The Real Meanings of Two Important Words
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
An increasing number of Americans have found themselves confused during discussions only to find out that the cause of the problem stems from distortions in the meaning of key words.
We live in an era when correct definitions have been almost universally lost. Two prime examples come to mind: the words “democracy” and “inflation.” I contend that getting back to the true meaning of each is long overdue and very much needed. Venal politicians and dull or deceitful economists are deceiving the public and that has to stop.
The word “democracy” entered our language from Greece. It means “the people to rule.” If the people force adoption of something truly beneficial to their nation and its people, consider it a bit of luck. But democracy customarily invites what James Madison, our nation’s fourth president, abhorred. He and other Founders made their feelings known while creating the U.S. Constitution where they chose a republic, the rule of law, to be our nation’s governmental system.
Madison explained his detestation of democracies when he wrote that they “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.” Instead, he and his colleagues at the 1787 convention established a “rule of law” as the standard for deliberation and action. Its main premise was to have our infant country prosper, not because of what government would do, but because of what government would be prevented from doing by the Constitution.
Today, the Constitution is given lip service and government has greatly ignored the bonds erected to insure that it would not exceed its powers. Consequently, we are victims of democracy in action, a bowing to the demands of the mob, ignoring constitutional restraints and leading the nation toward total government. Politicians are converting our republic into a democracy that will inevitably lead to tyranny. There is great need for understanding the wisdom contained in the slogan, “This is a republic, not a democracy; let’s keep it that way.”
Regarding inflation, the misuse of its correct definition has largely been hidden. Inflation is an increase in the quantity of currency, not the condition of rising prices which is the widely known, but wrong, definition. What appears to be a rise in prices for goods and services is proof that money has become less valuable. Wet streets don’t cause rain. And rising prices are the consequence of putting more money into circulation. What is inflated is the quantity of currency. When money becomes less valuable because of increasing its amount (a common practice engineered by the Federal Reserve), the rising prices for goods and services are simply a refection of the loss in value of existing money.
Early in his career, British economist John Maynard Keynes pointed his finger at would-be rulers and described the process correctly. He wrote: “By a continuous process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens…. The process engages all of the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner that not one man in a million can diagnose.” What Keynes was saying is that filling your car’s gasoline tank may have cost $5 dollars in the early and middle years of the past century. But filling your tank now costs $40 or more. The price of gasoline didn’t change; the value of a dollar changed.
A great deal more can be said about how faulty definitions inevitably lead to more power in government. Combating the harm being done to the American dream has to include correcting the widespread misinformation about democracy and inflation.
Help is needed. If you’re interested in joining the cause, contact your local JBS field coordinator today!
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.
Bergdahl is No Hero, According to His Fellow Soldiers
by JBS President John F. McManus
One late June night in 2009, U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his unit in northeastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. He left a note saying he was disillusioned with the U.S. military, could no longer support the mission he was tasked to participate in, and had left to start life anew. He had earlier sent his computer and some other belongings home to Idaho. In a letter to his parents, he concluded that “the horror that is America is disgusting.” Fellow soldiers recall him gazing at the mountains from the small base his unit had established and wondering aloud whether he could cross them and get to China. For months after his disappearance that was never considered a capture, the mission his unit sought to carry out dwelled instead on finding him and rescuing him from the Taliban who were thought to be holding him.
Now that he has been released, several of the men who served alongside him have spoken out with renewed anger. Joshua Cornelison, a former medic assigned to the same platoon from which Bergdahl bolted, told the New York Times, “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl.” That search turned out to be very costly when two soldiers were killed in an ambush within a week of the disappearance of their lost comrade. Cody Full, another member of Bergdahl’s unit, agrees with Cornelison that their fellow platoon mate ought to be court-martialed as a deserter.
Over ensuing weeks and months, another four to six Americans met death in efforts to find the missing private. For at least 90 days, the American forces in that area of Afghanistan were under orders to abandon whatever mission they were on if they had any indication that Bergdahl was being held nearby. Not only were ground troops searching, they were aided by helicopters, drones, and dogs trained to locate humans.
Now, after five years, Bergdahl has been released by the Taliban and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice say he is in poor health. (Why should anyone believe Rice after her false claim that the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi occurred because of a Los Angeles airing of an uncomplimentary rogue video?) The prisoner swap arranged by the Obama administration has to be of the most-lopsided exchanges in history. For Bergdahl’s freedom, the U.S. released five top Taliban officials from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. All appear from news photos to be in excellent health. Each has a history of top service within the Taliban. Considered leaders of the forces that would impose the strictest form of Islam on their native country (and the world!), their release has led to the widespread conclusion that the Taliban will be energized and become more determined and deadly. Capturing more Americans and bargaining for the release could become a new tactic as the Americans prepare to leave the ravaged country.
Let’s put this into perspective by switching roles. Would it make any sense if we had exchanged a private in the Taliban for five colonels and generals in our armed forces?
The 5 for 1 deal arranged by the Obama team included mediation from the officials in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. It also included official contact with the Taliban, and implicit recognition of their legitimacy. The arrangement also requires Qatar, a Muslim-dominated country, to hold the five for a year and ensure that they will not engage in any contact with their Afghan comrades, all of whom are overjoyed at receiving what they consider excellent news. Will Qatar enforce such an arrangement?
Bergdahl will soon be back in the United States. Already the recipient of praises from President Obama and others, he will be feted as a “hero” by some but not by all – especially many who served alongside him. The Code of Military Justice governing military personnel states that “desertion or attempt to desert” is punishable during time of war with whatever a military court decides, even including death. There is no likelihood that Bergdahl will meet death or even that he will be court-martialed. Nor will there be any happy recalling of their loss by families of the men who died searching for a man who surely disgraced himself while wearing the uniform of his country.
But surely the greater disgrace is that the military continues to be used (and abused) to unconstitutionally fulfill the role of world policeman, “spreading democracy” by interfering in other countries affairs, unnecessarily expending blood and treasure. Bring them home — now.
Mr. McManus served on active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years in the 1950s.
September 17 is designated Constitution Day in recognition of the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. How many of these quiz questions can you answer?
- Q: Has the Constitution always guided the country?
A: No, originally the nation functioned under the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation. But after 11 years under the Articles, the U.S. Constitution was written, agreed to, and ratified by nine states (all eventually ratified but only nine were needed to have it take effect). On September 13, 1788, the Continental Congress proclaimed that the Constitution had been properly ratified and it ordered the new government to convene on March 4, 1789.
- Q: Does the Constitution allow the Supreme Court to make law?
A: No. The beginning of Article I states, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” Any Supreme Court decision is the law of the case and it binds only the plaintiff and the defendant. The meaning of the word “all” has not been changed.
- Q: Does the Constitution allow the President to make law?
A: No. Executive Orders issued by the President that bind the entire nation are illicit because, as noted above, “All legislative powers” reside in Congress. An Executive Order that binds only the employees of the federal government is proper because the President should be considered to hold power much like the CEO of a corporation who can issue rules to his employees. But the entire nation is not in the employ of the President. The President does have a role in lawmaking with his possession of a veto. He can veto a measure produced by Congress (which can still be overturned), sign a law produced by Congress, or simply allow a measure to become law by doing nothing within ten days “Sundays excepted.”
- Q: Does the Constitution give the federal government any power in the field of education?
A: No, none.
- Q: Where in the Constitution is there authorization for foreign aid?
A: Nowhere is there such authorization.
- Q: What are the three branches of government named in the Constitution?
A: Legislative, Executive and Judicial.
- Q: Does the Constitution require a minimum age requirement for a Senator?
A: Yes. One must be 30 years old.
- Q: What are the Constitutional requirements for a person to be President?
A: A President must be a natural born citizen (not an immigrant who became a citizen), must be 35 years of age, and must have lived in the U.S. at least 14 years.
- Q: Did the Constitution give the federal government power to create a bank?
A: No. It was given power to “coin money,” meaning the power to establish a mint where precious metal could be shaped into coinage of a fixed size, weight and purity.
- Q: Can treaty law supersede the Constitution?
- Q: Does the Constitution allow a President alone to take the nation to war?
A: Absolutely not. The Constitution states very clearly that only Congress has power to take the nation into war.
- Q: Are there any specific crimes mentioned in the Constitution?
A: Yes: treason, bribery, counterfeiting, and piracy.
- Q: Are the Bill of Rights considered part of the original Constitution?
A: Many do hold that view because if the promise to add the Bill of Rights had not been made, some of the states would not have ratified the Constitution and it might not have become the “Supreme Law of the Land.”
- Q: According to the Constitution, how can a President and other national officials be removed from office?
A: They can be impeached by a majority in the House and tried by the Senate. Impeachment is not removal; it should be considered only as an indictment to be followed by a trial. Two-thirds of the senators “present” must approve removal at a subsequent trial or the person who has been impeached by the House shall not be removed.
- Q: What authority does the Constitution give the Vice President?
A: The Vice President stands ready to take office if a President dies or becomes incapacitated. He is also President of the Senate and has the power to break a tie if one comes before it.
- Q: How many amendments to the Constitution are there?
A: There are 27. The first ten can be considered part of the original Constitution. And Amendment 18 was repealed by Amendment 21, which means that in 220 years, there have been only 15 amendments. Amending the Constitution is a difficult process, made so by the Founders to keep anything silly or dangerous from being added in the heat of passion.
- Q: Does the Constitution say anything about illegal immigration?
A: Not directly. But Article IV, Section 4 assigns to the federal government the duty to “protect each of them [the states] against invasion.” Note that it does not stipulate that an invasion be done militarily.
- Q: Does the Constitution tell us how new states are added to the union?
A: Yes, Congress has the power to do so with a majority vote in each of its houses. It used its power, most recently, to welcome Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states.
- Q: How is an amendment to the Constitution added?
A: Congress can propose an amendment when two-thirds of both Houses vote to do so. It must then be ratified by either the legislature or convention in three-quarters of the states. Amendments can also be proposed by a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the states. Any amendment arising from a constitutional convention must also be ratified by either the legislatures or conventions in three-quarters of the states.
- Q: Is the term of a President limited by the Constitution?
A: Yes. In 1951, the Constitution was amended (Amendment 22) to limit anyone to two terms as President. The only President who served longer was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who served into a fourth term, but died in April 1945 shortly after the beginning his 13th year in office.
- Q: Which part of Congress is designated by the Constitution as having the “power of the purse?”
A: Article I, Section 7 states: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…” If a majority in the House (218 is a majority of its 435 members) refuses to originate a bill to raise revenue for any purpose, no funds can be raised, until it passes.
- Q: How does the Constitution explain expelling an elected member of the House or Senate?
A: Two-thirds of either the House or the Senate can expel one of its members for cause even though he or she has been elected by voters.
- Q: What does the Constitution say about financing a military arm?
A: Article I, Section 8 says that the Congress can raise an army but “no appropriation of money” to fund it shall be for longer than two years. The same Article says Congress can provide for a navy without that same restriction regarding funding. Why? The men who wrote the Constitution feared the possibility that a standing army housed within the territory of the nation might arise and seek to take power. But they did not fear that a navy would try to do that because a navy and its weaponry did not reside within the nation, only at sea or coastal seaports.
- Q: How many times is the word democracy mentioned in the Constitution?
A: None. America is a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy. A Democracy ruled by the majority can be persuaded to take away freedoms and property. Under a Constitutional Republic, such power does not exist.
When bickering as to whether The United States of America is a republic or a democracy, we are discussing nothing more than liberty versus tyranny. However, stressing the difference between a republic and a democracy does not portray the motivations behind the conversion of our republic into a democracy. It is no coincidence that our system of government, initially founded as a republic, is now transforming into the depths of a democratic abyss.
Essentially, our republic is able to maintain itself as a rule of law and not of men by means of a system of checks and balances. Separated into three branches, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial, our government is arranged according to the U.S. Constitution so that each branch has its own assigned powers. Examples of these powers are: to make laws (Legislative); to carry out the laws (Executive); and to interpret the laws (Judicial). The Constitution also provides each branch of the government with several checks over the other two. For example, the president can veto a law passed by Congress; however, Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds vote. As another example, the president is given the power to appoint Supreme Court and other federal judges; however, the Supreme Court can judge presidential actions to be unconstitutional. While our republic has built-in checks on government power, a democracy is based on majority rule with no such built-in checks. This defect of democracies is often referred to as “the tyranny of the majority,” because the rights of minorities and individual citizens are not protected in a democracy.
Democracy, as the average citizen believes it to be, is a form of government by which all eligible citizens may have an equal say by vote to elect those who pass the laws that affect them. This is a reassuring definition from which a person could wrongfully believe that their individual rights will be protected in a democracy. However, democracy is far more than as defined above.
“…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.”-James Madison, father of the Constitution.
Furthermore, Karl Marx stated in The Communist Manifesto:
“We have seen … that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.”
While democracy may seem to give people more say in their individual lives, it actually gives the government more control over the people. When a government may confer rights at any time, they can also take those rights away at any time. It is extraordinarily difficult to decipher exactly which rights we take for granted in our everyday lives that have an alternative intention. In alliance with the greater agenda of the elites as well as the shift towards a democracy, many beneficial laws and ideologies are being abandoned. The destruction of morality, banishment of private property, and abolishment of family are just a few of the major alterations.
The destruction of morality should be viewed as being a great threat to our republic. Whether discussing homosexuality, abortion, or marriage, each and every campaign for equality rights, gay rights, and even women’s rights is cleverly disguised. The true intention of these campaigns is not to grant personal freedom or rights, it is to completely destroy man’s consciousness.
Again, as Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto:
“But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.”
Furthering our destruction of society, the banishment of private property is another mandatory aspect of doing away with freedom.
As Karl Marx says in The Communist Manifesto:
“In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend to do. From the moment when labor can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolized i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes. You must, therefore, confess that by ‘individual’ you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed be swept out of the way, and made impossible.”
Finally, the abolishment of family is along the same lines as destruction of morality. It is of the utmost importance to those who intend to rule us to control the household and the education of children in today’s society. By restricting homeschooling or allowing a child to have two mothers or fathers rather than a mother and father respectively, the traditional family is being deemphasized. Rather than our educational system teaching kids how to think critically, our children are now attending school and being taught what to think. Programming our children in inappropriate ways, our educational system has gone astray.
It may appear that we have gone astray from the given subject; however, in a republic like our nation was founded to be, the government cannot take rights away from the people that only God can give. In other words, if our nation is converted to a democracy, then all rights will be subject to the whims of the government, and the people will have no basis for preserving their rights. That is to say, if our rights are something the government is able to grant, then they can be taken away at any point in time. So when the argument of a republic versus a democracy is in play, it would be in your best interests to realize what the fundamental principles are of each form of government as well as their consequences. In Robert Welch’s “Republics and Democracies” he quoted a speech Benjamin Disraeli made to the British House of Commons in 1859 in which he said:
If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason; and you will in due season submit to peace ignominiously sought and ignominiously obtained, which will diminish your authority and perhaps endanger your independence. You will in due season find your property is less valuable, and your freedom less complete.
One of the greatest assets of The John Birch Society is the archive housed at headquarters in Appleton, Wisconsin. Rows and rows of file cabinets and shelves filled with books, magazines, literature, and much more span many hundreds of square feet in the lower level of both buildings. JBS Founder Robert Welch was a prolific writer, and much of his work can be found in the archives.
In October 1961, he wrote what is arguably the best description ever of the fundamental differences between a government based upon law and one based upon men. Published in American Opinion, his classic ‘Republics and Democracies,’ was first delivered as a speech on September 17 (Constitution Day), 1961.” The next month he published it in American Opinion.
His conclusion was that “America was founded as a Republic, not a democracy. Let’s keep it that way.”