Ever wondered why James Madison & many of his Federalist cohorts were so adamant about founding a republic instead of a democracy? I know many of us are quick to correct our well-intentioned peers when they mistake the latter for the former, but few are aware of exactly why the word “democracy” isn’t printed anywhere in the Constitution.
In Federalist #10, James Madison stated,
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. (Emphasis mine)
To translate Madison, democracies have no check against the mob, against one faction controlling both public discourse and the government itself. This is, in part, why “checks and balances” are an integral part of our Republican form of government. The Constitution installs many of these safeguards to prevent, as Madison referenced, one man, a group of men, or a mob from holding too much power, and abusing it. The mob mentality is antithetical to our system of governance. There’s a reason why the United States was designed as a nation that respected the authority of the individual, rather than the collective.
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