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Monday, December 19, 2011

Styles of Government: Democracy vs. Republic

There has been increasing talk in the media this year about Democracy.  

Uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya bring shouts of “This is what democracy looks like”.  Yet in the weeks following massive overhauls in leadership, upheaval continues as fear of the Muslim Brotherhood and other nefarious organizations rise to power and threaten a new government frighteningly similar to the old regimes previously overthrown.  

So what is going wrong?  Isn’t a democracy what we want for those oppressed countries?  

All of this can confuse anyone, but especially American’s who think democracy is a “cure all” for the various evils of the world.  What many do not understand, even in America, is that there is a vast difference between a Democracy and a Republic.  

America is a Republic.

So let’s break down the differences:  

Democracy as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary:

a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Contrast the subtle differences to a Republic: 

(1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

Based off those definitions it can be difficult to understand the difference.  From what I gather, a democracy is a government ruled by the majority.  Therefore, the majority- whoever that power may be- rules OVER the minorities and their wants.  After voting, the majority- 51% rules over the other 49% and there isn’t anything put in place to protect that 49%.  They are allowed to vote, but once they lose, they are at the mercy of the majority.  

A Republic, however, has a set of elected officials who govern the people based on a set of laws- in America that is the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  The constitution can be modified by amendments when the majority votes, however the majority must make these changes according to law.  It is not the supreme will of the majority that rules the day.  In fact, to ensure no political party becomes oppressive, the constitution that governs our representatives has placed three distinct bodies to oversee the others.  The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches all provide a set of checks and balances so that on any given day, the majority cannot oppress the minority in our country.  

A Republic protects the individual from an oppressive government, whereas a democracy gives the appearance of freedom but is actually only another form of oppressive government.  Every democracy in history has failed because power corrupts.  America’s founding fathers knew this and took steps to protect individuals from that corruptive power.  

In a Democracy, as long as you are in the majority that is ruling, you wouldn’t mind the subtle distinctions between a democratic government and a republic.  However, if you are in the minority, you will feel the sting of such differences.  

Please note that the political parties of Democrats and Republicans in America have NOTHING to do with defining a democracy or a republic.  They are political parties, not forms of government- though they do have differing ideas on how our nation should operate.  However, when a democratic majority rules in Washington, the United States does not cease to exist as a Republic (same when a republican majority rules, we are still a Republic- the structure of our government doesn’t change when majorities change).  

We are a Republic, at all times the minorities in our country are protected under the Bill of Rights against majority rule.  That does not mean everyone gets what they want, but it means one group cannot oppress another.  We are not a dictatorship.  That is why America’s government works and these other governments are failing.  Assisting other countries to form a democracy isn’t really helping them, we must assist them in establishing a Republic, and only then will ALL its citizen be free!  

There are many websites you can Google related to this topic, I urge you to do your homework but be careful what you read. Not everything is credible.  Here are two websites I found that are fairly concise and appear to be accurate in explaining the differences between a democracy and a republic:

As we read our pledge, let’s remember what these words really mean.

Pledge of Allegiance
I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Questions:  What do the words of the pledge mean to you?  Are you concerned America is losing its identity as a Republic?  Are we in danger of becoming a majority rule democracy?  Can we help (and should we help) other nations form Republics?  What are your thoughts? 

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