2019-12-11 Democracy & Republic
ACH Study Groups
Ben & Fran Gilmore – Cofounders
7659 Gingerblossom Drive
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
December 13, 2019
This is a letter to our friends –
Democracy & Republic
DEMOC̵´RACY, n. [Gr. δημοκρατια; δημος, people, and κρατεω, to possess, to govern.]
Government by the people; a form of government, in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the people collectively, or in which the people exercise the powers of legislation. Such was the government of Athens. [Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]
REPUB´LIC̵, n. [L. respublica; res and publica; public affairs.]
1. A commonwealth; a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power is lodged in representatives elected by the people. In modern usage, it differs from a democracy or democratic state, in which the people exercise the powers of sovereignty in person. Yet the democracies of Greece are often called republics. [Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]
In a democracy the lawmaking, executive, and judicial power is in the hands of the people collectively. “One man – one vote” – think – majority rule. Another way to name it – “Mob Rule”. All the citizens get together and debate the issues and then vote.
Human nature is what it is. Large bodies are easily swayed by emotion. The ultimate democracy is a lynch mob – only one citizen objects! Two wolves and a lamb vote on what to eat!
When does a democracy work? It works in small groups of voters. A New England town meeting for example. Suppose the town’s well runs dry. The citizens meet and discuss the expense of drilling a new well. All use the well. They vote that the expense is to be shared equally.
There is no way the widow Jones with her 10 children can afford the water tax. It is a good town. Without much being said, her share is covered by others. But, suppose I am wrong. The Jones family must have water. Every time those who voted, walk by her home and see the kids going without shoes so they can have water, they are aware of the unintended results of their majority vote. Democracy in a small group is self-policing.
If a voting body gets too large the citizens are unaware of the unintended consequences. America’s founders understood that and tried to distribute authority among smaller groups.
They built our civil-government upon republics. The President is elected by representatives of (then) 13 States. Each State in turn was to be a Republic. The House of Representatives was composed of men who were elected by (then) small Congressional districts. The U.S. Senators were elected by (then) their State Legislatures. California has 120 lawmakers. New Hampshire as 400 in their State House of Representatives! The Supreme Court Justices are confirmed by our 100 U.S. Senators.
Who is even to know about the widow Jones if the “well question” is handled by all the voters in the county or state? Can you see the tyranny of the majority in large democracies?
Republics are better designed to protect the issues of the minority.
In 1928 we passed the 17th Amendment. Since then, U.S. Senators are elected by all the citizens of their state. There are 39 million people in California, 25 million of them are eligible to vote, about 20 million voted. California’s U.S. Senators must win around 10 million citizen’s votes. Before the 17th amendment they must win 90 legislator’s votes.
Think about it – Which alternative creates the best representation for the concerns of California? How significant does that make your vote for your State legislators?
These columns are archived since 12/10/09