Many Americans (not all) seem to think that the USA is a Democracy. It isn't; it is a Republic.

It may seem like I am being pedantic here, but there is a real difference between the two forms of government.

A republic is the rule of the people by an elected body of officials (and an elected head of state). Once they have been elected you, the people, have no real control over them. They can do whatever they want so long as they don't break the law. They don't have to keep campaign promises (although it helps if they want to get reelected)

A democracy is the rule of the people by the people. That means anyone can vote on anything (or, indeed, Everything). All votes are open to the public; if you disagree with foreign policy then you can vote to change it, etc.

The distinction between the two is hardly subtle.


On the other hand, the USA is (to the best of my knowledge) as close to being a democracy as any other country on this planet. Indeed, even the ancient Athenians (from whom we get the idea of democracy) didn't have a true democracy - only the wealthy could vote, not the slaves, people who had moved to Athens, or the working class.

Or course, for a long time it was not practical to create a true democracy: in a country of even 1 million people it would have taken far too long to get anything done. Now, however, the technology exists to allow millions of people to vote on laws and issues relevant to them. For that matter, a (heavily) modified version of Everything would allow people to put forwards bills and others to vote on them.

Then again, just because we have the technology doesn't mean we should use it. One great demagogue could persuade people to pass harmful laws, and could even gain substantial power over the people in this way (see accounts from Athens around 400BC where the voters were persuaded to vote to sack a city state because it was considering opposing the Delian League - which Athens ruled over). Indeed, even now a true democracy would probably be too slow acting to work.