What is a Democracy?
The United States is a Democracy, right? It is often said that as Americans we live in a Democracy. We vote for the candidate of our choice, our public officials make and enforce laws, and we define that as the democratic process. Why is the United States of America considered a democracy today?
The word democracy comes from the Greek words “demos” (common people) and “kratos” (rule). In other words, in a democracy the people rule. Democracy is commonly defined as majority or mob rule. While that may seem somewhat like what we have in our great nation, there is a big difference between our form of government and pure democracy.
Several years ago I took a Business Law class, while attending Community College in Northern California. I remember one day during class, the professor was discussing our nation’s form of government. He plainly told the class that our nation is a democracy. I respectfully disagreed and politely argued that we have a republic. The professor paused briefly and then said that we technically have a democratic-republic. At that time I decided that I would not continue to press the conversation, but I have often wondered what would have happened if I had pressed further. Would this professor have eventually agreed that our nation is a republic?
What is a Republic?
The word republic comes from the Latin word “res publica” or the public thing. The public thing refers to the law, which in the case of our nation the law is the U.S. Constitution. Our nation was founded as a republic. Does this phrase sound familiar, “and to the Republic for which it stands…”? At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government the new nation was to become. To that he replied, “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it“. The Constitution, in article 4, section 4 assures each state a republican form of government, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…”
A republic offers the following benefits to a free society that a democracy does not…
- A rule of law that is designed to ensure inherent liberties are protected
- Separation of powers – executive, legislative, and judicial
- Limited federal government and bureaucracy
There have been no amendments to the Constitution that changed our form of government. Article 4, Section 4 still remains in tact. We need to remember that the founding fathers put checks and balances in the way governing officials are elected, i.e. the electoral college and the delegate process.
Learn a Lesson from History
Have you noticed that the more our nation becomes like a democracy, the further our nation drifts from liberty? The founding fathers warned us about the turmoils of a pure democracy…
“Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” ~ John Adams
“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.” ~ James Madison
While it is evident that our nation is still technically a republic, we are losing it. In many ways our government is beginning to behave like a democracy, but is that really a good thing? It has been said that democracy is similar to two lions telling a zebra what the dinner menu is. Are you beginning to feel like the zebra in this scenario? What are you going to do about it?