Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Republics vs. Democracies

Now, first off, I want to make it clear that this is not a political debate. I'm not talking about the political parties, I'm not talking about Republicans or Democrats. This is the correction of a common error, the error being that we have a Democracy.

We don't. Want proof? Okay, recite to Pledge of Allegiance. Done? Good. Now, back up to the line that says "And to the _______ for which it stands." What was in that blank? Was it Democracy? No. It was Republic.

"But!" you say, "My teachers always taught me we had a Democracy. That's what I hear on TV when I watch the news!" Well, I'm sorry, but they had it wrong. We have a Republic. Yes, I'm saying that your teachers and that our politicians  have their definitions mixed up.

To tell the truth, Athens DID have a democracy. Everyone (that is, every man over a certain age) was allowed to vote ... on everything! This wasn't just the election of people to make laws - they made the laws! They judged criminals! Yes, there was an overseeing government, however, it had little power against the people - and it was not chosen by the people! No! The overseeing government was names pulled out of a hat. Anyone could become part of this ruling body - if their name was drawn. And this body was there mostly to direct the flow of directions, and to curb any mobs that tried to form. This body also dealt with any visiting ambassadors from other city-states, countries and such.

That's not what we have, is it? NO, what we have is more like what Rome and Sparta had. They both had republics, specifically, a republic monarchy. Interestingly enough, they are also two of the greatest military peoples of antiquity.

For a while, Rome had a pure republic, but Julius Caesar, and Caesar Augustus put an end to that. Until that point, Rome was governed by a group of senators (now where have I heard that term before?). These Senators were actually not elected, but appointed by the consuls, who were two men elected for one-year terms, and later by the Censors. There were two ways to be selected for this job - you had to either born to senatorial class, or you had to given special permission to be considered.

Sparta's goal as a city-state was to prevent change, so they had as many checks and balances as possible. They had two kings, a council of 28 that were elected for life (of which five were annually elected to be over the council), and all Spartan males over the age of eighteen were given a vote. Indeed, the founding fathers based our government more on this setup, than on that of Athens.


2 comments:

  1. This interested me a lot, and I'm actually going to write a report on it for this coming school year. However, I consider us to have more of a Democratic Republic, a mix of the two. My Dad says this is because we're living at the bottom of the statue in Nebuchanezzer's (sp?) dream. The mix of iron and clay, because we are a mix of legal systems.

    ReplyDelete

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