Paul D. Schreiber High School
Social Science Research
Why It Is Not Always Important To Live In A Pure Democracy
Democracy is a political system whereby the entire population either directly or indirectly controls the government. A true democracy would be where the masses are relatively unfettered, but constitutional forms of government such as a constitutional republic, limit the power of the populace and guarantee certain protections for minorities and less privileged citizens. Unfortunately, a true democracy can lead to oppression even though in theory it sounds like a sound form of government. An example of how manipulation can affect the people can be seen in Hitler manipulating a democratic process. Many people use America as a prime example of a pure democracy, but our current constitutional republic government involves checks to power and a bill of rights that protects the people.
Democracy can turn government into a popularity contest where neither the contestants nor the voters are necessarily qualified. A person with advanced degrees who truly understands the government has just as much say as a person who barely knows how to write, and those with minority opinions have little to no impact since they are outvoted by the general populace People can take their right to vote very seriously and make informed decisions, or they can be swayed by the loudest voice or simplest argument. Hitler is one example of one of the flaws of democracy.
On April 20, 1889, Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria. In 1914, he joined the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment and served throughout World War I (Lukacs, John).
Hitler’s rise to power began after World War I ended. He began by joining the German Workers Party in Munich in September 1919, and he was put in charge of propaganda in 1920. The party was renamed the Nazi party. The conditions after the war were perfect for the rise of a party like this, since the loss of the war had caused growing resentment and the peace terms had caused serious economic problems (Lukacs, John). Hitler discovered a critical weakness of democracy, that propaganda has the power to get uneducated people and people under intense economic and political stress to vote one way without truly understanding what they are voting for. According to him, propaganda’s “...task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). This was a man who had never gone beyond a secondary education, who was now manipulating the opinions of an entire nation. Perhaps Hitler's greatest strength was his ability to work a crowd, even if that crowd consisted of thousands of people all with different agendas and backgrounds. He preyed on the anger and fear of his people so that instead of voting for a candidate that had their best interest at heart and would really benefit them, people were voting emotionally.
The result of Hitler’s effect on the people was evident, as Nazi candidates steadily won more elections. His party went from getting only 2.6 percent of the vote in the national election of 1928 to more than 18 percent in September 1930 (Lukacs, John). In 1932, Hitler ran against Hindenburg in the election for President and got 36.8 percent of votes on the second ballot. Hindenburg offered him the chancellorship of Germany on January 230, 1933. Hitler realized that he would not be able to win a majority of votes in an election, so he set out to manipulate the government into legally granting him absolute power. Through threats, intimidation from the Nazi Storm Troopers, false promises, and even detainment of elected officials, Hitler manipulated the German Parliament into passing the Enabling Act of 1933. This gave the German Cabinet, and in effect, Hitler himself, the power to intact laws unilaterally, with no contribution or permission from Germany’s legislative bodies for four years. With the passage of the Enabling Act, Hitler became a dictator, and thousands of people suffered because of his unchecked brutality. Obviously, Hitler did not come to power during a pure democracy, but his rise illustrates the problems that form of government would have. A system that was supposed to protect the rights of the people instead enabled a terrifying leader to take power through manipulation. In a constitutional republic government, even if a leader who is unqualified is elected their power will be limited and checked by the other branches of government. In the American system of constitutional republic, there are three branches of government, Judicial, Legislative and Executive, and they all share power. In this way, no one person can gain enough power to override the rights of the people.
Most American believe that democracy is the best form of government and refer to our current form of government as a democracy. However, there is a difference between our current constitutional republic and a pure democracy where the people vote on everything, and the majority always rules. In fact, the founding fathers of the United States of America did not want a pure democracy. Instead, they advocated for a system with protections for minorities such as the less populous states, and checks on the power of the majority, namedly a republic.
In the words of James Madison in the Federalist papers “Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths … A republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking" (The Federalist Papers No. 10.) This expresses the idea that a pure democracy is does not protect individuals from mob rule, and is short lived, therefore, a republic is a better form of government. In Article IV Section 4, of the Constitution, it states: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of government … " (“The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.”). Our Founding Fathers were worried about the tyranny of the majority so they wrote the constitution to provide defense for the minority.
Marvin Simkin said: "Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99 percent vote" (“Individual Rights”). Despite America being used as a prime example of democracy, it is not a pure democracy, but instead a constitutional republic. This is because the Founding Fathers saw the danger of absolute democracy and didn’t want that for their new country. It is difficult to argue against the many limited forms of democracy, such as the American Republic because the options such as living under a monarchy or a dictator or even an oligarchy can be much worse. However, there are times when it is not good to live in a democracy. Living in Germany during the time of Hitler would have been one of those times.
Lukacs, John, et al. “Adolf Hitler.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 Dec. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Adolf-Hitler.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-propaganda.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “9 Things You Might Not Know About Adolf Hitler.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/list/9-things-you-might-not-know-about-adolf-hitler.
“The Federalist Papers No. 10.” The Avalon Project - Laws of War : Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907, avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.asp.
“The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript.
12, January. “Individual Rights.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 12 Jan. 1992, articles.latimes.com/1992-01-12/local/me-358_1_jail-tax-individual-rights-san-diego.
“Democracy: History, Functioning, Democracy in India with Examples.” Toppr Bytes, Toppr.com, 25 Feb. 2018, www.toppr.com/guides/civics/what-is-democracy-why-democracy/democracy/.