Republic versus Democracy

Democracy or Republic? WhatDifference Does It Make?

We learned it in school.America is a democracy, right? It's stated as a fact in third grade social studies textbooks.Politicians give speeches about our great democracy. We hear it on TVradio, in politicaldebates, and from the White House. We even aspire to spread democracy aroundthe world.

But is it true? Is ourform of government a democracy? Say the pledge of allegiance. "I pledgeallegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic…" There's that pesky word Republic. How did that word get in there?


Democracy or republic - what's thedifference? The two words mean the same thing, right? No.There's a big difference between a democracy and a republic. The framers of ourU.S. Constitution knew the difference very well.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Democracy is two wolves and alamb voting on what to have for lunch."

As James Madison stated, "Democracies are…as short intheir lives as they have been violent in their deaths." OrJohn Adams, "Democracy never lasts long. Itsoon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet thatdid not commit suicide."


Throughout history,democracies have never lasted long. Once the people learned they could vote themselves money from the publictreasury – or from theirneighbor's pocketbook - democracies ultimately created their owndemise by establishing an incentive for the people to divide against oneanother.

Does this soundfamiliar? We find ourselves in America today, on the road to mass democracy.This was not the founder's original intent.

Democracy, or rule by majority, eventually devolves into "tyranny of themasses" or "mob rule." Historically, ancient Greece and Romeprovided plenty of evidence of this violent tyranny. America's founders wiselytook note and avoided a direct democracy when contemplating what form ofgovernment they would establish.


So exactly what is arepublic? It is a type government with two very important distinctions.

1.    In our republic, it isrecognized that power is inherent in the people, but is carried out by ourelected representatives. The election process is the part of our governmentthat is referred to as democratic in nature, or "rule by majority."

2.    Individuals areprotected by fixed laws, or a social contract. Our social contract is theConstitution, which established the rule of law, based on the principles ofliberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence. These two foundingdocuments define the parameters of our social contract – the standard by whichall laws should be written.


So, our republic ismajority rule by the people through their chosen representatives, withadherence to the social contract, which protects the individual by recognizingand securing natural or inherent rights. It could be summed up by modifyingFranklin's description: "A republic is two wolves and a lamb voting onwhat's for lunch, but with the stipulation that none of the three can be on themenu."


This form of governmenthas been duplicated in other countries, but failed because it lacked oneimportant ingredient. America's unprecedented success has depended entirelyupon the moral character and the active involvement of the people to maintain our republic.

John Adams said, "Our Constitution was made onlyfor a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government ofany other."

In September of 1787,Benjamin Franklin emerged from Independence Hall in Philadelphia after signingthe Constitution. Mrs. Elizabeth Powel greeted him and asked, "Dr. Franklin, what have yougiven us? A monarchy or a republic?" Franklin replied, "A republicmadam, if you can keep it."


So why do we continuallyhear that we live in a democracy? Why didn't Mrs. Powel ask Franklin if thesigners had given us a "democracy or a republic"?

It is important to understand that the founders andcitizenry in early America used avery different language than the "politically correct"speech we hear today. Each word was chosen carefully and with precision in orderto communicate accurately. Because of the unbearable tyranny they wereexperiencing at the time, it was necessary to be articulate, and deliberatelyspeak the language of liberty.


In modern day America,we can learn to speak the language of liberty once again. It is a positivelanguage full of promise. Democracies divide, but republics unite. To speak ofa republic is speaking the language of liberty. We must learn it in order tokeep our republic. Otherwise, we will lose it.