Friday, October 03, 2008

Democracy or Republic?

For a good while my friend from the sovereign state of Missouri can have some philosophical discussions. We might talk about society, race relations, economics, foreign affairs, or even systems of government. We especially talked a lot about the differences of a Republic or a Democracy.

He told me a definition of a Republic and he told me that the idea was written up in the Virgina and Kentucky Declarations. In those documents Republics were said to be a form of government where majority rules, however, there are minority rights protection. This was the idea of our Constitution to provide for a Republican form of government and allow for the protect of minorities.

I don't necesarily mean racial, ethnic, women, homosexuals or anybody like that. Perhaps it could be as simple as those groups or individuals who are largely at odds with where the mainstream is, especially politically. Such individuals have to be represented as well.

In saying this I know that it's very idealized. American hasn't always lived up to it's great purported promise, but then with all things that Americans are endowed or entitled to especially our inalienable natural rights we have to fight for them. Especially if it seems that a government that is supposed to guarantee its people their natural rights seems to have this great ability to deny them.

All the same we have one idea of what a Republic should be. Then what about Democracy? Is Democracy truly ideal where majority wills a direction for a governor or a society?

In the south, once upon a time, it was willed to keep blacks segregated. It was also willed that blacks get punished for crimes against whites while similar crimes portrayed by whites against blacks were treated with slaps on the wrists. The point I want to make is that it can become a slippery slope.

I saw this page today courtesy of the website for Illinois Democrats for which I'm not sure it's the official site for the Illinois Democratic Party. There was this link to a page for Conservative Democrats. Then another page that sought to explain the differences between a Republic and a Democracy. I thought that they over simplified it. It almost sounded like they were throwing the whole classism card.

Does a Republic entail leading people? Does a Democracy entail serving the people? Could a Republic serve the people and could a Democracy lead the people? Would there be much of a difference?

When we elect people to represent us we do expect them to lead. At the same time as voters we do have expectations. What they are might vary from time to time but sometimes a leader shouldn't just go by public opinion alone.

A leader wouldn't serve the population if he/she just fell in with popular opinion. Especially if it could have disastrous results. At the same time a leader should follow public opinion especially if he/she isn't serving the public's best interest by pursuing a policy against the public's best interest.

It's certainly a fine line between leading vs. serving the people. Perhaps it's correct to say there is an art to this and that if you went to that Republic or Democracy page I would hope some of us recognize that it's not that simple.

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