"Young Lady with a Shiner" Norman Rockwell 1953 Wadsworth Athaneum
Simple as A-B-C
By Richard Girard
"Simplicity is a pleasant thing in children, or at any age, but it is not necessarily admirable, nor is affectation altogether a thing of evil. To be normal, to be at home in the world, with a prospect of power, usefulness, or success, the person must have that imaginative insight into other minds that underlies tact and savoir-faire, morality and beneficence. This insight involves sophistication, some understanding and sharing of the clandestine impulses of human nature. A simplicity that is merely the lack of this insight indicates a sort of defect."
Charles Horton Cooley (1864--1929), U.S. sociologist. Human Nature and the Social Order, Chapter 5 (1902).
"The Democratic State is not Patriarchal--[it] does not rest on a still unreflecting, undeveloped confidence--but implies laws, with the consciousness of their being founded on an equitable and moral basis, and the recognition of these laws as positive."
Georg W. F. Hegel (1770-1831); The Philosophy of History, Chapter III, "The Political Work of Art;" (1816).
One of the areas that confuses most Americans is the definition and difference in meaning, as well as the contextual implications, of certain words and phrases that we use every day in our political discourse.
In other words sometimes we have no idea what we are talking about.
One of the places where this is obvious is with the word "democracy," as it is used in connection with our nation and our government.
A favorite ploy of those on the right is to claim that the United States is not a "democracy," but rather a "republic." And in the original Greek context of that word, we are not now, nor have we ever been a "democracy" as a nation.
In the original Greek meaning of the word, the closest we have ever come is the meeting of the township in New England, or a General Assembly for Occupy Wall Street, and is described as a "direct democracy." This is what Thomas Jefferson was writing Isaac Tiffany of in 1816 when he stated, "A democracy [is] the only pure republic, but impracticable beyond the limits of a town;" (The Complete Writings of Thomas Jefferson; Memorial Edition volume 15: p. 65, 1904).
The democracy which Aristotle and the rest of the Greeks feared and decried is set out in Aristotle's Politics ; Book I, Chapter 8, "where the supreme power of the state is lodged with "those [who] have it who are worth little or nothing." In other words, direct government of a city state by the poor.
But this is not what is meant by "democracy" in a modern context.
In a modern context, democracy is a form of government where the legislators and magistrates are elected or appointed at given intervals, or under particular circumstances, by either the people themselves or their elected representatives. The conditions for these elections and appointments are set forth in a constitution based on either tradition or a document, or a set of documents, or some combination thereof; these may be modified by laws passed by the legislators or decisions handed down by the magistrates subsequent to the adoption/evolution of the constitution into its current form.