John Adams warned us that a “democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy” where “every man will do what is right in his own eyes…”
James Madison told us “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention…and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
Thomas Jefferson added, “[a] democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
Fisher Ames, framer of the First Amendment to the Constitution, told us, “A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction.”
James Witherspoon, another Founding Father, chimed in, “Pure democracy cannot subsist long…it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.”
Finally, Gouverneur Morris, writer of the final draft of the Constitution, offered this quick but pointed history lesson: “We have seen the tumults of democracy terminate, in France, as they have everywhere terminated, in despotism.”
As you watch the unrest in the Middle East, the restlessness of the Russian empire, or power plays in Washington, remember you have been warned. Remember the wisdom of those who preceded us—those who intentionally anchored our Nation in the humble harbor of a Constitutional republic rather than let it drift aimlessly in arrogant seas of an unchecked democracy. Remember the words of Edmund Burke and George Santayana: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Remember the inevitability: that when “every man decides to do what is right in his own eyes,” whether it be in matters of morality, immigration, marriage or money; whether it be from the pen of a President or the pronouncement of the Courts, that a democracy always stands at the threshold of anarchy when it sets aside its Constitution and ignores the constraints of what is self-evident and true.
Remember that the “madness of popular rage,” whether in the streets of Cairo or the halls of the Academy, will always result in licentiousness not law, slavery not freedom, in degradation not dignity, and remember that history has shown us time and again that a democracy that foolishly follows a demagogue always gets a despot in the end.
“There is nothing new to the story… it falls into the long dismal catalogue of… the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking… until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.” Winston Churchill, 1935
Talking Points With President Piper is a weekly column featured in the Examiner-Enterprise newspaper. In addition to serving as the Oklahoma Wesleyan President, Dr. Everett Piper is also a frequent guest commentator on a variety of talk radio programs across the nation, as well as a published author and essayist.