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Author Topic: What is a democracy? Back to Topics

Champion Author

Joined:May 2007
Message Posted: Jun 25, 2013 7:01:09 PM

What was it intended to be....what is it?

The good, the bad, and the ugly of where we are now as a Democracy?

Is the United States even a democracy, what makes it so?
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Message Posted: Sep 13, 2013 1:32:52 PM

Hello airfresh,

If a topic has not been active for two or more months, please do note post in it.


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Champion Author Massachusetts

Joined:Aug 2007
Message Posted: Sep 13, 2013 10:06:52 AM

What is a democracy? Not what we have now.
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Champion Author Minnesota

Joined:May 2007
Message Posted: Jun 27, 2013 10:42:17 PM

This is a bit of the same as Shan posted....I happen to like the author...both Shan and this author.

Is the United States a democracy?

The Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase: "and to the republic for which it stands." Is the United States of America a republic? I always thought it was a democracy? What's the difference between the two?

The United States is, indeed, a republic, not a democracy. Accurately defined, a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly--through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums. A republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. The Framers of the Constitution were altogether fearful of pure democracy. Everything they read and studied taught them that pure democracies "have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths" (Federalist No. 10).

By popular usage, however, the word "democracy" come to mean a form of government in which the government derives its power from the people and is accountable to them for the use of that power. In this sense the United States might accurately be called a democracy. However, there are examples of "pure democracy" at work in the United States today that would probably trouble the Framers of the Constitution if they were still alive to see them. Many states allow for policy questions to be decided directly by the people by voting on ballot initiatives or referendums. (Initiatives originate with, or are initiated by, the people while referendums originate with, or are referred to the people by, a state's legislative body.) That the Constitution does not provide for national ballot initiatives or referendums is indicative of the Framers' opposition to such mechanisms. They were not confident that the people had the time, wisdom or level-headedness to make complex decisions, such as those that are often presented on ballots on election day.

Writing of the merits of a republican or representative form of government, James Madison observed that one of the most important differences between a democracy and a republic is "the delegation of the government [in a republic] to a small number of citizens elected by the rest." The primary effect of such a scheme, Madison continued, was to:

. . . refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the same purpose (Federalist No. 10).

Later, Madison elaborated on the importance of "refining and enlarging the public views" through a scheme of representation:

There are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice and truth can regain their authority over the public mind(Federalist No. 63).

In the strictest sense of the word, the system of government established by the Constitution was never intended to be a "democracy." This is evident not only in the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance but in the Constitution itself which declares that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government" (Article IV, Section 4). Moreover, the scheme of representation and the various mechanisms for selecting representatives established by the Constitution were clearly intended to produce a republic, not a democracy.

To the extent that the United States of America has moved away from its republican roots and become more "democratic," it has strayed from the intentions of the Constitution's authors. Whether or not the trend toward more direct democracy would be smiled upon by the Framers depends on the answer to another question. Are the American people today sufficiently better informed and otherwise equipped to be wise and prudent democratic citizens than were American citizens in the late 1700s? By all accounts, the answer to this second question is an emphatic "no."

authored by Jonathan Mott, Ph.D.

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Champion Author Chicago

Joined:Dec 2012
Message Posted: Jun 27, 2013 10:21:00 AM

Not for much longer!
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Champion Author Rochester

Joined:Mar 2006
Message Posted: Jun 27, 2013 9:29:57 AM

>"Is the United States even a democracy, what makes it so?"

Hola Maria del Mexico mi bella amiga.
In a pure Democracy, the people would vote on every issue.
In a Republic, public offices are appointed or elected.
The U.S. has a representative elected republic mixed with democratic processes, and is Constitution based. (Kind of like a "melting pot" of Politics as well as people.) We vote for our Politicians, as well as voting directly on some specific issues by popular vote - as long as popular vote does not go against any Rights in The Constitution.
This helps to ensure that the will of the majority public is represented in general, except for where it infringes upon the rights of the minority public.

"Basically" a Democracy? Yes. Mostly through representatives.

Why do you ask?

Ask for Chris Christie's statement, I believe that in "entitlement ahead of accomplishment" everyone *is* entitled to certain things, which we call Rights. I personally believe everyone should be entitled to the same *fair* *opportunity*. So a 5' 0" tall person should be able to try out for The Knicks if the Knicks choose to let them; but if they say "You are too short, and that will not enable you to do this job for [this valid reason]." - that is still fair. They had a fair opportunity.

>To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand
>no sacrifice from each other.

Sacrifice comes on many levels. As an example: Many people speak of the sacrifice that those who are/were in the Military give/gave. Some do it for over 40 years. Some for 4. Some do it "part time". Some never serve. And I will bet that there are some rare people who think much less of people who never did. However - those who do/did receive certain benefits for doing so that others cannot get. So the level of sacrifice (in general terms) should not be mandatory for all. But then neither should the benefits. However (again), denial of the benefits should not mean that people do not get a fair opportunity that I spoke of earlier.
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Champion Author Minnesota

Joined:May 2007
Message Posted: Jun 25, 2013 7:02:50 PM

Thought this quote interesting...from Chris Christie

Today, the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves. To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other.

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