If you were to go out on the street today and ask people, “What type of government do we have in the United States?” A vast majority of them would say that we are a Democracy. While these people are partially correct they are at the same time very wrong. Why do people have a hard time understanding that we have a Republic and not a Democracy? In this article, we will discuss the differences between a Democracy v Republic.
If we want to understand our Government and what the Founders of this Nation wanted for the people of this country then we have to understand the form of government that we have. Most people believe that we are a Democracy but this is not accurate and is in fact very misleading when we talk about how our government is supposed to operate. The truth is we have a Republic. More accurately a representative Republic.
A Republic if you can keep it
-BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation
Democracy v Republic
What do I mean by this? A representative Republic is a type of government where the people elect a representative. That Representative acts on their behalf in matters pertaining to their governance. This differs from a democracy where everyone has an equal vote and that vote is cast for every decision about the governance of the country.
In a Democracy the majority rules and if you are a part of the 50% +1 vote then you are in charge and what you say is the law. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing. The majority rules and they control the decisions and that would reflect the will of the people. In small organizations or small groups, this is a good means of decision making but in larger groups, it easily leads to what has been termed “tyranny of the majority”.
Tyranny of the Majority
Tyranny of the Majority is a system where the rights of minority groups are taken away because the majority is the ones making the rules and the minority is ignored. For example when the 19th Amendment was adopted to the Constitution of the United States a majority of the people that did have the power to vote did not agree that women should be allowed to vote. Several times the measure to allow women to vote was defeated in Congress.
It was only when the Women’s Suffrage groups started working at the State level did this start to change. In other words, they focused on gaining the votes of the representatives that were elected to office. They started at the State level and were successful in gaining the right to vote in many States they shifted the stance of the Representatives in Congress and eventually, the right of women to vote was adopted into the Constitution as the 19th Amendment. This was done even when a majority still thought that women should not have the ability to vote in elections.
How was this changed? The simple fact of the matter is that these women were able to get enough support in districts to sway the Representative for the district to cast votes supporting their movements.
A representative Republic solves this problem of tyranny by the majority by allowing smaller regions to decide their position on a topic and then the Representative for that region will cast a vote that best represents the voice of the people they represent.
This has an impact on how decisions are made in this country in a number of ways. One way this has an impact is that all regions and cultural differences get representation in the decision-making process. In other words, a very densely populated area does not hold power over lower-density areas of the country.
Voting Scenario 1
This may be better understood using the following examples. In this first example, we will look at how a majority can be overruled by the minority.
- We have 3 regions that we will call District A, District B, and District C.
- All 3 regions have 30,000 people
- Each District has a single representative that will vote based on the majority of the people they represent.
- Legislation for a new law is being considered and it is very controversial and has mixed support.
- District A decides that the new law will be overburdensome and they do not want the new law enacted and they vote 22,000 against the new law and 8,000 for the new law.
- District B decides that the new law is just what they need for issues that they have in that region and they vote almost unanimously for the new law with 29,000 voting for the new law and 1000 against the new law.
- District C has very split support.
- With many supporting the new law and many against the new law
- They decide that the new law is not needed at this time
- 16,000 voted against the new law
- 14,000 voted for the new law.
If we were going with a Democracy for deciding this issue then the new law would have passed. 51,000 people voted for the new law. 39,000 voted against the new law. The result is because there was such great support for this new law in District B. The law would have passed by a rather large margin. However, the other 2 regions, Districts A and C did not think that this law was right for their areas at this time. This would result in the other 2 regions having to submit to a single region because of the high support in that region. In other words, the other two regions would not be able to best represent their view on the new law.
With a representative Republic, however, this is not the case the will of the majority of the regions is expressed and the law is not passed. In this case, the best representation of most regions wins and the law is not enacted and the people are better represented over a larger area.
Why it Matters
Why does this matter? Why not just go with the majority rule case of Democracy. Let’s dig into this a little deeper.
Is a very rural area and the 30,000 people that are represented are going to really be harmed if this new law goes into effect. It could be very costly for these people to enact this law and that cost could result in a disastrous financial impact on the 30,000 people resulting in many of them not being able to afford their basic needs. The harm that this law would cause these people were just too severe for them to want this new law enacted.
In District B
We have a very large city that is very densely populated in a small region. For them, the cost of this new law would not be very high and the impact on the people would be minor. They perceive that the benefit of the new law is far greater than the cost to implement. They really see this as something needed in their region.
In District C
We have an area that is not rural but is more of a group of several small communities. The area is larger than we see with District B but smaller than the region for District A. Some people see that this law can be beneficial. However, a larger part sees the law as being harmful to those are living in the more rural areas of the region. As a result, we have mixed support for the new law. But the end result, the people decided the law creates more harm than benefit if enacted.
The end result is that the overall harmful impact of this new law is just too great for these areas to see why the law is beneficial. The result is the law is defeated based upon the larger area that would be harmfully impacted. Compared to the small area that sees a perceived benefit.
Many factors can be taken into consideration in representative Republics that are not considered under Democracies. Things like differences in regional income, security, differences in self-employment versus conventional employment, Political ideologies, and the list can go on and on. A representative Republic allows for these considerations when decisions are made and what that impact will mean to various regions.
How Democracies Fail
Democracies cannot do that. With a Democracy, none of that is considered the only thing considered is what side has the most votes. If all of those votes come from a single region that region will make all of the decisions. The voice of the other regions is effectively silenced. This sets the stage for a single region to oppress the other regions based on the fact that they have the most votes. They are able to vote the other regions into oppression with little or no regard for their rights.
Voting Scenario 2
I am going to expand this scenario and show how this could play out with a very large city in a state versus the rest of the State with a more rural population.
- We have a large city with a population of 100,000 people
- The entire state has a population of 225,000 people
- Districts are set up for 25,000 people in each district
- Districts A, B, C, and D are the Districts representing the City
- Districts E, F, G, H, and I represent the rest of the State
- Districts A and B are the heart of the city.
- District C is the industrial area of the city.
- District D is the suburbs of the city.
- District E and F are a single community
- District G is a small town
- Districts H and I are very rural areas of the State.
The new law that is being proposed. The law requires that every building must have at least one professional security guard on the premises at all times. People in Districts A and B feel that this is needed because of the high amount of burglaries that are happening in those areas.
District A votes 24,000 for the new law and 1,000 against
- There are a lot of high rise apartment buildings in this area so the cost is minimal for them to have a security guard for each building
- Moderate income
District B votes 20,000 for the new law and 5,000 against the new law
- A lot of multi-tenant buildings (offices and apartments)
- There are more buildings that are occupied by single tenants
- Moderate income
District C votes 11,000 for and 14,000 against the new law
- Many factories and single-use buildings that do not have high-value items that are easily stolen
District D votes 16,000 against and 9,000 for the new law
- Many single dwelling homes
- Many homes have security systems installed
- High Income
District E votes 18,000 for and 7,000 against
- Many multi-tenant buildings
- High Income
District F votes 17,000 against and 8,000 for the new law
- More single-tenant buildings
- Lower Income
District G votes 15,000 for and 10,000 against
- A mix of multi-tenant and single-tenant buildings
- Moderate income
District H votes 23,000 against and 2,000 for
- Mostly single-tenant buildings
- Many families have multiple buildings (sheds and barns)
- Moderate income
District I votes 18,000 against and 7,000 for the new law
- Mostly single-tenant buildings
- High income
Democracy v Republic
If we went with Democracy then the new law would pass. Many regions where it would have a harmful effect would find themselves forced to comply with the new law. All because the areas that have the least impact voted in favor of the new law.
In a representative Republic, this does not happen because the majority in the city area is outvoted by the other regions. This way the city is not able to force its will on the other areas of the state. This form of government representation and decision-making allows many more views to be considered and opinions to be expressed without one area being able to force its will on the other areas.
Each area has equal representation and the voices are heard so in regions where the new law just doesn’t make sense the law was defeated and the harm to these areas is negated. This is why a representative Republic is important. The voices are equally heard and the result is laws that actually help and not harm the majority of the regions.
Conclusion Democracy v Republic
Democracy is a very effective method of decision-making for small groups. However, when it comes to larger groups spread over large areas with differing needs, cultures, and opinions Democracies lead to oppression of those, not in the majority. This eventually leads to establishing systems that ensure that you are always in the majority in order to prevent yourself from being oppressed.
Republics work to minimize the oppression of minority groups while serving in the best interests of the whole. The ability of the Republic to represent the needs of diverse groups on a variety of issues makes it far superior to Democracies when dealing with large populations over large areas. This is what the Founders of this Nation saw as the best way to ensure liberty for individuals while working to establish laws that are just. This basic principle is crucial for liberty and is a crucial part of our government and freedom.
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