Whenever chatting among friends and the topic of politics arises, I often criticize the United States Government (USG). Whenever I criticize USG, it is always levying the complaint of it’s shortcomings or inadequacies due to the fact that it is a democracy. I am often then greeted with a swift rebuttal, “We have a republic!!” It is often said in a manner that is curt and meant to shut down discussion, perhaps with a hint of mild cognitive dissonance. This is the most frequent defense of USG that I receive when criticizing it’s democratic nature. So I have decided to put an end to this republican argument once and for all. Note: by republican, I do not mean the GOP but instead those who advocate/defend republicanism as a form of governance. Also, if I use the term ‘democrat,’ I am referring to advocates/defenders of democracy, and not the Democrat party of the USA. Note: when talking about democracy, I am referring strictly to indirect democracy (electing representatives); there are no direct democracies in the world.
So dear reader, I ask you, “do we have a republic?”
First, let us examine what a republic is. According to La Wik:
A republic is a form of government in which power resides in the people, and the government is ruled by elected leaders run according to law (from Latin: res publica), rather than inherited or appointed (such as through inheritance or divine mandate). In modern times, the definition of a republic is also commonly limited to a government which excludes a monarch.
Next, let us examine what a democracy is. La Wik again:
Democracy is “a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity … are involved in making decisions about its affairs, typically by voting to elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly.”Democracy is further defined as (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.”
Hmmm…. well that did not clear things up. According to both definitions, the power resides with the people in both instances. In both forms of government, they hold elections to elect leaders and representatives as well. Is there really a difference between the two? In fact, they are often used interchangeably to describe USG. I wonder if the people making the claim that the US is a republic, as opposed to a democracy, can adequately state their case for such a distinction… or are they merely parroting what was told to them during their high school social studies class.
One important feature of the USG republic…err democracy.. err whatever is that it was created to be limited by the United States Constitution. Ah yes, the Holy parchment. One of the most popular literary works of the United States, right up there with the Bible and Fifty Shades of Grey. In fact, republic in Latin translates* to “the law.” This is the law of the land. It is this lovely piece of paper that stands in the way of demotic mobocracy and tyranny. Perhaps this is what my friends are referring to when they make the claim that the USG is a republic, a constitutional republic. Well, how has our holiest of documents held up against the demotic forces of Cthulhu? Well let’s look at USG today.
Here is a link to an infographic showing the breakdown by bureaucracy of the 2014 Federal Budget (the fact that it is too big to post here should already be of concern). Below is a less triggering pie chart showing the break down of the 2014 budget ($3.5T):
Now I am no constitutional lawyer, but I am pretty sure that most of those pieces of pie are not authorized by the US Constitution, especially Social Security and Medicare. While I cannot speak to the dead, I am pretty sure that the Founding Fathers never envisioned a “limited government” with a budget of $3.5 TRILLION.
So, let me ask you reader, do you feel our Constitution has adequately shackled the demotic spirit and preserved our constitutional republic? Or has it been merely a paper tiger?
James Madison even wrote in Federalist Paper No. 10 that the purpose of of a republic is to protect our liberties and our property rights:
“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…”
Can you really say that a government that consumes $3.5 TRILLION of the economy every year has a strong respect for the rights of property of its citizens? Is there anything remotely republican about the nature of USG nowadays?
Even look at the actions of our elected representatives every election year. They change their voting behaviors in order to present a record to the mob to show how good of a job they have been doing up on Capitol Hill. They are literally catering to the mob every election year. The rest of the time, they cater to whatever special interests enter their offices. What are lobbyists other than moneyed groups of individuals voicing their concerns to elected representatives? They are a symptom of democracy and I laugh at progressive concerns over silly things like Citizens United v. FEC. You created this monster in the first place and now you are upset that you cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube. Besides, corporations are all on board with the progressive mantras of egalitarianism, feminism, multiculturalism, and diversity. Instead of issuing EBT cards, they do things like sell coffee.
While the American conservative covers his ears, stamps his feet, and shouts, “REPUBLIC,” our elected leaders are for once being honest about the nature of USG. Here is President Obama, talking about not only is democracy an American ideal, but a human right:
Here is President George W. Bush talking about how SCOTUS is a threat to our democracy:
Listen to any politician nowadays. They will refer to the United States as a democracy every time (with the exception of Ron Paul). It is apparent that the definitions of these two words have been muddied over the years and their true meanings lost.
Let’s do some digging through ye olde library for ancient scripts and see what they had to say about natures of democracies and republics. Let us look at an old military training manual from the War Department circa 1928 and check out their comparative analysis between the features of a democracy versus those of a republic (Section IX for those following along at home).
- 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 demogogism, 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.
Which of those sound more like USG? Perhaps democracy and republic are no longer distinct forms of government, but instead they describe the nature of government.
Look at political discourse in the year 2015 and tell me what you see. Do liberty, reason, and statesmanship rule the day? Or do you see demagoguery, mob rule, agitation, discontent, and a road towards anarchy? With that, I leave you with some video from the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin:
*Thanks to @ChrisNahr on Twitter for pointing out that the Latin translation of ‘republic’ means ‘public affair.’