Daily Archives: October 30, 2003

Republic Versus Democracy

America is not simply a democracy. Nor is it simply a republic. It is both. It is meant to balance both. Too much republic, and the leaders become tyrannical. Too much democracy, and you’ve only really got an ochlocracy. That’s why it was originally a House of Representatives elected by popular vote, and a Senate elected by state legislatures. That’s why there is an Electoral College.

It’s definitely true that you can’t put too much power in the hands of the general masses. Anendotal example: In English class we were supposed to give a “present” to a character in the novel The Grapes of Wrath. After everyone presented, we were to vote on the best one. Now, some people had some well-thought out gifts, but ones that weren’t too appealing to the general masses. What did appeal to the general masses were breast pumps. People voted, and that’s what won.

Not everyone is a politician, not everyone is informed enough to make important decisions. That’s why we elect representatives. Many people aren’t willing to sacrifice in the short-term to achieve a long-term goal.

Would you rather have a well-educated or an uneducated person lead you? Or, let me put it this way, would you rather have an informed person lead you, or an uninformed person lead you? Not everyone can be trusted to lead. Not everyone is fit to lead. It does make a difference who leads us.

Now, this doesn’t mean that there’s an elite class to rule us, it just means that some people are better leaders than others. And those that are better should be leading. There are less people who can lead than those who can’t. That’s why we can’t just let the general public decide everything.

I’m not going to go into the dangers of lending to much power to the republic side. We all know about the dangers of dictatorship. I just wanted to explain that an ochlocracy is also dangerous.

Let me apply this to the recent successful California governor recall. According to what I said, perhaps you’d think I would’ve been against the recall. Not so. This is because it was at the state level. States are more local and should be influenced more by the general public. The federal government has more distance. States should be able to decide whether a popular vote can recall a state official. California did decide that. The recall was good. As long as the standards are set high enough, it keeps democracy and republic balanced.