Many people, even in the US, have the mistaken idea that the US is a democracy. Many more know that it isn’t a democracy, it is a representative republic and has never been a democracy. What is the difference between a democracy and a representative republic?
Part of the confusion is that both forms of government elect people to represent their interests in the government. From just this standpoint, a democracy is very similar to a republic.
However, it is at this point that the two governmental forms differ. You see, in a republic, there are rules in place that limit the power of the government. This places the power ultimately in the hands of the people. In a democracy, the legal restraint doesn’t exist. A democratic government is free to impose its will on the people, even if it goes against the wishes of those people who elected them.
In the US, we have a Bill of Rights and a Constitution that stringently puts restrictions on what the Government can and can’t do. If you carefully read the constitution, the document doesn’t give people the right to do anything. Instead, it recognizes certain inalienable rights of the people and it prohibits the federal government from taking those rights away.
As an example and since it is in the news these days, the second amendment says:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The inalienable right that is referenced here is that of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. The amendment acknowledges that the right of the people to keep and bear arms are necessary for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It further dictates that the federal government cannot infringe upon this right. That is, the government cannot take it away. It was a right of a human being before the government even formed. It would continue to be a right even if the government took it away, but the law dictates that the government can’t take it away.
Thus, the constitutional law doesn’t give people the right to keep and bear arms, it actually states that the government doesn’t have the power, legally, to remove that right. This puts the power in the hands of the people rather than the government.
In a democracy, the elected officials are the ones who have the power. They can arbitrarily change any law they wish to change, without regard to the people and definitely not in regard to the minority, no matter who that minority might be. In a democracy, the government is all powerful and there isn’t much that people can do about it. In fact, quite often one of the first steps a democratic government makes is to disarm the people so they can be more easily controlled. This is done under the ludicrous guise of protecting the people, of course, so they won’t catch on until after it is too late.
Even today, this is the main difference between Democrats, who adhere to the ideology of a democratic government where the government has all the power, and the Republicans, who follow the rules of a representative republic, where the power is in the hands of the people and not the government.
Taking it a step further, this is also the difference in the US between liberals and conservatives. Liberals are in favor of a larger, more powerful government that has total control. Conservatives are in favor of a smaller, more efficient government that works for the people; the actual power base.
Naturally, it is much more complex than that and there are people who identify themselves as liberals or democrats, but who actually want to have the power over their own lives. The opposite can also be true. Either way, it is incumbant on each person to understand the basic difference between a republic and a democracy, a republican and a democrat, and a conservative and a liberal, in order to make an informed choice as to where they actually stand in regard to the two very different forms of government.