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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REPUBLIC AND A DEMOCRACY

In recent times, the theory of governance has got a lot of airtime in media the world over. There has been a lot of talk in the circles of political science where everyone keeps espousing the benefits and otherwise of democracy. Things, however, get to a head when people start using the two terms, republics and democracies interchangably. While all republics are democracies, not all democracies are republics.
A democracy refers to rule of the majority. A republican rule is a little more complicated. A republic is a country where justice (esp. protection of a human being’s God given rights) is the main governing principle. In short, a democracy can lean to the right or left depending on what the people decide. However, a republic is necessarily a market economy where the individual’s rights are upheld against aggressors who could be his fellow men or the state.
In a democracy, justice -for lack of a better word- is popular in nature. It’s founded on convention as the masses are not known to draw their conclusions from reason, rather they draw their conclusions from emotion.
Plato rightly observes that democracies, whether direct or representative, are but one step away from anarchy. The reason is simple; the elected representatives then become servants of the people, swayed by public opinion which need not necessarily be right or wrong. Indeed, for people, if opinion is wrong there is no check against popular tyranny and therefore proper democracies suffer from lack of corrective mechanisms.
History have shown us that when people exercise power outside the framework of a republic, there is a gradual decay of respect for the hardworking and the productive as the rulers turn tyrannical in favor of the lazy or the unproductive. The rulers are tempted to use state power to acquire and expropriate the wealth of the productive and hardworking in favor of the lazy and or the unproductive. This is done through unjustified taxation exercised for purposes of redistribution of wealth through welfare programmes.
Democratic governments always tend to populist notions such as welfare. Welfare can only be sustained by taxing those that earn more and distribute these earnings, after paying some bureaucrats in between, to the needy who are, necessarily, unproductive members of society and in some cases lazy members of society. Though well intended, the democratic government’s deviation from the principle of rewarding hard work creates moral hazard. By taxing the more hard working and productive to raise funds to finance the lifestyles of the less productive and, in a lot of cases, the lazy serves to discourage the hard workers from working hard and encourage those getting the freebies to continue doing more of the same.
A republic is designed to protect the individual from the oppressive powers of the state. A republic ensures that the bill of rights is developed in order to identify and protect the rights of the individual from the tyranny of the majority. Note that the bill of rights does not confer rights the individual rights because they are not for anyone to give. Rather, the bill of rights recognizes an individual’s God given rights such as the freedom of conscious, speech, freedom etc. Freedom and rights are not for man to give, but for every man to enjoy.
In conclusion, the position is, in a democracy, as Socrates found out, the tyranny of the majority is a real phenomenon and on the other hand, in a republic, the smallest minority is protected. Further, the economic growth rates of republics and the living standards of republics are much better and more stable than those of simple democracies while the income disparities are also smaller.

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