. This is exemplified by trial by jury of our peers adjudicated by the ideal of blind justice in our courts, which is based on the wisdom of the ages compiled in our divinely inspired ‘Common Law.’”

Linda saw that Steve was topping off everyone’s coffee cup and since she had just taken a tray of her special chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, she brought a plateful to the table. She said, “ Les, so if I understand what you just said, you are saying that unless I protect everyone else’s freedom, I can’t be free myself?”

“You can’t be free if your neighbor is not. Nobody can be free unless everyone else is.”

“That’s right,” interjected Norm, “That’s what Jefferson was talking about when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence, ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’” He paused for a second and then continued, “By the way, I know of no more eloquent written passage in the English language.” He paused again, “Anyway, do you know what he meant by ‘endowed by their Creator.’”

“No, what?” asked Bill.

“Our founding fathers had thought about freedom a lot. You will find, as they did, by just thinking about it, that rights, Freedom foremost among them cannot derive from any person or institution of man. You will conclude, as they did, in the same manner that: Rights must be of Divine Origin, they are not of man, they are God Given. It is certain that no man has the right to take away what God has given, for if he does, he himself is at risk. It follows that no committee or group can take away the rights of any man or any group, for if they do, they too are vulnerable. It also follows that if some man or group takes rights by Earthly force that they are usurers and interlopers, for those rights remain in the Universe; they are God given.”

Ned elaborated on the thought, “Many of the Fathers, like John Adams, were very religious; for them the idea of Rights coming from God was easy. But many, including Jefferson were not so religious. Jefferson was probably agnostic when it came to organized religion, but he devoutly believed that the rights of man came from Higher Authority. If you read about him, what he understood in his youth, he asserted as he wrote the Declaration of Independence. After a lifetime of considering what he and the other Signers had done, his reflections probably made him pretty devout in his old age. It is for sure that the majority of the men at the Constitutional Convention believed that they were doing God’s work, work far above their personal pay level.”

“That’s true,” said Les. “The men at the convention were not necessarily good friends. The discourse at times was very contentious. Many of the southerners were slaveholders and many of the northerners detested that institution. In spite of that issue and the prejudices of the big states against the small and visa versa; in spite of the fear of an all-powerful central state; in spite of personality issues and preconceptions, they kept on trying until they finished. They did it because they knew the job had to be done. In order to accomplish their task, they understood that they had to be civil to one another; and that they would all have to compromise. They were civil; they did compromise and look what they did. Can you imagine a meeting nowadays that would last from May 14 until September 17, where 55 unpaid men would spend an entire hot summer in a closed room with the shades drawn with no air conditioner, debating the merits of a document that most were pretty sure would not be accepted. They were a whole lot more dedicated than the boys in DC are now.”

“I see now how the convention came about and you guys have given me an inkling of what kind of men participated, but you still haven’t told me how they hit upon a republic?” It was Bill wondering again “Anyway,” he said, “I’ve got to go. Maybe we can visit about this again tomorrow … OK?” And with that he went out the door.
Norm looked at Les, “How are we going to answer him in the morning?”

“Well,” said Les, “I suppose we should tell him that almost all modern Republics are descendents of the ancient Spartan republic, which, although rudimentary and fashioned for a pretty primitive warrior society, it certainly worked for a very long time. The Spartans ruled ancient Greece militarily for at least 300 years. They whipped everybody, even the comparatively monster state, Athens.”

“Their form of government consisted of a system of checks and balances designed to prevent anybody or any group from gaining too much power. They had had experience with power hungry tyrannical kings and were sick of it. Supposedly a man named Lycurgus appeared from the mists of time and gave them the ‘Law,’ and then left the city to consult the Gods. He was supposed to have asked the Oracle at Delphi if he had done good and when answered in the affirmative, starved himself to death, for his mission on Earth had been completed.”

“Weird!” said Linda.

“Anyway,” he continued, “ It worked pretty well. Under the ‘Law’, no one who was not a Spartan could be in the army. If you were in the army, you had to help feed and clothe your barracks mates. You could never hold office if you had not served in the army. When you were 7 years old, you left your home and joined the army training barracks, the Agoge, that is if the people in the barracks voted to accept you. All the men were active in the army and actually lived in the Agoge until they were 42, when they retired to their estates. If you survived the military training in the barracks until you were 18, you were inducted into the field army. You had to serve in the army until you were 29 before you could join the citizen assembly called the Apella and could vote. No citizen, with the exception of the kings, who were special, could be in the Spartan Senate, the Gerousia, until he was 60 years old. The Gerousia consisted of 28 senators and the two kings, 30 in all, elected for life. The Gerousia proposed laws to the electorate, sat in judgment at trials and saw to the running of the civil government.”

“What about the women, what did they do, did they vote?” asked Linda.

Norm butted in, “Women in antiquity, had very little to do with government. While that was also true in Sparta, the women had a special place. Because the men were physically living in the Agoge, the Spartan women were in total control of the households, servants and lands. They were apparently as well educated as the men. They were athletes, one of them actually won in the Olympic games. They were also noted for their physical beauty, Helen of Troy was from Sparta.”

Les, slightly irritated by the interruption went on, “The Gerousia crafted the Laws and submitted them to the Apella for a vote. It also elected the kings; there were two, one from each of two royal families. It is of interest that you had to be present to vote and voting was conducted by shouting or applause. This in itself was check, because a prejudiced member of the Gerousia could rule that the side of the question that he wanted had won the vote although a division could be called for. The Apella did not debate, but merely affirmed or rejected the proposals of the Gerousia, however the Gerousia could veto the actions of the Apella.”

“It doesn’t seem like the Apella had much power,” observed Norm.

“It was an assembly of peers, the most powerful warriors in the world, proven in battle, brothers in arms,” said Les. “They made the laws, tried crimes, elected the kings, the Gerousia and the all powerful Ephors. They were the proud cream of a powerful society that knew where it was going. The Apella had dignity and were important and they knew it.”

“You said Ephors, what were they?” Asked Steve.

“The Gerousia was the legislature and judiciary, it made and tried the laws, but because of their advanced age were in no position to enforce it. They needed ‘Overseers’ to do that job. Ephor is the Greek word for overseer. The Apella could elect any man an Ephor. It was the highest position the Republic and since the Spartans well knew the arrogance of men in high places, they were elected only once in their lives and for one year only. The Ephors were selected for their prowess, experience, intelligence and dedication to the Republic. They bowed to no man, not even the kings and could, with cause, depose them. The only duty they owed was to the Law of the Republic. Once a month, while in office, they were required to pledge allegiance to the kings.”

“And what about the kings?”

“The two kings were descendants of two royal families and generally there was one king from each family. They were both generals of the army and beyond the army, their duty was to protect the law. The reason that there were two kings was so that one could remain home to protect Sparta while the other campaigned far away. The most famous example of this is when King Leonidas sacrificed himself and his 300 companions at Thermopylae to stop the million man Persian invasion of King Xerxes for 7 days.”

Ned summed it up, “It looks like the US Constitution had a lot of features in it like the President, who is the two Kings, the Ephors which were like his cabinet and the FBI all rolled into one. The Gerousia, which was like the Congress and Supreme Court all in one package together. The Apella was kind of an Electoral College that was composed of people who because of their understanding of and service to the community had earned the right to vote. Women were a pillar of the society. Everyone understood where they personally stood in the scheme of things. A hell of a society!”

“So how come they were better than their rivals, Athens?” It was Hank the lineman.

Les pointed out the main points of the Athenian democracy. “Athens, even in antiquity, was a very large, but compact city where the entire metropolis could be accessed by walking. There was a large public area called the Agora where one could shop for all the essentials and luxuries, could commune with the Gods and could engage in political and philosophical intercourse. The great philosopher Socrates taught in the Agora, the great orator and demagogue Demosthenes and others of his ilk worked their spoken magic on the crowds there. The civil government was also conducted in the Agora. The populace gathered there to conduct trials or to elect generals and city fathers or to approve or disapprove public policies. Voting on public issues was done in person; all you had to do to vote was to show up, but you had to be there. The problem was that there were no principles to the government, other than what the speakers, the demagogues said.”

Roger, the ex-forester who was pretty well read himself, joined the conversation. “After I retired, the wife and I took a trip to Greece. We spent almost all our time in Athens and out on the Aegean Islands. You can’t go to Athens without being impressed with its tradition of philosophy, mathematics, theater, naval commerce and in particular democracy. After we were there I did a lot of reading about the city. One of the books that I read was a historical novel called ‘The Tides of War’ by Steven Pressfield, which is about the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta, which Sparta won, by the way. Although it is historical fiction, it is very well researched. If you really want some insight into how the Athenian democracy society worked, it is a must read.”

“Awh hell,” exclaimed Monte, the cowboy who had sidled in a few minutes before, “I ain’t gonna read a damn book, just give us a hint to how it goes.”

“The real hero of the book is an Athenian superman, who by the way, really lived, named Alcibiades. Alcibiades was a combination of Bob Mathias, Albert Einstein, Clark Gable, Casanova, George Patton, Bull Halsey, Barack Obama and Warren Buffet all rolled up into one. It is not clear, but he might have been born a Spartan, but had grown up in the home of the builder of the Parthenon and leader of Athens, Pericles. He was cultured and cultivated; he had studied in the Agora under Socrates, where he had become an orator. He was an Olympic champion, having won the chariot races, which were the high point of the games. He was dashingly handsome and the male idol of the many a lovely Athenian maiden. He had served the Athenian army, which was also a naval force, and had risen early on to high military rank.”

Roger glanced over at Monte, who still seemed to be interested. “When the Peloponnesian War ground to an impasse, about midway through, he came up with a sound way to defeat the Spartans. Since Sparta was not a naval power and Athens was, he championed a plan by which Athens would attack Sparta’s colony on Syracuse, on Sicily. He reasoned that the Spartans would have to supply Syracuse by sea far from home where Athens’ huge navy could easily overpower them. He pressed his plan to the demos in the Agora with such force and logic that his plan was adopted. The expedition was immediately organized and sailed off to Sicily. Even as his ships were clearing the harbor, orators in the Agora, many of whom disliked Alcibiades’ power, began to do what modern demagogues still do. As long as he was not present to defend himself, they started casting doubt about his plan, his ability. They actively worked to sabotage his efforts. As it turns out, the effort faltered in no little part because of the rabble rousing at home. As soon as he got into trouble, the demagogues pounced on the carcass, and convinced the demos to vote a demand for him to return for censure. Alcibiades was no fool; he knew that a vote of censure would result at the very least in his banishment and probably his execution. He went over to the Spartans.”

Ned added, “ I have another example; At the end of the war, the demos in the Agora voted to execute Socrates because he had taught his students that he thought that a Republic was better form of government than a Democracy. The mob thought that kind of thinking treasonable, so they commanded him to drink a cup of poison hemlock for his opinions. Although some of his students offered to smuggle him out of Athens, he demurred. He said, ‘As long as man remembers me, I will be immortal. If I do not stand up for my principles, who will remember me.’ He drank the hemlock and became immortal.”

“Looks to me like them damn demos was easy to sway and kind of mean and fickle.” Monte saw it pretty clearly.

Les suddenly started, he seemed to have been temporarily lost in thought. “The Romans also had a pretty good Republic for 500 years, about half of their existence, but all we know nowadays is about is the Emperors of the latter half. We ought to look into that a little.”

“Now there is something that I know about,” It was Roger who had lit up like a light. “ I saw the HBO series, ‘Rome’ a year ago and got interested in Cicero, the great Roman lawyer and Senator. I have read a lot about him in the last year and quite a lot about the Roman Senate.”

Linda beamed, “ About time somebody besides Norm or Les put in their two cents … I wondered if anyone else would ever get in a word edgewise. You do the talking for a while.”

Norm and Les both passed a sidewise glance at Linda and then at each other as Roger began to inform the group about the Roman Senate.

“Lots of interesting sidelights to ancient Rome. As early as 500 BC the Roman populace had had enough of abstruse, arrogant, and tyrannical kings, had deposed them and had instituted the Republic. By the time of Cicero and Caesar, about 50 years before the time of Christ, Rome was far and away the biggest city on Earth, perhaps half a million people. There was ample water, because of the famous aqueducts and there were sewers too. The sewers drained into the Tiber River; I don’t expect that was very nice, but pretty advanced for ancient times. There was not any street lighting and no road signs, nor was there a municipal government or police force. It was a criminal offense for a soldier to enter the city with his sword or other weapons. The affairs of government were conducted in the Senate House, which was in the government area, about the size of two football fields, called the Forum. In many ways the Roman example was based on the Spartan model that you just told us about. The Senate was composed of the leading men of the country who were almost always noblemen from rich families. You had to be rich, because nobody was paid to participate in any of the government posts or positions. Any Roman citizen could vote on any laws presented by the Senate and the issues were well advertised. However, you had to cast your vote in person and in the Forum. As a matter of practicality, citizens in the provinces outside of town did not often vote, but could if they could get to town. Like the Spartans, the top of the government was two demi-kings, two Consuls, men elected by the Senate for a year once in their life, although there were some exceptions. In addition, there was a hierarchy of other magistrates; Praetors, Quaestors, Aediles, Tribunes and Censors were some of the officers attached to the Senate to do specific tasks necessary to administrate the country and its Empire. All these entities were ultimately beholding to one or both of the two political forces, the plebeians (people) or the patricians (aristocrats). And, oh yeah, in times of great danger there would be a temporary Dictator who serve through the crisis. But all in all, the Roman Republic was structured very much like the Spartan one.”

“Looks like the Roman Republic was pretty damned complex,” observed Monte.

“Yeah, I haven’t even scratched the surface of it,” said Roger, “ but the men who wrote our Constitution had read all about it. They knew all the good and all the bad. That’s where they really became familiar with how fickle the crowd is and how important it is to have deliberative assemblies weigh and re-weigh issues, instead of allowing government to be run by the passions of an agitated crowd. The history of Rome and Sparta demonstrates to the serious reader how important it is to interpose check after check on the process of government.”

“So you are saying that our forefathers didn’t like the crowd or the mob as you call it and were really afraid of powerful leaders and strong central government,” commented Steve, who had been listening attentively.

Les, who couldn’t contain himself, butted in, “History made them deathly afraid of it. And that was the mindset of the delegates as they assembled for the Constitutional Convention. They knew they had to do something. They wanted a government strong enough to meet common goals and problems, but where every facet of it was held in check. That was the mind set when they began assembling.”

Wes, the patriarch of the group said as he got up, “ all very interesting gentlemen, mama has lunch on and I gotta go home. Let’s think about all this tonight and take it up in the morning.”

With that the klatch started breaking up for the day. Linda started serving lunch to a couple of the guys. The front door opened letting in the high school group that was escaping from SOS at the school lunch counter. Les, a bachelor, scurried up to the counter to buy a couple of cookies to go home on. Ned’s parting comment was, “ I’m having supper with Bill and will bring him up to speed on what we said after he left.” In no time, each of the group had gone on his separate way.

The next morning, bright and early, they were all at it again. After the customary banter about the health of the community, how the ball team had done, the weather and the gossip, the conversation died down. Linda was humming to herself as she made cookies. Les was engrossed in devouring his biscuits and gravy, Carl had ordered scrambled eggs with peanut butter and jelly on toast and Roger was gingerly poking at his oatmeal mush and everyone was slurping coffee. Les turned to Ned and said, “I went home yesterday and boned up on the Constitutional Convention, because if figured that Bill would nail me on it today … you suppose he will show up?”

Roger looked up, “You don’t have to worry, here he comes. Get ready!”

Les wasn’t disappointed, because as soon as Bill got his coffee and sat down, he said, “ I saw Ned last night and he told me what you guys said about ancient governments. Athens, Sparta and Rome. Really interesting. Boy, you really laid it on me yesterday didn’t you? But it got me to thinking; you know … I don’t know hardly anything about the writing of the Constitution. Are you guys going to go into it?”

Roger shifted in his seat; Les looked at Norm and then said, “ Bill, I couldn’t think of anything else … so here goes.”

“The American system as visualized in our Constitution of 1787 is a Republic of checks and balances formed from the Union of many little Republics, the States. It is the United States of America, a union of states, not people … it is not, nor can it be a true democracy. There is no possibility of getting a vote of all the people. Our country is a Republic. The national government sitting in Washington, D.C. is composed of delegates as democratically elected as possible from the States where they are residents. The President is elected by winning the vote of each State individually. He, like an individual Congressmen in his particular district, has to win endorsement in a democratic election.”

Roger, eager to participate interjected, “The government now, for some reason in contrast to the past, seems to always be in gridlock; nothing is ever done; nothing seems to work. It passes laws to kill the unborn, fink out on our international obligations, threatens to disarm the general population, treats travelers like sheep, starts wars that we are afraid to win and taxes, taxes, taxes.”

Unruffled, Les continued, “People today do not seem to understand that the federal government was formed for very specific purposes. Those purposes as articulated in the Preamble to the Constitution are to “ … establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity… ” In years subsequent to its adoption, many people took the ‘Preamble’ to be part of the Constitution. It is not. It is merely a statement of what the purpose of the Constitution is. Although many people are familiar with the ‘Preamble’, most have not read the document itself to see how those lofty goals, which have worked so well for the last 220 years, were to be attained.”

Then Norm jumped in, “Our forefathers, in particularly men like John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the 50 odd other members of the Constitutional Convention, were serious, educated men who, unlike we moderns, understood the danger of democracy to freedom. They knew that the root meaning of the word democracy was the Greek words for mob, which is demos and rule, which is ‘cracy.’ They knew, as we do not, the historical record of governments ruled by the demos and it was not good. Although they believed in the equality of man, they were, almost to a man, afraid of democracy. They all believed ‘…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …’. However, they knew that it was impossible for the common man to or be expected to devote the effort necessary to good governance. They feared the demagogues that would appeal to the baser motives of an uniformed electorate. They also were realistic about the impossibility of getting a true vote of all the people. They realized that only a portion of the population would, or even could, ever vote in a single election, so a true polling of opinion was impossible. They were very cognizant that true democracy was only possible where the entire population affected could gather in one place, like the Town Hall meeting in upper New England. So they crafted a Republican form of government, protecting the individual, where each person stood equally before the law, while still preserving the sovereignty of the State from whence that person came. The government was to be conducted by representatives that had been democratically elected, so far as possible, to do the job.”

At this point Ned added, “The forefathers also had collective bitter memories of being ruled by a Tyrant and the fiat edicts from the unrestricted chicanery of an unchecked, unrepresentative Parliament, their former oppressors in England. Their new government, they knew, had to be responsive to the People, but had to, at the same time, give full recognition to the diversity of the States of which it was composed. After all, the United States of America was to be the instrument, not of civil government, but of harmony between and of protection of the States. The new government, in the final analysis, was a creature of the States and was to be their servant, not their master. No State would have, then or now, given to the Federal Government any more of their sovereignty than was necessary to get along with their neighboring States in matters of mutual interest.”

“Hey,” Bill was somewhat overwhelmed, “Are you guys ganging up on me?”

Roger smiled, “No, but I think several of us did our homework last night after the blizzard of comment yesterday.”

Les was now on ‘point’, “Many modern Americans believe that the Federal Government should regulate their lives on the minutest issues. This view is patently the opposite of the Founder’s intention for the document. They intended for their individual States, not the Federal government, to remain responsible for the day to day running of the civil government as they had done since the earliest days of the colonies. A moment’s reflection answers why. Each state, because of its unique geographical location, climate, ethnic make-up, history and so on, will and should and is best equipped to govern from the point of view of its unique citizens. Additionally, each State already had its own state and local governments, made up of officials elected locally. People who would be sensitive to local problems and were best able to address the minutia of local issues and problems. The whole thrust of the American ideal is that … those closest to the problem should govern most. Your county commissioner, who lives next door, should be far more important to your civil life than your Congressman who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away. To see that this is so, contemplate what kind of government could possibly be best responsive to local needs and solutions, your needs and problems?”

He continued, “The makers of the Constitution knew all this and were sensitive to solving the problem. There were injustices common to all the State’s experience, things that would have to be made right for all on the Federal level. Among those are: rules of bankruptcy where no citizen could be imprisoned for debt; no ex-post facto laws where no law could be passed to punish something that was not illegal when it was done; no bills of attainder where single persons or groups are singled out for some government action … all law is to apply equally to everyone; all duties, imposts and excises were to be uniform, so that no state could interfere with the trade of another; the establishment a uniform postal system, so that all could communicate equally and depend upon it; the establishment a patent and copyright system to protect the ingenuity of inventors and authors; that contracts were to be held sacrosanct; and to declare war, so that the states would not take local military matters into their hands to the detriment of all. These few things internal to our governance and, additionally, those powers necessary for the United States of America to participate in the intercourse with the other nations of the world are the sole powers granted to the United States Government by the Constitution.”

Roger continued for a while, “The instrument is full of checks and balances that are designed to make sure that no part of the government or block of voters or special interest could become ascendant. Each state was to have two members of the Senate, regardless of the size of the State, and at least one Congressman, insuring that all the States were represented in both Houses of the Congress. After satisfying that condition, the membership of the House of Representatives was proportioned from the general population to give due deference to the general population of the States. The members of the Senate were to be picked by the Legislatures of the States. Interestingly the membership of the Legislatures, who were popularly elected, certainly reflected the politics of the individual State in a more responsible manner than would a popularity contest based upon demagoguery. The President was to be elected by an Electoral College made up of persons elected in the States to elect him. This was done to specifically keep the presidential race from becoming a popularity contest where, once again, the States would elect rather than letting urban areas control the election. The House of Representatives would control all spending bills, but the Senate was to either affirm their decision or veto their actions by refusing to accept them. The President would appoint all Federal judges and ministers and make all treaties, but the Senate had to agree. Bills had to be passed by both Houses of Congress and be signed by the President to become law. However, the President could veto a Bill presented to him. If he did, the Congress could override his veto by a 2/3 vote in each body. Amendments to the Constitution could be proposed to the States by a 2/3 vote of each House of Congress or by 2/3 of the States. The Amendments would be incorporated into the Constitution if 3/4 of the States agreed, but the States had the final say. And finally, there was to be an independent Supreme Court that would rule, without recourse, on the Constitutionality of all Federal laws and upon the interpretation of the Constitution itself. However, the President was to appoint the Justices with the advice and consent of the Senate and the Congress was to provide for inferior courts by law. Again, all of this was done to minimize the capricious effects of demagoguery on the populace and to prevent any one person or group or part of the government from being superior to the others. The Framers did not trust strong men, unruly crowds or powerful central governments. They had all had plenty of that.”

“Even so,” it was Norm again, “the Constitution would never have been ratified had not the Bill of Rights, those rights given to humanity by God, been incorporated into the Document. If you think about it, Rights have to be God given, for no person can grant to another person … Rights. Anyway, we all are familiar with the Bill of Rights as it pertains to Freedom of Speech, Religion, Assembly, Right to bear arms and Trial by jury and so on, but possibly the most important part of the Bill as pertains to our present ‘Ship of State’ are the 9th and 10th amendments. The Ninth codifies the rights granted by God to humanity: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people … and the Tenth specifically says: The powers not delegated to the United States (the Federal government) by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

It was Les again, “The Tenth Amendment which is now mostly disregarded by those in the Federal government was specifically included in the Constitution to prevent Congress from interfering in business, criminal law, contracts, health and welfare … all of the facets of civil society and government. At first blush, it might seem that some of these issues should be controlled at the Federal level, but a moment’s reflection dictates otherwise. To enforce law requires a police force … do we really want a Federal police force? That specter conjures visions of dark and terrifying secret police intruding in our individual lives. Additionally, please tell me how a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. can be more responsive to problems in your local school than the local school board? Anyone who has ever dealt with local offices of the Federal bureaucracy, the Post Office, the Forest Service, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, among many others that come to mind, can think of or relate horror stories of vacillation, indecision, incompetence, arrogance and outright negligence. We have all that with local and State bureaucrats, but the difference is that they can be forced to be responsive by local peer or political pressure; not so with the Federal bureaucrat.”

He thought for a second or two, “During the debates on the Bill of Rights, James Wilson from Pennsylvania, insisted that the Ninth Amendment be included because he felt that although the God given ‘Rights of Man’ did not need enumeration, he argued that if any rights were to be included he was for a catch-all amendment protecting all of the rights of man, ‘… lest we should forget one.’”

He hesitated again then added, “A little reflection gives the answer as to why the 10th Amendment is included, it is simply that the States who are the ultimate power in this Union did not trust those in the Federal government, then or in the future, not to try to usurp the power of the States and therefore the People to themselves. Ultimately, the 10th Amendment may be the salvation of our Republic.”

Ned looked at Les and Norm. “That pretty well sums up why and how the Constitution was written. Are you getting a better insight, Bill?”

“Yeah, I do, thanks a lot … I never thought of it that way … hell, I never studied it, I didn’t know,” he said, “But that doesn’t answer why there isn’t any difference in the parties or why I shouldn’t vote for the man. You got any thoughts on that?”

Les was ready, “Bill, I thought about that all last night. Maybe an anecdote about party politics will illustrate the major problem about the Republican form of government, so here goes … I was talking to a woman I know. A long time ago, about 35 years ago, as a young woman, she served in the Idaho Legislature. She was a Republican member. It was a time when there were basically two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. She was serving at the beginning of a new age, many traditional Republicans, herself included, were trying to understand and then steer the government toward the principles of liberty and freedom. Many others in her party, less sensitive to historical considerations, were there just to make government work, and although they may not have viewed themselves as protectors and enhancers of the status quo, they were. It seemed that their only real goal was re-election. The Democrats, then as now, although viewing themselves as free persons, were trying to provide government solutions and protections to the problems of the populace, basically by taxing the rich and giving to the poor. At the time this woman served, the two parties were more or less equally represented.”

Continuing, he said, “The electoral process was different then. There was a primary election where each of the parties chose up sides for the general election. At the polls the voter would call for either a democrat or republican ballot. The general electorate, then more actively involved than now and therefore more politically informed, knew where each party stood, so after calling for the ballot of the party of their choice, they voted for candidates that they perceived would best carry out their political aims. This type of election has since been modified in her state as well as many others. Now when you vote in a primary election in Idaho, you are given both ballots; vote one or the other, discard the blank and present the other to the election judge for counting. This change, it is presumed, has been made to accommodate the so-called ‘Independent voter.’”

After hesitating for a moment to collect his thoughts, he went on, “This method of voting has, in the opinion of many, sounded the death knell for politics in America. It could be asked rhetorically, why should a person with no political persuasion be voting in a partisan election? Isn’t that person interjecting personal prejudices into the process at best or trying to saddle one party or the other with the least attractive candidate at the worst? Is it not totally counterproductive to the institution of good political government to have people inimical to the process participating?”

“The primary election is a party election where each party should be trying to pick the candidates that best represent their philosophical aims,” interjected Norm.

“Yeah, it isn’t supposed to be a pre-popularity contest, it is supposed to be the essence of party politics.” Claude was sipping his coffee after just finishing off his ham and eggs.

“A year or so ago, after being absent for many years, this woman watched that same Legislature from the visitor’s gallery while it was in session, just to see what is happening there nowadays. She was appalled to see that in the 70 member House of Representatives there were only 11 Democrats. How could that be? There are a whole lot more Democrat leaning people in the little State of Idaho than is evidenced by that paltry showing. After the session adjourned that day, as she is wont to do, she wandered down onto the floor and into some of the porticos of this lovely chamber of the State House. She finally arrived at the majority caucus room that is directly behind the Speaker’s chair. She was very familiar with this impressive large room with its large long table and many chairs. This room was, during her tenure, the scene of many heated intra-party debates.”

Les looked a little melancholy, “Standing there, musing the past, she wondered who was sitting around that long table now? And then it hit her … R.I.N.O.s, republicans in name only. Because Idaho is a very conservative state, statist democrats have not been able to prevail electorally for many years, actually decades. If one professes to being a Democrat, there is little possibility of State leadership. Because of the open primary election system where there is no philosophical, let alone political, discipline. There is no discipline in who runs for office in either party; so young leftists simply declare that they are Republicans. If they pleasant, pandering and charismatic, they win the primaries and then in the general election are elected by the large traditional Republican majority. Soon they are participating by compromising their philosophical enemies. Rinos indeed! And because of this phenomenon, the laws that emerge from the Legislature are far more socialistic than they should be.”

Now is was Roger’s turn, “Another and very important and insidious factor in degrading political philosophy is the phenomenon of the so-called ‘Independent’ voter. Many thinking intellectual people today are ‘Independents’ because they can plainly see that the party system in our country has become amorphous, that the parties are essentially the same, that the party system has for the most part, failed. Give these people due deference, these are not the people to which what I am saying is directed. My comments are directed to the uncountable numbers of persons who have never made any effort to understand our political system. These are the persons who say, “I don’t vote for the party, I vote for the man.’ This attitude leaves me breathless, for it is always declaimed as if it is a badge of honor, as if it is the declaration of an independent thinking free person when the very opposite is true. The people who feel this way generally make the further assertion that … ‘there is no difference between the two parties.’”

He paused and glanced over to see if he had offended Bill, which he had apparently not, “While the ‘no difference’ assertion is truer today than many people involved in politics would like to admit, it has not always been true. With each passing year, the difference in the political philosophy between the two parties is becoming ever more clouded. The problem began, in the first place, with a Supreme Court decision on the 14th Amendment, which held, at least obliquely, that the States had voluntarily given up their Constitutionally mandated right to a Republican form of government. In their Decision, each seat in a State legislative body would be apportioned by an equal number of voters. This ruling disenfranchised vast areas of the American heartland and essentially abolished the republican model of government as adopted in the US Constitution for the several States. In the sparsely populated heartland states, particularly in the west where one or two cities contain as much as 80% of the population, party politics has all but disappeared. Rural legislative districts of population equal to that of a 8 or 10 square block area in a major city might be as large as 10,000 square miles and require a 200 mile automobile trip to go to a political meeting. This result is in direct conflict with the genius of the Constitution, which allows States like Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island disproportionate representation in order to form a viable Federal government. Does not the same thinking apply to the viability of State governments? This decision is in direct violation of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, where the States are guaranteed a Republican form of government. If a state partitions itself into several Counties, as being needful subdivisions, be they ever so diverse, and provides for their representation, should that division be questioned by the Federal government? That, coupled with the Rino and Independent influence of non-principled politics has made the result of no direction, grid locked government a foregone conclusion. Yes, if there is no difference, it is in large measure because local politics has been destroyed.”

“As to the first problem, that is, the influence of the ‘Independent Voter’, this phenomenon bears close study.” Roger was speaking now. “It is certainly defensible for the voter to be appalled by the shenanigans of the two parties. However, the voter, in the final analysis, must vote for a candidate of one of those parties or the other. It seems to me that if one is voting for a person instead of a principle, one of necessity is for sale, although not necessarily being conscious of it. That person is set up to be a dupe of demagoguery. In the first place the person will be attracted to the well-coiffured handsome candidate; can you imagine a man looking like Abraham Lincoln winning the Presidency nowadays? The only way that our ‘Independent’ can know ‘The Man’ is either to believe what the man says or, in the case of negative campaigning, what the man’s opponent says about him. Political advertisements are always vacuous and demagogic. Most successful modern candidates are themselves practiced demagogues. The best technique for the demagogue in modern politics is, of course, to pick up on some Populist position wherein the candidate is the crusader who will cure some outrageous public ill that deeply offends the prospective voter. A reasonable conclusion about this phenomenon is that the independent voter is self enamored enough to assert a belief in being a free person, but is too lazy or uninformed or both to see how to vote to protect this treasured freedom. When a Populist demagogue promises ‘a chicken in every pot’ or ‘free health care’ or ‘tax the rich and give to the poor’, or ‘Duz does everything’ it is very difficult for the ‘Independent’ not to be swayed. The ‘Independent’ is not sophisticated enough to see that when the government takes from one to the advantage of another, that freedom is lost by all. The final result is simply … the other guy today, but … surprise, surprise, me tomorrow. A favorite theme of the demagogue is to ‘tax the rich.’ But, undefined is … who is rich? 70 years ago when the graduated income tax was instituted, anyone making over $30,000 per year was defined to be rich. Another theme is ‘Change.’ What does that mean? Is all change good? The Independent in many cases, if not most, is being bought. Modern demagoguery, at least recently, follows the Marxist-Leninist maxim of class warfare, based upon the communistic principle of dialectical materialism. That theory holds that there is conflict in all opposites such as: black against white, light against darkness, rich against poor, manager against worker, man against woman, gay against straight and on and on. As long as turmoil can be promoted, there will be anger and dissatisfaction; As long as there is dissatisfaction, the demagogue can soothe the masses. It seems that the so-called ‘Independent’ who has no firm principles has staked his freedom on the whims of the manipulators, the demagogues, be it a man or the advertising hucksters.”

“OK, I’m about half convinced that you guys are right,” said Bill, looking overwhelmed, “So if you are, what is to be done about our political dilemma?”

Les offered, “Maybe the answer is to learn by the example of the ancients that so inspired our forefathers. Maybe we need Ephors. The word Ephor means ‘Overseer.’ The Ephors, the respected wise men of the community conducted the day-to-day disposition of the law and were arbiters of the truth and justice. Maybe someone should be overseeing our political life.”

“So how do we apply their example?”

Les answered, “It is apparent if we analyze the present political situation in the United States that as we diverge from our forefather’s Republic and embrace the paternalistic drift toward the horror of collective socialism, our freedom as individuals disappears. Many of the foes of human freedom are prepared to force us, by military means, if necessary, into socialism. The form of Socialism where the government combines with business to rule is fascism. In the past this form of government has been enforced by the terror of the police and sympathetic military. Fascism is a system that tens of millions of people gave their lives to defeat just 65 short years ago.”

“Socialism is the antithesis of freedom. Socialism is collectivism. Collectivism means that everything is done by committee. A committee takes a vote and, as we were all taught, majority rules. There is no freedom for you if you are in the minority. And it is guaranteed that your interests will not, cannot be, always in the majority. If you are a socialist, someone else will tell you how you must live your life. Freedom is an impossibility.”

Continuing, “Freedom means that a person is able to do what ever is pleased in whatever manner wished, so long as there is no infringement on some other person’s freedom to do their personal will. Freedom guarantees that one is free to marry whomever pleased, have as many children as pleased and to provide for one’s family as one sees fit; and implies the responsibility to be personally liable for those decisions. Freedom for individuals also implies that their commerce will be conducted in a free market. It is not immediately evident unless studied, but the free market is the only way yet found to put a fair price on a trade. The seller is free to ask for or accept any price and likewise the buyer can pay the asking price or walk away. It has been said that a good deal is when both the buyer and seller were smiling at the moment that they shook hands on the transaction. Do you agree, Norm?”

Norm added, “Socialists take the labor of one person and give it to another. If one person would take from another in our society as the government does, that person would be jailed for thievery. Is it all right for government to do to us what would be criminal for one of us to do to another? But, frightenly, Socialism may be coming. Socialism’s stated goal is … “to each according to his needs and from each according to his ability.” Under this system there is no hope of advancement except in the bureaucracy. The Socialist goal is to make all persons the same. Among the many flaws of this doctrine is the attempt to treat all people the same, when they are not; to tax away incentive; and the inability of a committee to set a proper price for goods. One of my favorite quotations is what Margaret Thatcher said, ‘The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.’”

Roger had some thoughts too. “It is certain that all people are or have a right to be self serving and greedy. If a person is not self-serving, placing his destiny in the hands of others, who will serve that person better? On the other hand, how can one be arrogant enough to try to control some other person’s life, when they can barely control his or her own? The conclusion from the concept of free men interacting in self-interest in a free society is that the system is self-policing. The only laws that are truly needed to be Free were written in stone by God thousands of years ago on a desolate mountain in a lonely desert. Those ten laws of God were given a final insight some 2000 years ago when a Man of Peace uttered, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Reflection will advise you that all the other laws written by men do not grant freedom, but take freedoms away.”

Linda, who had sat down for her coffee said, “Young people of today, like the ‘Independents’, are not versed in the forms of government or why they are instituted … another failing of our educational system. Young people are full of empathy for the victims of society. They deplore the horror of war; they are greatly concerned about the health of the Earth; Poverty; Global warming; Pollution; Hole in the Ozone; Polar Bears; Disappearing rain forests are among the myriad of ills of society that they wish to cure. They are probably the ripest of all for the railings of the demagogues, who enthusiastically oblige their fears. Most have not heard one of my favorite quips by Winston Churchill, who said, ‘Anyone who isn’t a liberal by age 20 has no heart. Anyone who isn’t a conservative by age 40 has no brain.’”

Hank observed at this point, “OK, we’ve really got a good look into the reasons why our government system works so well. It is an epiphany to me to see that we are great because we have a representative government where all men are equal under the law; because we are ruled by elected representatives and not by the whims of the mob; that the government on the Federal level is limited; that the States are responsible each for their own populaces; and that all the levels of government are able to check the power of all the others. You guys have put your finger on what is going wrong with things now. You have pointed out what it takes to be free men in a free society and last but not the least what a great threat collectivism to our Freedom. So what should we do?”

Les said, “God only knows, but here is my conclusion:

There is no difference in the parties
No modern person really knows about our Constitution
Knee jerk Independents are not studious
Young people are naturally liberal
Our country is adrift
Politicians are not sensitive to their constituents
Government is unresponsive, while still pandering
Our Republic is being destroyed in the name of equality
There is no grass roots political structure
There is no leadership for Freedom’s philosophy

The solution to the dilemma, it seems to me, can be found in the ancient Spartan Republic. We need men and women of great experience in the philosophy of Freedom to oversee and revue politics present and past, events current and historical and to begin to comment in every way possible: word of mouth; written letters; public meetings; telephone conversations; radio; television; and most importantly, the internet. We need persons like the ancient Spartan Ephors to oversee the health of our society.”

He took a drink of water and then, “We need our most experienced thinkers about the benefits of and practitioners of Freedom to relentlessly speak out about how current events are endangering our country as never before and as only they can see.

We need an …
Order of Ephors

There should be Ephors for every level of society. City Ephors, county Ephors, state Ephors and national Ephors.”

He then finished, “There is no time to call grand conventions to determine who should participate. You should communicate with your friends about the problem and from your number take it upon yourselves to appoint the Ephors particular to your area, or become one yourself. Announce to the media the formation of the Order and begin to comment on the political fallacies that are all around us everyday. A small number of local Ephors, taking turns at comment, could blanket the media with thoughtful comment with very little personal effort. If several people contributed under the same pseudonym a veritable barrage of needful information could easily be disseminated.

Undoubtedly, there is a very large pool of talent in America with the ability to speak to and write about our problems. If each of us would contribute their thoughts and writings to an Ephor clearinghouse, we would very soon have a large pool of information that the local Ephors could pass on to their local audience.

If we do not make an understandable intellectual appeal to the American public, we will soon face tyranny in one form or another, be it: Socialism; Dictatorship, Insurrection; Civil War; Foreign Conquest; or Chaos; … something is coming.”

Someone has to do something:

If not us, who? If not now when?

Les was really concerned. He looked look over at Linda as the group was breaking up for the day. She gave him an ironic smile, shrugged her shoulders, extended her arms out from her hips and turned her hands palms up. He wondered, could we ‘Keep the Republic?’