Sunday, August 5, 2012

Is America a Democracy?

Is America a democracy? This is a question that I have heard time and again through out my life. One occurrence has stood out in my memory. Once while studying at the University library I remember over hearing a conversation between two young girls, well I suppose more of an argument about this question. In the end one of the two insisted that America was not a Democracy, but instead was a Republic.

I doubt that she understood the definition of a Republic. That it included any state that was absent a monarch and whose government was a matter of public not private concern. This included nations like the United States that maintains universal suffrage allowing all members of the public to play at least a small role in the operations of the government. Of course the definition of a republic is on the other hand very broad. It would also include a nation such a Russia.

It is hard to argue that Russia is a democracy. Its elections are highly corrupt and constantly challenged by internal and external organizations. According to the website,, Russia has no freedom in the Press and only limited access to the Internet. In the US we enjoy complete freedom of expression through a free press and uncensored access to the Internet. The greatest fear our people experience when heading to a voting booth is that of having to wait in a long line. In Russia, and many other countries, voting comes with the fear of repression and threats of abuse, incarceration, and torture at the hands of local authorities.

In the US all of these freedoms are made possible by one key aspect of our form of government, The Rule of Law. I mentioned this idea before in a post I wrote about Chen Guangchengs the self taught Lawyer and activist of recent fame. It is an important idea, which many Americans have become hostile to over the passing years. Americans seem to be hardwired to oppose all forms authority they view as external to their individual lives. Even when the law in question may be for the exact purpose of preventing other individuals from restricting their individual rights or in many cases may be necessary in terms of the public good.

In the end there is a great deal going on behind the question I posed at the beginning of this post. Too much I feel for a single post, so it is my humble intention to write a series of posts on the subject over the next few weeks. For now I will leave you with a quote from Aristotle’s Politics. Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comment section about this quote:

“But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share; so that it results that in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign (Aristotle’s Politics 1317b).”

Looking forward to your thoughts as I start this series. Cheers.

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