Glass Fractal wrote:Diadem wrote:As a tangent, where does this weird "The US is not a democracy, it's a republic" notion come from? I've heard it several times before on this forum, and I've also seen it in other places.
It's always trotted out by the same people who like to talk about how "democracy is two wolves and a lamb" so I'm going to go with it being a Libertarian talking point. The fact that it completely contradicts reality seems to support that idea.
Actually, it's really not a libertarian talking point. It really is an important distinction in political theory. Granted a republic is sort of a sub-group of a democracy, but generally speaking, whenever someone goes on about this being a 'democracy', they're usually going off the idea of a democracy as "rule by majority" and usually direct voting on issues (so direct democracy). So to a degree yes, that would be the idea of "democracy is two wolves and a lamb" and that's because the idea of "direct, majority rule" can in fact lead to such things if, let's say, the majority in the town decides to pass a law that discriminates or hurt a minority group in some shape or form (usually called like tyranny of the majority or what not). Of course, again, there is a crap load of different subgroups on democracy so it depends on who you are talking about XD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy
A "republic", on the other hand, tends to imply certain things. The biggest thing being, of course, the election of people to represent us in the government instead of direct democracy. It usually also implies some form of limitations on the abilities of those representing us (in the form of a constitution of some sort), which can solve the "two wolves and a lamb" thing by restricting what can and cannot be up for vote. Generally speaking, this is what I tend to hear about whenever the "we're not a democracy, we're a republic."
A more important issue though is that being a republic does bring into discussion something unique to it that a direct democracy doesn't have is the "delegate vs. trustee" question; are representatives simply voicing our views and votes whatever way we want them to, or should they be able to use their own judgement (while of course taking into consideration into what we want".
I don't have a nice quote on the first position, but the trustee position is pretty well summed up by Edmund Burke here:
...it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
-The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke. Volume I. London: Henry G. Bohn. 1854. pp. 446–8.
Of course, again, we're a lot more complex than a republic. In really specific terms we're a liberal democratic constitutional republic XD.