Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On being a Republic

I have had some people say to me...

"We don't live in a democracy!  We live in a Republic!"  
 Yeah, we live in a Democratic Republic.

"Democratic Republic- a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them." source

But, wouldn't it be better if everyone directly voted on where tax dollars go, new laws, and when to go to war?

No.  No it wouldn't.

Adopting a direct democracy would be akin to governing by polls.  I've ranted about this before

Leaders don't lead through polls...or they shouldn't.

The main reason that we have a republic, as framed by James Madison in the Federalist paper #10: ' to prevent instability, injustice and faction'

"A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts."

1.) To prevent tyranny of the masses or factions.

"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 purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people."

2.) a natural organizational factor of having a democracy with over 300,000,000 people.  It is natural to elect representatives.  The process of funneling individual points of views through an elector is to 'refine and enlarge the public view.'

Madison explains how our bicameral congress balances local community interest with regional community interest:

"By enlarging too much the number of electors, you render the representatives too little acquainted with all their local circumstances and lesser interests; as by reducing it too much, you render him unduly attached to these, and too little fit to comprehend and pursue great and national objects. The federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular to the State legislatures."

3.)  Individuals are not often afforded the knowledge to make well informed decisions, so we presumably elect those who can make those decisions for us. 

Americans, notoriously, are under educated in political matters.



There are a few assumptions Madison makes, extreme considerations about the threat of tyranny...that is- if tyranny of the masses or tyranny of factions succeed with their
'vicious,' 'unjust,' 'oppressive,' 'prejudiced,' 'corrupt,' 'sinister,' 'wicked,' 'mischievous,' 'passionate,' 'violent,'
schemes, in "which one party may...disregard(ing) the rights of another or the good of the whole." 

His assumptions may have been true in his day, but are these assumptions true today??

1.)  Representatives, chosen by a large number, are checked by the scrutiny of many people, guarding against, 'unworthy candidates' and the 'vicious arts' of politics.

2.)  'People will choose the most attractive merit and established characters.'

3.)  That representatives will be,

"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."

4.)  Extending the sphere of representation will lead to more parties.

" Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."

Next post:  What about Parties?