And now a word about “republics” vs. “democracies”


I’ve received many comments over the past week about my last cartoon, snootily lecturing me that “We live in a republic, not a democracy.” I’m posting my response here so I can point people to it in the future.

1. A constitutional republic is a form of democracy. To quote from this:

The United States is not a direct democracy, in the sense of a country in which laws (and other government decisions) are made predominantly by majority vote. Some lawmaking is done this way, on the state and local levels, but it’s only a tiny fraction of all lawmaking. But we are a representative democracy, which is a form of democracy.

2. It’s not big or small government that I care about; it’s smart or stupid. In other words, it’s about policy, not “the government.” Once you start doing away with government, or the idea that government regulation is necessary, you grant more power to corporations and Wall Street. Government exists as a check on abuses of power by moneyed interests. While government can be corrupt to varying degrees, the fashionably cynical belief that all government is inherently corrupt is an idea that enables corruption.

The primary way to end government corruption is through campaign finance reform and publicly-funded elections. Anti-government libertarians have not supported candidates or policies that would lead to this outcome. Gorsuch will uphold Citizens United, ensuring future corruption of politicians by moneyed interests, furthering the right-wing ideology that government is inherently corrupt. And so the cycle continues.



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  • ACounter

    Merriam Webster also has a discussion about the words “democracy” and “republic” at this URL: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/republic. It starts at the “Is the United States a democracy or a republic?” section heading.

  • Rubicon

    The best way to curtail government corruption is to not give it so much power to begin with. I agree that regulation can, in theory, be a good thing, but is that automatically so? How does society benefit from licensing requirements for interior decorators (and yes, that’s a thing) or hair braiding? Sometimes such regulations exist not for the public benefit but to use government to protect entrenched business interests, you know.

    Sometimes smart government does mean less.

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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