[OT] Are we a democracy or a republic?

Shane Hathaway shane at hathawaymix.org
Fri Sep 2 00:31:03 MDT 2005

Kenneth Burgener wrote:
> I have been hearing a lot about how we are happy to see democracy 
> developing in Iraq [1].  This lead me to think about us.  Are we a 
> democracy or a republic?  Are we both?

A politics teacher told me that the word democracy, as it is often used 
among politicians, refers to the government's accountability to the 
people.  I think this is a useful definition, though it's quite 
different from majority vote.  When politicians say that democracy is 
being spread all over the world, they mean that governments are becoming 
more accountable to their people due to changes in government structure.

> We have democrats[2] which advocate a democracy, and we have 
> republicans[3] which advocate a republic.  Do we possibly swing back and 
> forth from a democratic nation to a republican nation every 4 years?

This is related to a puzzle I've been trying to solve for years.  The 
differences between the modern republican and democratic parties seem to 
have little relationship to the root words, republic and democracy. 
Rather, there's just a pile of controversial issues and each party takes 
an opposing side.  Who takes which side is nearly arbitrary, AFAICT.

For example, democrats seem to favor small business more than 
republicans do, and I applaud the democrats for that.  But republicans 
seem to favor religious expression more than democrats do, and I applaud 
the republicans for that.  Yet small business yields a strong market, 
which is important to republicans, and religious expression is related 
to the Bill of Rights, which is important to democrats.  It wouldn't 
surprise me if both parties flip-flop on these issues in ten years' time.

How can I choose between them?  I want more choices, and I want 
improvements to the voting system so that my vote for a third party 
isn't wasted.  If I don't get more choices, I'll probably just continue 
to vote about the same way my friends do.


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