Ever wondered what democracy actually is? Wonder no more, because I can provide you the answer to what democracy is directly from the pen of Rowan Gaither, which was formulated following an exhaustive survey of 1000+ of the best and brightest of American society circa 1949:
“NEED TO CLARIFY THE MEANING OF DEMOCRACY
1. Definition of Democracy
Adherence to the basic principles of freedom and democracy is impossible if the principles themselves are not clearly defined or widely understood. Understanding cannot be confined to political philosophers and a limited few. Effective adherence can be realized only when this understanding is widespread and when it is in such practical form that it may be applied by governmental policy makers, legislators, jurists, educators, businessmen, labor leaders, and the public at large. The value of democratic principles must be measured by the extent of adherence to them, and such adherence is adequate only if it pervades the total of our political, economic, and social actions.
As the Study progressed the Committee and its advisers found that to a vast number of sincere and loyal Americans the principles of democracy are merely a collection of cliches, serving chiefly as reminders of historical events and social conditions of the past. At the same time the Committee was impressed with the struggle of thoughtful and informed persons to find a meaningful, contemporary, and usable definition of democracy. Without such a definition millions of Americans remain confused in their analyses of crucial problems. Consequently national policies may often be erratic and conflicting, and many avoidable dangers to our internal strength can be the products of our own creation.
The attitudes and actions of Americans sometimes seem incomprehensible to our friends and allies abroad, who speak of their confusion at the disparity between the words and deeds of our democracy. To supply them with examples of democratic philosophy at work may in the long run prove to be the most important part of our logistics in the ideological war. This can be accomplished only if we ourselves understand the basic principles of freedom and democracy and interpret them through sustained, consistent demonstration.
2. Democracy’s Meaning in Particular Situations
An adequate definition of democracy will encompass not only its principles, representing the agreed basic goals of our people, but the countless number of written rules and laws and unwritten habits of thought and action which comprise the code by which we live. As conditions change, situations occur which are not fully covered by the existing code. Before its rules can be modified or new rules devised, a period of confusion and doubt, and not infrequently controversy or conflict, may ensue.
In our complex society the rules of conduct have become so numerous that it is difficult to devise new ones without violating the old. This difficulty is immeasurably heightened in those instances in which modern problems raise seeming contradictions between basic democratic principles—such as between the principle of freedom and the principle of equality of opportunity. The task of modernizing the rules therefore becomes ever more complex, even as the need grows more urgent. The swift pace of social invention creates a backlog of situations which require that the democratic rules be modified. This area of confusion, in which we operate on these new problems without the clarity and force of a new democratic code, constitutes democracy’s ideological frontier.
This frontier has been continuously moving since the founding of our country. All basic democratic concepts must expand by interpretation to embrace new situations and to resolve the social issues which arise out of changing conditions. For example, the principles of individual freedom and self-government have moved past the issues of slavery and universal suffrage to such current frontiers as the political participation of racial minorities.
Current newspaper headlines indicate some important areas along this frontier. One such area is in the region of freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression. As has been noted in Chapter II, this freedom is being challenged as a result of the emotions aroused by current international tensions. Specifically, the problems of this frontier concern such urgent matters as those of security and national defense, the related problems of the military sponsorship of academic research and military interpretation of secrecy regulations, certain aspects of “un-American activities” investigations, and the conditions imposed on Government employment and Government-financed fellowships. Increasing concern is widely expressed over the implications for democracy of policies and practices now being followed. What seem to be required are objective, comprehensive inquiries and analyses — nongovernmental and non-partisan in character — to draw more reliable conclusions and propose more constructive recommendations. An independently sponsored survey might be the first step to a broader public understanding of these issues and their implications. Without such analysis and understanding there is a great danger that we may unintentionally compromise basic aspects of democracy. We may even undermine security by imposing unnecessary restrictions upon that freedom of action and inquiry recognized as essential to social and scientific strength.
A technique which might be used toward this general purpose is the employment of special committees of public inquiry composed of persons of knowledge, objective judgment, and prestige. Such groups could define the issues, illuminate the points of impact, and propose important remedial action in situations where the meaning of democracy is not apparent or widely understood. They could alert the citizenry through raising the level of public understanding, and through encouraging, where necessary, appropriate action by government and other interested groups. If the findings of such groups are to be kept from the dusty shelves of inaction, programs of public education must be encouraged, employing on a wide scale and in sustained fashion the many effective media of modern communication.
Successful efforts along democracy’s frontier may on occasion take the Foundation into controversial areas. This should offer no deterrent; tradition has fortunately established the definite propriety of foundation operation in such fields. In fact, in just such areas the objectivity of a foundation can contribute most to social progress. A foundation may enter controversial areas boldly and with courage as long as it maintains a nonpartisan and nonpolitical attitude and aids only those persons and agencies motivated by unselfish concern for the public good.”
Well that clears that up. Of course this democratic horizon has indeed continued to advance, in no small part to the actions of the Ford Foundation as outlined here.
Eagle eyed readers may have also spotted the complaint of “”un-American activities” investigations” and its deleterious effect on democracy in among that. This report is one year before McCarthy’s rise. As well all know, McCarthy was completely wrong…sure. On this topic, note the Dodd report transcript provided here, in which Norman Dodd interviewed Gaither, the very same author of this report:
“…Before I could think of how I would reply to that statement, Mr. Gaither then went on voluntarily and said:
“Mr. Dodd, all of us who have a hand in the making of policies here have had experience either with the OSS during the war or the European Economic Administration after the war. We’ve had experience operating under directives, and these directives emanate and did emanate from the White House. Now, we still operate under just such directives. Would you like to know what the substance of these directives is?” I said, “Mr. Gaither, I’d like very much to know,” whereupon he made this statement to me: “Mr. Dodd, we are here operate in response to similar directives, the substance of which is that we shall use our grant-making power so to alter life in the United States that it can be comfortably merged with the Soviet Union.””
Not only was Gaither clearly working under the president as he admits here (note the other Gaither report on nuclear deterrence) but I can point you to the following in the Ford Foundation report:
“THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE MAINTENANCE OF PEACE
The Committee and its advisers believe that the maintenance of peace depends in large part upon the willingness and ability of nations to improve and strengthen the United Nations to the point where that organization becomes, in fact, the structure of a world order of law and justice. As a nation we have placed our faith in the United Nations as the instrument for this purpose.
Before this goal can be fully achieved many problems must be solved within the framework of the United Nations—problems which in their sweep and complexity seem almost overwhelming. In the course of this series of great tasks, many traditional concepts, such as that of sovereignty, will be subject to scrutiny and redefinition.”