Was reading a couple of articles about Mitt Romney last week: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/mitt-romney-surveys-the-2016-field/408316/
In one he refers to a John Adams quote, about “democracies committing suicide”.
I think we’ve come close. But, to me, it’s always been over the conflicts of “individual rights” (and who has them and why), and the short-, medium-, and long-term needs of a civilization to survive.
…I hope to put down more of my worthless opinions on this later.
EDIT: I do believe, though, that Adams was talking about “survival”, and the need for checks and balances. At least in part.