What If ‘A Majority of Americans Support Slavery’?

An article I read carried this headline: “Big NY voter majority favors ‘millionaire tax.’” Articles like this one are designed to show that people with money should pay more taxes. If given the chance to vote on the issue, the majority of the people in the state of New York would vote to confiscate the money of other people. Here’s the opening paragraph from the article

Almost three-quarters of New York voters favor a tax on millionaires, a poll found, days after several hundred people marched to the homes of some of New York City’s richest financiers to protest economic inequality.

Support for taxing wealthier people breached party lines, with 83% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans in favor, according to the Siena College Research Institute poll released Monday. A separate poll released by Quinnipiac University showed New York City voters support an extension of the tax by 61% to 28% percent, with Republicans favoring it by 55% to 38%.

Let’s go back 160 years and conduct a similar poll among non-slaves. “Do you believe that we should keep existing laws regarding slavery?” I’m sure the Occupy Movement, Democrats, some Republicans, and union members would object to the claim that there’s moral (or immoral) equivalence in slavery and taxation. But a slave owner benefits from the labor of the slave in the same way that people who believe it is right to tax the rich at a higher rate benefit from the labor and property of others that is not their own.

This means that if an article reported that ‘A Majority of Americans Support Slavery,’ where is the foundational moral outrage to be found?

Robert Ingersoll said it best:

“Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne.”

Let me bring Ingersoll’s truism up to date:

“Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he gains the fruit of a person’s labor and property by majority vote.”

How can Americans live with the belief that it’s OK to use the power of government to tax people in a disproportionate way? It’s no wonder that our founding fathers had harsh things to say about governing by majority rule.

Democracy is bandied about as an incantation. When “the people” express themselves in opposition to egregiously oppressive political regimes, this is claimed to be “democracy in action,” as if public expression ias somehow a magical spell that will make forty or fifty years of socialistic and communistic oppression and acceptance “by the people” go away, saying nothing of man’s sinful nature.

In the Federalist Papers (No. 10), Madison writes that democracies are “spectacles of turbulence and contention.” Pure democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property. . . . In general [they] have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”1

Christian philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer described law by majority vote as “the dictatorship of the 51%, with no controls and nothing with which to challenge the majority.”2  What can be the logical results of a democracy with no controls other than the will of the majority?:

“It means that if Hitler was able to get a 51% vote of the Germans, he had a right to kill the Jews.”3

Is majority vote “the law” no matter what the outcome? What if “the people” vote for a communistic government? Would our Western values consider this to be a legitimate form of government? What of the oppressed minority? What if a majority of Muslims gained power in America, and once in power abolished or ignored the Constitution and the newly elected Muslim president ruled by Executive Order? Under democracy, would this be legitimate? If not, why not?

Democracy is busting out all over the Middle East. Are these Islamic nations choosing our system of government? They are not. Consider the wise words of John Adams, our nation’s second president:

Vox populi, vox Dei [voice of the people [is] the voice of God] they say, and so it is, sometimes; but it is sometimes the voice of Mahomet, of Caesar, of Catiline, the Pope and the Devil.’”4

Or of the mob. That’s why our constitutional framers founded a Republic.

  1. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist, Jacob E. Cooke, ed. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 61. []
  2. Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1970), 33-34. []
  3. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the 20th Century, 34. []
  4. John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 15 April 1794. []