Thursday, October 24, 2013

Scourge of the Libertarians

Not my choice of title, but it's flattering.


Chris said...

Hi Mike,

Can you comment on the libertarian meme about America being a republic, not a democracy? Are they thinking of the early Roman republic, where only a privileged group (wealthy patricians) had the right to vote or hold office?

Mike Huben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Huben said...

Good question: I'v e added the answer to my site at:
The US is a republic, not a democracy.

This libertarian/conservative meme is an equivocation fallacy, intended to disrupt statements by their opposition. It is indisputable that the US is a republic. It is also indisputable that the US is a nation with democratic elections, making it a type of democracy.

Elections are built right into the Constitution, even if the word democracy is not used. The Constitution and the Federalist Papers (at great length) avoid using the term democracy for elections to help make clear the difference between ancient "pure" democracy and the new hybrid which they propose.

The US is a particular type of republic: a sovereign, constitutional, federal, presidential, representative democratic, liberal republic. When Americans use the term "democracy", that's what they are talking about, not direct democracy. Direct democracy does exist in state governance, but only as a very small, secondary role.

The words "democratic" and "democracy" have evolved in popular usage over two centuries of experience with governments based on the will of the people rather than aristocracy, dictators and oligarchs. It is dishonest of libertarians to ignore this to "correct" opponents. An honest approach would be to point out characteristics in addition to indirect democracy: but the reader response would be "Well, duh, everybody knows that!" instead of "Ooo, you nailed him!"