Owen Brovont, Livermore

While inconsistent quality of leadership has proven the usual source of instability of most societies, their Achilles’ Heel has actually been the quality of their citizens. Disregarding the predominance of tyranny depicted in history, in a “pure democracy” all decisions flow from the body of citizens having the franchise; that is, the right to vote on all decisions affecting their society. The problem with pure democracy is that it is fragile and it is vulnerable. It is fragile because its direction is fluid and can too readily respond to short-sighted expressions of popular will. It is also sensitive and vulnerable to the frequently undisciplined passions of its citizens. Passionate people, especially when they are shallow, ignorant and deceitfully led by glib rhetoric, are susceptible to joining in mob behavior and suspending their moral and ethical principles, which are ordinarily the basis of sound judgment. Mob behavior is often driven and cleverly guided by individuals who have motives not revealed to the mob. These leaders persuade the mob to do things that most of the participants would not ordinarily do were they not under sway of their passions which divorce them from reason and judgment.

A final criticism of pure democracy is that after a society grows to a certain size, pure democracy is impracticable because it is unmanageable and is therefore destined to become a tyranny of one form or another. For these, and other reasons, building a government based upon pure democracy is unwise. After several thousand years, the principle of people being free and responsible for their own governance has been judged the only morally and ethically satisfactory arrangement for living together in societies. This conclusion raised the problem of how to create a social structure where the citizens are free individuals and the society can manage itself effectively in ways that preserve that individual freedom.  The solution is a Democratic Republic. A Democratic Republic retains the preferred features of a democracy in that the citizens are free to lead their lives as they wish so long as they do not deny that same freedom to other citizens.  t responds to the requirement that it be manageable by periodic election from its members to represent their views in public forums where issues are freely discussed and weighty, impactful decisions require serious majority support. Does this describe contemporary American political practice?  What are the consequences if it does not?