Recently, a very dear friend of mine asked me to explain the differences between a democracy and a republic, specifically a representative republic. Much has been said on this subject by some of the greatest political philosophers. Unfortunately, judging from the way that the individual terms have been used, not much of what has been written has been included in the education of our populace. That is very sad, because it is quite difficult to defend a political system that someone does not even understand to the point of correctly naming it. There was a time in our country when even someone with the most basic of educations was well versed in the construction of our chosen form of government, but that was before we felt it was necessary to indoctrinate children in the wonders of multiculturalism, revised history, and choreographed Obama worship. The social engineers that have controlled the curriculum of our public schools would call that improvement. I would call it a woeful disgrace.
So, I have this challenge before me, which is not so much to simply explain in an entertaining way what the differences are, but then also to explain why those differences were important to our Founding Fathers, and why it is so important to some that we blur the line that separates them. Let’s dive right in then, and I shall give it my best effort to do this subject justice.
From Random House Dictionary:
Democracy: government in which the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives
Republic: a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.
Well that certainly makes things clear as mud, doesn’t it? That’s because the modern dictionary, like the modern schools, fail to see a difference between the two. But there are differences, and they are vast and have great consequences when viewed in context.
Let’s look at something with a little more common sense instead, such as the War Department Training Manual 2000-25, published November 30, 1928. It defines them in this way:
- A government of the masses.
- Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of “direct” expression.
- Results in mobocracy.
- Attitude toward property is communistic–negating property rights.
- Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether is be based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences.
- Results in demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.
- Authority is derived through the election by the people of public officials best fitted to represent them.
- Attitude toward law is the administration of justice in accord with fixed principles and established evidence, with a strict regard to consequences.
- A greater number of citizens and extent of territory may be brought within its compass.
- Avoids the dangerous extreme of either tyranny or mobocracy.
- Results in statesmanship, liberty, reason, justice, contentment, and progress.
- Is the “standard form” of government throughout the world.
Basically, a historic democracy is a governmental system composed of direct control of the majority, or, more plainly stated, mob rule. A republic, on the other hand, is a system whereby the government rules by established law, which in the case of America would be our Constitution. What causes us to be a representative republic specifically is that we elect other citizens to represent us in accordance with the Constitution. The Founders knew that democracy was a system which had been tried throughout history, and had never been successful, which is why they defined our system absolutely as a republic, and never once in the entire constitution mentioned the word “democracy.” In fact, James Madison, one of the main architects of the Constitution, in exploring the same subject that we have before us today, gave us these words of warning against the dangers of a democracy in the Federalist Papers:
“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths…
“We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.”, The Federalist #10, 22 November, 1787
The crux of the matter is this: the Founding Fathers intended for their newly fought for country to stand the test of time, and therefore did not set up a democracy. The biggest problem with a democracy is that the general public has the ability to decide the actions of the government for itself, which always leads to its inevitable destruction. The reason for this is simple: people are stupid and greedy. Not you individually. You are obviously not stupid, or you wouldn’t be reading this right now. I cannot speak to your personal level of greed – not because I don’t like making judgement calls (I do – just ask my wife), but because “greed” is always defined as someone wanting more than the person pulling the “greed card” has. If you make $30,000, then someone wanting to make $35,000 may be greedy to you, but certainly no one making only $30,000 is greedy, because that would include you. It’s simple human nature.
No, a person all alone is generally pretty smart, fairly charitable, and will usually make a good decision when it comes to common sense issues. PEOPLE, on the other hand, can almost always be guaranteed to act stupidly, greedily, and will make the absolute wrong decision time after time when acting en masse. That is why people who aim to devolve the government of the United States into a power source for themselves will always try to lump people into mobs, dividing the population into racial segments resulting in hyphenated Americans and by class levels based on income, education, occupation and whatever other criteria they can find that is convenient. Yes, there is a reason that they call themselves Democrats. And, whether they know it or not, their actions will result in the destruction of our country, beginning with what we are seeing now, its bankruptcy. Alexander Tyler was not a fool when he stated:
“Democracy cannot last as a permanent form of government. As soon as the citizen know that they can vote money out of the public coffers the majority will always vote for the candidate that will give them the most money. And the civilization will fall from fiscal irresponsibility.”
The Founders knew this truth, which is why they strove to keep direct power out of the hands of the general population, instead choosing to have the people vote for Representatives from their areas that would go to Washington in their stead. And they meant for this to be the only time that the general public voted for federal offices. Yes, you heard me right. That was it. No Senate elections, no voting for President, because that would be tantamount to having a pure democracy. Just the members of the House of Representatives. The Senate was supposed to be chosen by each state’s legislature, not with a general election. That was the law of the land until 1913, when the progressives of the time proposed a means by which the United States should become more clearly a democracy, and the 17th Amendment was ratified to include the Senate in general elections. What that ultimately means is that the States no longer have representation before the Federal government, and that took us one step closer to mob rule.
As far as the Presidency goes, I defy you to find anywhere in the Constitution an instance where an individual has the right to vote for that office. The Voting Rights Act? It only allowed that you did not need to pass a test (such as literacy) in order to vote. The way that the Founding Fathers constructed it, the President would be elected by electors chosen by the various legislations of the states. How the legislators would determine who the electors were was up to each individual state, which would further establish the States, not the Federal government, as the power base in our country. The idea was that, in keeping the purse strings out of the hands of the general public (and assuming that the States would act in their self-interests), the newly established government would remain solid for a much longer period of time than the democracies of ancient Greece and Rome, and that by entrusting power to the hands of individuals, better decisions would be made, instead of the greed of the popular rule that ultimately was the demise of those two ancient empires.
So, what have we learned today? Democracy = mob rule, Republic = rule of law. Also, that the Founding Fathers were geniuses the likes of which only happen once in a millennium, and that every time someone talks to you about the great democracy of the United States, they have no idea what they are talking about. If they argue with you about it, check their credentials. And ask them what group they are trying to lump you into.
(A special thanks to Jessica Cudaback for requesting this. Glad to see that your hubby is back home safe and sound!)