On this Freedom Friday, the topic of discussion is republics. Our pledge of allegiance highlights the form of government in the United States - "I pledge allegiance to the flag Of the United States of America And to the Republic For which it [the flag] stands…."
The Founders desired to set up a Republic for numerous reasons. A pure democracy works well in smaller groups where the masses of people can fully participate in decisions and rules, but democracies become problematic in large groups. The Founders were well aware of the deficiencies of a democracy as evidenced by the following quote by Fisher Ames: "The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be, liberty" (Speech in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788).
A democracy becomes inefficient and unwieldy in a large population, but a republic can be expanded indefinitely because it governs through representatives. Because our Founders set up our government as a democratic republic, the same Constitution could govern 3,000 or 300,000 or 300 million people. This is the reason why our Constitution has withstood all the attacks on it while the constitutions of many other nations have been changed repeatedly in the same period of time.
James Madison defined a republic as follows: "We may define a republic to be … a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period or during good behavior. It is essential to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans and claim for their government the honorable title of republic" (quoted by W. Cleon Skousen in The Five Thousand Year Leap, p 114).
This statement proved to be prophetic when tyrannical governments such as the Communist People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) began to call themselves republics.
Over the past six weeks, many people in nations across the Middle East and northern Africa have marched in protests to their governments. The chant has been "give us a democracy." They do not understand that a democracy can be as evil as an authoritarian government simply by manipulating the vote of the majority. A democratic republic is much different than just a democracy, and our republic has proved the test for well over 200 years!
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