The Key 2 Liberty involves learning the principles of freedom for yourself and then sharing your knowledge with others.



Rule by the majority.  Many people use the terms democracy and republic interchangeably to describe the government of the United States.  These terms are certainly not interchangeable as there are distinct and drastically important differences between the two.  A democracy requires the participation of all members of society in the day to day affairs of the government.  In a true democracy every law is voted on by every member of society.  This may be possible for a small group of people but is impractical in large societies.  Most people in a complex society do not have the available free time to properly research the bills, resolutions or treaties that need to be voted on, on a regular basis, to continue the day to day operations of the government.  They base their decisions on feelings of passion instead of using sound judgment after carefully reviewing the facts.  Another key aspect of a democracy is that laws are passed by a simple majority of the people.  To an uninformed person, a democracy can sound like a very reasonable form of government as it operates by the will of the majority.  A few very simple examples, however, can immediately shed light on the key problem with democracies.  In a democracy, if 51% of the people feel that people with red hair should pay 10% higher taxes than everyone else then it becomes a law and if 51% of the people think people of French dissent should not be allowed to live past 50 then it can also become a law.  These are extreme examples but the point is that democracies do not guarantee any rights of the people and especially the rights of the minority.

James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and known as the father of the Constitution wrote in Federalist Papers, No. 10; “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 results 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.”

It is interesting to note that until the beginning of the twentieth century the term democracy was never used by American politicians.  President Woodrow Wilson was the first President to use the term democracy and contended that the US needed to enter World War I to “make the world safe for democracy.”  The term democracy is not found anywhere in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States or in any of the individual state constitutions.  The founders would place a government operating as a democracy somewhere between the center and the left of the political power scale.  A government that is ruled by ALL of the people, not just the majority as in a democracy, is generally placed at the center of the political power scale but one that does not protect the rights of the people including the right to private property is placed on the left side of the scale.

A final comment on democracies is best left to a historian named Alexander Tyler who explained the reason why democracies eventually fail; “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until [a majority of] the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse [gifts] from the public treasury.  From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy [taxing and spending], always followed by a dictatorship.  The average life of the world’s greatest civilizations has been two hundred years.” [The Making of America, p. 264].


The most prevalent trait of a republican form of government is that the people maintain total control over its operations.  Republics are societies that are governed by codified laws that are created by representatives of the people.  The person presiding as the head of state is elected by the people, sometimes indirectly, and is put in charge of enforcing the laws which have been created by the representatives of the people.  The government body of a republic is typically divided into multiple branches to prevent the consolidation of political power in the hands of a few people (oligarchy).  There are several different forms of republics.  They vary by the level of power that is granted to their individual branches and the relationship each branch has to the others.  The most common forms of republics will be described in more detail.

The earliest form of a republic was the Roman Republic which lasted almost 500 years (approx 510 BC – 44 BC).  It was governed by a constitution that set up three different branches of government; the Legislative Assemblies (representation of the common people), the Senate (representation of the aristocratic sector of the people), and an executive branch comprised of executive magistrates.  Although it provided a set of checks and balances to level the powers between the individual branches, the Legislative Assemblies was the dominate branch of this republic.  A major flaw in the constitution of the Roman Republic was that it was largely unwritten and uncodified.  Although the Roman Republic remained prosperous for nearly a half of a millennium it eventually collapsed and was replaced with a dictatorship in 44 BC with the appointment of Julius Caesar as “dictator in perpetuity”.

The Founder’s believed that an ideal government would be one that, for the most part, allows the people to manage their own day to day affairs and provides just enough regulations to protect the individual rights of the people.  The Founders were well aware that governments were necessary in order to establish a lawful society but that too much government always resulted in the loss of individual freedoms.  The Founders believed that the ideal position for a government to be on the political power scale was at a point midway between tyrannical governments on the far left and a state of anarchy on the far right.

A few quotes from Thomas Jefferson summarize his thoughts on the proper level of power that should be granted to the government:

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it had earned.  This is the sum of good government.”

Thomas Paine couldn’t have explained it any better when he said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”

Unitary Republic

A unitary republic is a form of republic in which all power is concentrated at the national level.  The United Kingdom currently operates as a unitary republic.  In this particular system, sometimes called the Westminster System, the legislative branch, called Parliament, is the superior government body.  Parliament, in addition to creating the laws, selects the head of government who is referred to as the prime minister and is typically the leader of the majority party in power.  There is also a head of state, currently Queen Elizabeth II, who technically only serves as a figurehead.  The Queen, however, does retain certain reserve powers that can be exercised during extreme circumstances.  Since the United Kingdom has a monarch that operates under the parameters of a constitution it is often referred to as a constitutional monarchy.  The Founder’s studied this system of government and believed that a country with a legislature that is supreme to the other branches would to closely resemble a monarchy in its operation and therefore chose to structure our republic differently.

Although a unitary republic gives the people control over the government, its power is concentrated at the national level.  The Founder’s felt that concentration of power at the national level would eventually result in the loss of the people’s rights which often occurred under monarchies.  They wanted to make sure that the people were governed by elected officials that lived close to them.  For the Founders, a unitary republic was positioned too far to the left of the ideal center position on the political power scale.

Thomas Jefferson was a stanch supporter of strong, local governments.  He once said, “We were directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”

In greater detail he explained, “Our country is too large to have all of its affairs directed by a single government.  Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens; and the same circumstance, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite the public agents to corruption, plunder, and waste.  And I do verily believe that if the principle were to prevail of a common law being in force in the United States (which principle possesses the general government at once of all the powers of the state governments, and reduces us to a single consolidated government), it would become the most corrupt government on earth…. What an augmentation of the field for jobbing, speculating, plundering, office-building and office-hunting would be produced by an assumption of all the state powers into the hands of the general government!  The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. – Bergh 10:167. (1800) [The Real Thomas Jefferson, p. 432]