A democracy and a republic are likely to be used interchangeably but they have totally different meanings. The debate on constitutional republic vs democracy does not address the fundamental differences that exist. Democracies are regarded as governments based on popularity while republics still denote majority rule but accord significant rights to individuals.
It is the interaction between government powers and the rights of individuals that differentiates republics from democracies. The fact that it is majority who exercise power in both cases is not contested. The effect this power and rights have on the minority differentiates these two government systems. In both cases, there is representation into the government.
The ruling government holds absolute power in democracies. This gives it the power to determine the right to be enjoyed by individuals to the extent of changing constitutions. The absolute power wielded by governments in democracies means that being a minority takes away certain rights until a certain time when the group joins or becomes the majority. It is a very vulnerable position for this group.
Republics have constitutions or charters that protect the certain rights from alteration or abuse. These rights are inalienable which means that the government of the day cannot violate them. This is one fundamental difference between the two systems of government. Pure democracies give free will to the reigning government which means over exposure of the minority.
An omnipotent majority exist in democracies. This means that their will is imposed upon the minority for the ruling period. The restrictions that exist in republics provide a cushion to the minority. Republics only allow alteration of inalienable rights through a constitutionally defined process that entails voting.
The exercise of sovereignty is another factor that determines whether a nation is a republic or democracy. Democracies allow the population to hold sovereignty as a group while republics reserve this right to individual citizens. This method of governing first emerged in Classical Athens.
The system used by republics is different because sovereignty belongs to the individual. These rights are safeguarded and cannot be tampered with even by a majority government. This system first emerged in Classical Rome and has three characteristic arms of government. It is the system used in USA.
There is confusion between direct and representative democracy. The two forms are distinguished by elections where the representative system allows the citizens to elect individuals into a body that advocates for their interests. The vote, opinion and voice of their representative are taken as the wish of his electorates.
Direct democracies allow the masses to exercise power on issues and representation. The population makes decisions directly in matters of the law and governance. This is exemplified in referendums and voting processes where each citizen makes an individual decision.
The existence of rule of law in US makes it a republic. It has a written law or constitution that guides representatives on how to act. This trend has been adapted in many nations with slight variations. The mixture of the two systems can be seen in cases where government hold powers to a certain extent while the populace also has a say on certain issues.
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