LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Definitions matter

If one consults a dictionary such as Merriam-Webster, one will find that a “democracy” is a form of government in which power rests with the citizens who elect representatives to exercise that power and that a “republic” is a sovereign state whose “entitled voters” elect representatives to govern on their behalf. Therefore Mr. Roof’s suggestion that America is “simply a republic” [“The chasm between liberal socialists and conservatives,” Opinion page, Dec. 20] is not quite accurate. The USA is a democratic republic, a sovereign state with democracy as its form of government.

Mr. Roof names several nations that name themselves as democratic republics, yet, are under one-man or one-party rule that controls alleged “elections.” Mr. Roof cites the Jefferson papers: “… democracy had always led to dictatorship … and that allowing one particular sect to dictate the actions of all would lead directly to this outcome.” It is likely that this thinking led to the “First Party System.” This began in 1792 when Thomas Jefferson led the Democratic-Republicans and Alexander Hamilton the Federalists. Early on, we had the basis of a two-party (or sect?) system of electing representatives and presidents. For 224 years, we have been free of dictatorship.

If one searches “the stages of Communism” on Wikipedia, one finds that “socialism” is the penultimate stage before true “communism,” which Marx and Engels suggest would be a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” i.e., the working classes. Socialism and Communism in the USSR, China, Cuba, and North Korea have not “worked,” nor existed in their purest forms, because their leaders took the Marxist “dictatorship of the proletariat” to mean the dictatorship of one man or party. I agree with Mr. Pritchett’s assessment: the wrong people are running these countries. [“The Electoral College is not fine with me,” Letters to the Editor, Dec. 10]

According to Merriam-Webster, liberal means “of or befitting a man (person) of free birth and marked by generosity.” This does not appear to be a pejorative term, any more than “progressive” is, meaning, “making use of or interest in new ideas, findings or opportunities.” They connote a measure of selflessness and concern for the welfare of others in our society. These positive traits are found in most Americans, but not all.

There are many in our population and in elected office who believe that government should not provide social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, WIC, and the like. They believe that government should not institute regulations that promote the safety of workers, which establish fair working conditions, that protect the environment of the Earth, or that prevent corporations and banks from exploiting the many, as in our last recession. One wonders how many would willingly and cheerfully surrender the benefits the government provides and return to the beginnings of the 20th century.

If one needs proof that our Constitution is “… a living document … ,” one needs only to look into Article Five that provides a means to amend it. The creators of our Constitution themselves submitted “The Bill of Rights,” the first 10 amendments to it, in 1789. It was evident to them that conditions in the United States would change with time and that the Constitution would need to adapt to the changes that would inevitably occur.

By the way, Mr. Roof, my “inalienable rights” stop when they infringe upon yours, as yours stop when they infringe upon mine. If everyone took this concept to heart and behaved accordingly, there would be no need for governments to make us obey the rules. We would treat each other as we wish to be treated.

Alan P. Gaddis

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