Wednesday, January 5

REPUBLIC, AS DISTINCT FROM A DEMOCRACY?

Walter E. Williams, in his WorldNetDaily Commentary of today, "Are We A Republic Or A Democracy?" , attempts, and poorly so, to make the case that this country's Founders envisioned a Republic, as distinct from a Democracy, as the model for our national government. Nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, Williams' column sent me to the bookshelves of my personal library to retrieve the textbook I studied, as a Political Science major at Claremont McKenna College (then called Claremont Men's College), "The Democratic Republic," authored by Professors Martin Diamond, Winston Mills Fisk and Herbert Garfinkle. Professor Diamond, I should add, was once named by "Time" magazine as among the ten best teaching professors in the country.

Given Williams' assertions, it's interesting to read from the Introduction to this text that "Modern conservatives and liberals -- scholars and politicians alike -- too often pit the democratic elements of the American political order against its republican elements." The thesis postulated by Messrs. Diamond, Fisk and Garfinkle is that the democratic elements of majoritarianism and strong centralized government are not irreconciable with the republican elements of checks and balances and limited, decentralized government. "We argue that the American system is a novel experiment in reconciling the advantages of democracy with the sobering qualities of republicanism."

Contrary to Williams' view that the United States Constitution is antithetical to democratic principals, Martin Diamond writes: "The Constitution is not undemocratic and was not a retreat from democracy." He continues: "Rather, it is a thoroughgoing effort to constitute democracy." What a Democratic Republic ensures is that the central tension between majority rule and the preservation of unalienable rights (that our Maker confers, not our government) is resolved through rights proclaimed in the "Declaration of Independence" and preserved and protected by our "Constitution." In other words, majority rule must be "reasonable" and non-tyrannical, and protective of the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God.

The tension that exists between the democratic principal of popular rule and the republican principal of preservation of individual liberties forms the bedrock of what is rightly called our great experiment in self-rule -- the Democratic Republic that is the United States of America.