Steve Scroggins is a volunteer contributor to the Georgia
Heritage Council who lives in Macon.
Founders' Wisdom v. ignorance and 'democracy' - Commentary by Steve Scroggins
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and
never will be." --Thomas Jefferson
Ignorance and apathy have long been the enemies of self-government, and that goes for the American version, too. In various writings about
secrecy in government,
propaganda and mythology, and
lost liberties, I and others
have tried to convey with some urgency the need for an
awakening of the People to what they have lost,
and what they are losing as time marches on. It may take some catastrophic event to awaken the American people to the peril they face, and
I fear that it may be too late --- or at least much more difficult to correct --- once the danger is recognized.
I've long advocated a return to a limited government constrained by the Constitution, but with the recognition that
the Constitution and the constitutional republic it defines cannot stand alone. It requires an informed electorate with moral character and the
will for eternal vigilance to jealously defend its liberties against any and all threats. Noted patriot Patrick Henry once
wrote, "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel." Our liberties are a
"jewel" and there will always be those who will try to steal it...more often by deception and stealth than by overwhelming force. The only way to
properly protect our liberties --- which requires that we limit our governments --- is to be informed of what our governments are doing and to
know and understand what they are supposed to be doing (per the Constitution and the law).
The Father of our Constitution (and our 4th President), James Madison, wrote
extensively on the need for a free press and an informed
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with
the power which knowledge gives." --James Madison
"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is
but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both." --James Madison
Any casual observer of the American public has noted a marked decline in public civics
knowledge despite or
perhaps because of the overwhelming availability of information (and various distractions and 'entertainments')
coupled with disinformation and propaganda posing as 'news.'
Columnist Jonah Goldberg, in his commentary entitled,
"The will of the uninformed," notes
a number of disturbing gaps of knowledge as documented by a Pew Research Center study.
According to a their survey released last week, 31 percent
of Americans don't know who the vice president is, fewer than half are aware that Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House, a mere 29 percent can
identify "Scooter" Libby as the convicted former chief of staff of the vice president, and only 15 percent can name Harry Reid when asked who is
the Senate majority leader.
Goldberg goes on to mention several more disturbing surveys that paint a picture even more bleak:
More to the point, Americans - God bless 'em - are often quite ignorant about the stuff politicians and pundits
think matters most. They may know piles about their own professions, hobbies and personal interests, but when it comes to basic civics, they
get their clocks cleaned on Fox's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"
Though examples are depressingly unnecessary, here are two of my favorites over the years. In 1987, 45 percent of
adult respondents to one survey answered that the phrase "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" was in the
Constitution (in fact, it's a quote from Karl Marx). Then, in 1991, an American Bar Association study reported that a third of Americans
did not know what the Bill of Rights was.
The thrust of Goldberg's commentary is that despite these crushing and glaring examples of ignorance, many in the
media nevertheless try to use surveys and polls of the same ignorant people to document support for various political agendas and to imply that the will of
the American people as expressed in polls makes their wishes a mandate for immediate government action. Various demagogues and most popular politicians take
advantage of the information in polls and surveys to always express support for the popular ideas of the moment.
Another alarming example that Goldberg mentions was the survey that found that 70 percent
of Americans support doing away with the Electoral College. I suspect that is due largely to general ignorance of it
and the perpetual badmouthing it gets from certain liberal media talking heads who are merely frustrated that America won't
elect a more virulent socialist for president.
The State of Maryland just passed a law that would
bypass the traditional
Electoral College and grant all of Maryland's electoral votes to the winner of
most popular votes nationwide. What!!?? Of course, that law will not take effect until enough other states follow suit to match a total of 270 electoral
votes (the number needed for presidential victory). California's legislature passed a similar bill but Gov. Swarzenegger vetoed it.
To me, it's shocking
that Maryland's legislature is saying in effect that regardless of how
Maryland citizens vote (let's say 100% Democratic), if the Republican candidate got the most votes in the other 49 states, then all of Maryland's electoral
votes go to the Republican candidate. California's legislature said the same thing with respect to the people of California. Wow. In the not
too distant past, I would expect such an insult, such an act of betrayal to result in angry mobs at the state capitol---with tar and feathers if not rope.
Obviously, there have always been those who wanted to destroy the "inconvenient" Constitution and implement a nationalist government
operated by elites, perhaps a dictator for life or a royal monarch. Others want a pure "democracy" despite the fact that the Founders rebuked
that model as having too many obvious flaws. These people who advocate 'democracy' are kindred with those who passed the 17th Amendment, rendering
the States even more impotent, further perverting the original federal system and leaving us with a nationalist empire operated from Washington.
Cynic and wit H.L. Mencken,
in his 1949 book A Mencken Chrestomathy, wrote
that "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." And he also wrote that,
"Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under." More than just a pessimist about
"democracy," Mencken was a critic of all governments just as the Founders were justifiably fearful of government. The Founders knew that passions---
local, regional and across the republic----were dangerous and therefore they designed a system to brake the runaway train and force deliberation,
debate and reflection, to balance the will of the majority with the rights of the minority, and to grant only the necessary powers to the central
government and reserve the rest to the States.
"Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to
which those who are watchful may again rally and recall the people. They fix, too, for the people the principles of their political creed.
" --Thomas Jefferson
Every presidential election cycle, the media talking heads start yammering about doing away with the Electoral college,
presumably to install some 'democratic' or popular vote model in its place. We know it's coming again in 2008. This commentary is to start you, dear reader, thinking
about the issues at stake.
Remember that the electoral college was designed by the same Founders who gave us the Constitution. They were
trying to balance the power fairly between the populated areas and the more rural areas, between the smaller states and the larger states. So, generally
speaking, there is reason to support keeping the Electoral College simply because it's traditional, it's time tested and was created by the same
wise men who formulated the Constitution.
We need a truly 'federal' system that allows the States to keep maximum power to protect their interests. We
certainly don't want to endorse or empower more 'democracy' notions, the mythical "American people as one body" that Lincoln used to
suggest that States had no power to secede unless the "American people as a whole" concur. Lincoln, when it suited his
agenda of economic domination and exploitation, stated that the mystical 'Union' existed before the States. This ridiculous assertion contradicted his
own clear previous statements not to mention all the writings and clear intent of the Founders.
Lincoln didn't mention that each of the thirteen former colonies were recognized separately
as sovereign independent states by Great Britain in 1783.
Suggesting that the Union preceded the States is like suggesting that a marriage preceded the two people joined in
The "nationalist" view was rejected by the Founders and the first fifteen presidents; it was Lincoln (and
later his war party) who forced it on us by military conquest and propaganda. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., in his essay,
"The Return of a Great Jeffersonian," explains the "nationalist" mindset as follows:
"The nationalist view denies that the states established the federal government or that the United States is a league or compact among states. The
ratification of the Constitution by state holds no significance for the nature of the Union, according to this view. Ratification was an act of
the whole people, who alone are sovereign even if they happen to have expressed that sovereignty through the intermediary of state conventions.
State resistance to federal power, according to this reading of the American tradition, can be conceived of only as insubordination. The states
are essentially helpless to defend themselves against the federal government, and must instead depend for the maintenance of their liberties on
such notoriously unreliable mechanisms as national elections - as if elections alone could prevent unjust or wicked federal legislation - or the
On the other hand, there are some valid reasons to reassess the question of the electoral college. Some have argued that the electoral college "supports the two party
system"...and it's well known that the two party system has failed miserably of late to give Americans true representation. Frank Conner argues,
I think more correctly, in his essay entitled "The Third American Revolution,"
that we really have only one party with two branches. In any case, we need better ballot access for many states, especially Georgia, to allow
third parties to offer more real choices. If those parties grow, THEN they might have the clout to influence a presidential election.
the electoral college is only concerned with presidential elections. Remember also, that the President currently plays a role FAR outside the one
defined in the Constitution. As it should be, the president would not be as important if the States were doing the majority of the domestic
governing as the Founders intended. If the executive branch operated ONLY agencies and functions authorized by the Constitution, his power and
importance would be considerably diminished. But we must deal with the office as it exists now.
Then, of course, there are issues with how many states handle "all or nothing" or "winner take all" rules for electoral votes. One could argue
that out of Atlanta, there were probably enough Kerry votes in certain districts that he should have received one or two electoral votes
from Georgia's total of 15. Some adjustment to the "winner take all" rules (set by the States) would definitely help third parties to compete more effectively for the presidency.
Therefore, we know without question that the two major parties oppose any change to the winner-take-all rules. I need to study this question more myself before I take a position on "all or nothing" rules.
To properly weigh the questions of the Electoral College, we as citizens need to understand the Electoral College, its
origins and design
intentions. Then we need to read and hear the
arguments from both sides and
from multiple sources. I'm not purporting to offer you many
sources here (there are many on the world wide web), but I will offer these links (above and below) that offer a fairly good overview of the issues
and related background material.
Keep in mind the wisdom of the Founders. We cannot afford to let an ignorant stampede dismantle the
remaining remnants of the Constitution in a rush to democracy. Arm yourself with the facts and keep your powder dry. As Jefferson tells us in
the opening quote above, ignorance and freedom do not go together. They never have and never will. We are currently
tax slaves sliding down the proverbial
slippery slope to tyranny and the only way to regain
our freedom is to acquire knowledge, the prerequisite to liberty and self-government.
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with
the power which knowledge gives. " --James Madison
"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations,
perverted it into tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson
"[T]he necessity of any Government is a misfortune. This necessity however exists; and the problem to be solved is, not what form of Government is
perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect." ----James Madison
Electoral College - Origins and History
Electoral College - Pros & Cons
The will of the uninformed - Jonah Goldberg
A Republic, Not a Democracy - Rep. Ron Paul
An Important Distinction: Democracy versus Republic - lexrex.com
A Republic, Not a Democracy - Pat Buchanan
Repeal the 17th Amendment
Constitutional Futility - Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Electoral College - pros & cons - pbs.org
Both these guys reject state's rights and adore nationalist empire.
James Madison vs. Government Secrecy - Steve Scroggins
Slavery, Apologies & Duty - Steve Scroggins
The Third American Revolution - Frank Conner
Georgia Sunshine Laws - Georgia Press Association
The Papers of James Madison
Sonny Perdue is Secret Chamber Man - X-Files
Steve Scroggins lives in Macon and contributes most of GHC's parody
and political cartoons and graphics.
Like this? SIGN UP now
for weekly email updates in your inbox !!
Contribute now to help us maintain this website and carry on our mission!
Copyright © 2003-2012, GeorgiaHeritageCouncil.org
Georgia Heritage Council | 2121 Hollywood RD
Atlanta, GA 30318