Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Republic vs Democracy and Other Drugs

The question of how much weight to give individual votes vs regional concerns is an important one on which reasonable people can differ. But the notion that America is either a democracy or a republic is irrelevant to that question (and to pretty much everything else). Worse, these labels, like so many others, while shedding virtually no light also shed a ton of heat.

Not asking for anyone to take my word for it. Just Google “America Democracy Republic” and see where it takes you.

A few examples:

“For all practical purposes, and in most contexts, ‘republic’ and ‘democracy’ are synonyms. The big difference is that the first comes from Latin and the latter from Greek. To say that the U.S. is a republic, not a democracy, is like claiming to eat beef and pork but not cows and pigs.”

“To say that the United States is not a democracy is correct if democracy is defined in a way that no government on Earth, past or present, qualifies as one. It is as useful to say, ‘The Vietnam War wasn’t a war, because Congress didn’t declare war.’”

“I often hear people argue that the United States is a republic, not a democracy. But that’s a false dichotomy. A common definition of ‘republic’ is, to quote the American Heritage Dictionary, ‘A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them’ — we are that. A common definition of ‘democracy’ is, ‘Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives’ — we are that, too.”

“If there’s substance behind ‘We’re a republic, not a democracy,’ it’s not as a description of American government. There’s really no difference, in the present, between a ‘republic’ and a ‘democracy’: Both connote systems of representation in which sovereignty and authority derive from the public at large.”

If the concern is over how much weight to give individual votes vs regional concerns, why not just talk about that?

There are tons of other topics poisoned by an addiction to nomenclature. For example, instead of a Manichean death match over capitalism vs socialism (as though there’s a single example of either/or anywhere on earth), why not discuss what services are best provided by the government, and what services are best left to the private sector? An important topic on which reasonable people can disagree, and probably one we could discuss with less shouting, if we could get past our love of labels.

So many labels shed more heat than light. I can’t decide if people are attached to them despite this, or because.

1 comment:

Northern PoV said...

"(as though there’s a single example of either/or anywhere on earth)"

I wish more people could understand that.

"Mixed economies" are the norm everywhere.
The better balanced places "get the mix right" and show up at the top of the happiness/quality of life ratings.