Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is the Idea of a Republic Archaic?

The best source on the meaning of the Constitution and the authority of the government created by our Founding Fathers is a collection of essays that were written in 1787 to the average American and posted in the newspapers of the day. These essays were written under the pseudonym of Publius by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay.

The essays were written as a form of explanation and, indeed, a defense of the recently drafted Constitution because a group known as the anti-Federalists, who were deeply opposed the creation of a centralized government, were making inroads via speeches and articles.

The Constitution required ratification by the States. Therefore, the Federalist essays were an unapologetic defense for the Constitutional Republic form of Government that had been framed by the founding fathers. Today these documents are compiled into one book entitled The Federalist Papers.

James Madison wrote, in part, in Federalist Essay 14, that a democracy and a republic can be differentiated in the sense that “A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot. A republic may be extended over a large region.”

This suggests that a significant premise for the formation of a Federal Republic is that it would effectively allow governance of a larger number of people.  A Democracy, in contrast, would be limited by the number of people who could possibly travel to an assembly and be a small enough group that equality would not triumph over the practicality of governance.

This was, at the time, a stroke of genius.  There were no cars, no trains, no planes.  Travel to the seat of the Federal government, was a long, arduous and dangerous trip by horse.  Collecting the wishes of the constituency of a young United States of America could only be achieved through a representative form of government.

Now leap forward about 230 years.  The Internet is here.  Transportation from the two furthest apart geographic regions of our country is measured in hours.  Face-to-face meetings are no longer necessary because technology has made many such meetings archaic; and, with it, perhaps our entire form of government.

Consider this:  much of the in-fighting that has gone on in Congress is related to the presence of two strong and polarized political parties.  Were it not for our Constitutional Republic (governance through representation), it is unlikely that these two parties would enjoy the power they have today.  In a true democracy, every citizen would have a vote.  Political parties, if they existed, would be much more fragmented and, therefore, less powerful and influential.  Political Action Committees (PACS) would cease to exist..  Corporations would have nobody to "buy" and corporate political contributions would slow down or die out completely.  And most importantly, the will of the country could not be manipulated by redistricting or the infusion of massive amounts of contributions into local political battles to allow a particular party representative to tip the balance of power in the Congress.

I'm not calling for revolution, but maybe we all need to think about whether our current form of government works anymore.  Recently, a large survey was conducted that indicated that less than 25% of the country considered themselves to be on the "left" and similar numbers were reported for the fraction that considered themselves to be on the "right."  Over 50% of this country's citizens consider themselves to be centrists and effectively unrepresented in our two-party system.

Maybe it's time for the people to seize control, before it's too late.  Just sayin'.....

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