Sunday, August 16, 2009

Forms of Government: Republic

The term “republic,” through history & today, represents many different ideologies. It was first used by Niccolo Machiavelli to refer to any government not ruled by a monarch but by the people.

Most republics name a President as the head of state. The U.S. was the first to use this title. The President is usually elected to the office by the people. According to Wikipedia, “In states with a parliamentary system the president is usually elected by the parliament.”

In political systems referred to as “crowned republics,” there is a hereditary monarchy but the power of the monarchy is relatively ceremonial & most of the real political power resides in the elected officials.

Some countries claim to be a republic yet operate more like a monarchy, such as in the case of North Korea & Syria. In these states, the leader has assumed absolute power &, even though there is no constitutional requirement, the title seems to be being passed down from father to son.

Elective monarchy, such as in Malaysia & the Holy Roman Empire, are rare today but were not uncommon in the past. These forms of government give the leader full authority but are elected by the people, sometimes for life & sometimes for a set period of time.

Since adding “Republic” in the name of a country is awfully popular nowadays, many countries have come up with descriptive words to better describe the system in which they adhere to. I have already described a “parliamentary republic” above. Another example would be a “federal republic” or “confederation” or “federation.” Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Germany, India, Russia, & Switzerland follow this system. It can be described as “a federal union of states or provinces with a republican form of government.”

Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Iran are all ruled by Islamic law & are referred to as “Islamic republics.”

“Democratic republic” seems to be the preferred moniker that communist countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo & the former German Democratic Republic tend to use in order to insist they are democratic.

China & North Korea like to use the term “people’s republic” to mean that they are directed for & by “the people,” however this is typically done by indirect elections.

Wikipedia states:
“States of the United States are required, like the federal government, to be a republican in form, with final authority resting with the people. This was required because the states were intended to create & enforce most domestic laws, with the exception of areas delegated to the federal government & prohibit to the states. The founding fathers of the country intended most domestic laws to be handled by the states, although, over time, the federal government has gained more & more influence over domestic law. Requiring the states to be a republic in form was seen as protecting the citizens’ rights & preventing a state from becoming a dictatorship or monarchy, & reflected unwillingness on the part of the original 13 states (all independent republics) to unite with other states that were not republics. Additionally, this requirement ensured that only other republics could join the union.”

Quotes about the Republic:

“Yes, we did produce a near-perfect republic. But will they keep it? Or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the path of destruction.” Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States & author of the Declaration of Independence; 1762-1826)

“This republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it.” Elmer Davis (American radio announcer & news commentator; 1890-1958)

“That book [Bible], sir, is the rock on which our republic rests.” Andrew Jackson (7th President of the United States; 1767-1845)

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag

“Every citizen of the republic ought to consider himself an unofficial policeman, and keep unsalaried watch and ward over the laws and their execution.” Mark Twain (American humorist, writer, & lecturer; 1835-1910)

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