Is America a Democracy Or a Republic?

in Philosophy/Politics by

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is two wolves and a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”– Benjamin Franklin

Our Constitutional Republic is designed to do exactly that – to prevent mob rule.

We hear a lot of talk from politicians about the will of people and political mandates. They point to polls and focus groups for agreement. They justify passing laws that hurt some Americans for the benefit of others under the banner of shared responsibility or personal sacrifice.

President Barack Obama says it’s how our Democracy works.

A democracy is generally understood to be rule by the people. But a pure democracy is rule by the majority of the people, which is essentially tyranny of the majority.

A republic is distinguished by mass voter participation, and by representatives who govern for the people. Since we can’t all meet under the same tree at the same time to agree on rules and laws, we send representatives to the capitol on our behalf.

But our Constitutional Republic goes beyond that, giving us the Rule of Law rather than the Law of Rulers. Our Constitution (1) created the structure of our federal government; (2) places limits on that government; and (3) guarantees the rights we were born with.

One thing the United States is not is a democracy.

Our Founders did not even use the word democracy in our two foundational documents: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Remember that we also pledge allegiance to the Republic. Indeed, the Constitution “guarantees to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

In fact, the Constitution is full of anti-democratic mechanisms, such as the Electoral College and the original appointment of U.S. senators by state legislatures rather than by popular vote.

Benjamin Franklin famously told a woman after the Constitutional Convention that they had created “a Republic, if you can keep it.”

James Madison warned against the whim of man, and helped provide the Rule of Law within our Constitutional Republic. Edwin Randolph warned against “the turbulence and folly of democracy.” And John Adams pointed out that, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Our Constitution is the oldest and shortest charter of liberty in the world. Yet it does not grant us a single right. Instead, it protects the rights endowed to us by our Creator. Other constitutional democracies claim to grant rights as dispensations of government rather than being inherent in our humanity.

Our Founders took the theological premise that we are all equal in Gods eyes, and then created the political application of a Constitutional Republic. In other words, no man has the right to rule over another without his consent because we are born free and dignified human beings.

God made us that way. Not government.

Now that’s a distinction with a difference, and one worth remembering.

Burnie is the host of "My Freedom Radio" and a former U.S. Air Force Captain and college English teacher. He has also been a free-lance writer for more than 15 years, with commentaries in The Los Angeles Times, The USA Today, The Washington Times and more than a dozen other publications.

  • Origanalist

    Nice, Liberty Conservatives has Burnie Thompson on board. Great article, short and to the point.

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