Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why the ideals of Democracy and Republicanism are antithetical to each other

American Conservatives assert that the United States was founded as a Constitutional Republican and they are 100% correct. Befittingly of its name, the Republican Party aspires to defend the founding principles of this nation by preserving the essential elements of the Republic. One of such elements is the principle of individual rights that they jealously guard from all threats "foreign or domestic". Most people are inclined to see that as a good thing and presume that other admirable political ideals such as democracy can be reconciled with this principle.

The reality is that the United States was not founded as a Democracy, it was founded as a Republic and that is evidenced by the fact that the word "democracy" has not been mentioned in the Constitution. The essential definition of "democracy" is a rule by the people and most people desire to have fulfilling lives characterized by dignity, material comfort and opportunities to actualize their talents. In the process of a achieving a truly democratic society, it is inevitable that the rights of some people will need to be compromised. For example, if one wishes to create a society where all people have equal opportunities to achieve upward mobility, the well off will need to sacrifice some of their rights to maximize their prosperity. While economics is not a zero-sum game and in some scenarios it is possible for the rich and the underprivileged to undertake a collective venture that benefits both sides, that is not always the case. Thus, a compromise of individual rights is simply an inevitable prerequisite for the creation of the commons where as many people as possible are able to advance their interests. Admittedly, this will impose limitations on the degree to which the most capable and resourceful of individuals will be able to advance theirs.

The bottom line is that the ideals of preservation of the individual rights cannot be fully reconciled with the democratic ideals. The two are fundamentally antithetical to one another because one seeks to safeguard the individual rights of all individuals and the other seeks to compromise them in the name of another political objective. The Republican Defenders of individual rights are rightly called conservative because they wish to preserve the foundational principles of this country. By contrast, their opponents who wish to undermine them are called progressive because they have abandoned the founding principles in favor of other political ideals.

Although it is impossible to be fully committed to Republicanism and Democracy, we must be very wary of the tendency to fully embrace one at the complete exclusion of another. An excessive commitment to democracy can erode individual rights to the point where a state of totalitarian communism will ensue. Conversely, an intransigent adherence to the Republican form of government that guards individual rights at all cost will invariably lead to social stratification where only the most fortunate and the most talented can find fulfillment. It is essentially impossible for the two ideologies to be in perfect harmony with one another and all societies will unavoidably be more committed to one than to the other. Thus, a humane and a free society requires not a bipartisan balance between Republican and Democratic ideals, but a constant conflict between the two.

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