I don’t claim to be an expert of any kind, but I am somewhat knowledgeable. This article will be based on facts that I have floating around in my head, but more importantly it will convey the opinion I derive from these facts.
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of Americans probably think Democracy is the most significant achievement of Western society.
I also think, or at least I hope, that most Americans know that this concept originated in ancient Grease, but this original form of Democracy was also flawed.
Winston Churchill is quoted as having said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”
One scholar, that I am aware of, summed it up even better. And I quote, “Alexander Fraser Tytler, 1747-1813.”
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the people discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy–to be followed by a dictatorship.”
I mentioned Tytler’s life span because it is relevant to other events of the time.
I have no doubt, that among many other things, our nation’s founders had this in mind when they drafted our constitution.
The concept of a constitutional republic has only really been tried and tested one time. Although our constitution is more than 200 years old, it’s still a new concept, but it has more than proven its significance.
However, there is another concept that is very much a part of our constitution, but that I’d wager most Americans don’t know, was actually tried and proven more than 2,000 years ago.
The Roman Empire spanned from about 142bc to about 450ad.
I think the first 2 aspects that come to mind, to people all over the world, when the Roman Empire is discussed, even before the decadence, is their thirst for conquest, and their dominance of trade.
Their conquests are widely recognized to have been motivated by trade ambitions, more often than not anyway. As a matter of point, it is a fact that the Roman conquests are sometimes used as an example of the evils that come from the idea of free market economy, but there is another fact of these conquests that is conveniently omitted in many cases, because of its inherent value.
Most people know, the Romans pillaged, plundered, did all the bad things that ancient and even some modern military forces do, and of course most of us know they enslaved large numbers of the conquered, but that isn’t the whole story.
The Roman Empire is the first that I know of, to recognize the threat religion can pose to an established government and take an affirmative approach to mitigate said threat.
Unlike most before, at the time, and after, they didn’t predominantly endeavor to wipe out the religions of the conquered. As long as the established religion of said conquered didn’t conflict with Rome’s principal objectives, the Romans actually supported the established religions of the conquered.
As long as they eliminated any military threat, and could impose their trade rights and taxes, they didn’t care what people believed, but this wasn’t religious freedom by any means.
Case in point, the Christian holiday Christmas is this month, and this is very much my motivation for this article.
The fact is there was once a man by the name of Jesus, who was born in a land that was conquered by Rome, but in which the established religion was supported by Roman authority.
Some people out there refuse to believe that Jesus even existed. Whether or not he was the messiah is a matter of religious belief, but his life is a matter of documented historical record, from both the Jewish establishment, and their Roman overseers, who didn’t even care about the religious implications.
Jesus was ultimately crucified, which was a Roman punishment, because his teachings were a threat to the established religion of the region and as such the stability of said region, and therefore to the interests of Rome.
You see, the Romans were true entrepreneurs, for their time, of social politics as such relates to economy.
I have absolutely no doubt, that if the majority in this particular region had come out in support of the new teaching, the Romans would have supported them, instead of the established religion, but of course that didn’t happen.
The fact is, because Christians were a minority, they were brutally persecuted for nearly 300 years under Roman authority. It was actually Constantine, Roman Emperor from 306ad to 337ad, who started the trend that pulled Christians out of the lion pits and eventually put them in control of pretty much all of Europe, but that wasn’t a good thing either.
What I’m getting at here is the earliest example, again that I am aware of, of state recognition of the value of religions in general.
The Romans tried to avoid fighting faith, because they knew that in too many cases, faith is something a person will fight harder for, than even their own children.
I think it was the year 380 something that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and that in my opinion, was one of the largest contributing factors that lead to the total collapse of the empire, in less than 100 years.
Christianity isn’t to blame. A form of religious tolerance played a major role in the growth of the Roman Empire, and when they moved away from it, the empire began to fall.
To my knowledge, it wasn’t until 1791, when the Bill of Rights was amended into the U.S. constitution that any nation finally re-recognized the value of this concept, and in fact, actually improved on it.
Since then our nation has grown to be the most powerful, economic and military force the world has ever seen. Only a test of history can show which of the 2 concepts I’ve mentioned in this article is actually the more significant, but I would wager even money, that a nation with religious freedom, but without Democracy, would still prosper better than a nation with Democracy, but without religious freedom.
We are fortunate that we have both, and a constitution to prevent either from being taken away.
Glenn W. Uncles Jr.
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