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Laboratory Coordinator, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi


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A proposed taxonomy of "Republic".

From time to time, various people complain that the USA is not, and is not meant to be a "democracy". Instead it is to be a "republic". The problem is that there seems to be no consensus on what this means. What is a "democracy"? What is a "republic". I propose the following.

A "democracy" is a country in which "the people", defined in such a way as to include at least a majority of adult citizens of that country, participate in legislation, executive activity, and judicial appointment, either directly or through representatives that they have elected from among candidates. If indirect, the people are free to elect or reject any or all candidates for representative without any fear of sanction on the part of the state or state-like entity and that no single organization shall control who will or will not be a candidate, or in the case of a direct democracy, all legislation and policy decisions shall be fully open and equally available to all members of the people. Thus, "single-party" states cannot be democracies, since this fundamental level of choice is denied.

Regarding "republic", I propose the following definitions: A "protocol republic" is any state that is not ruled by a hereditary monarch--"dignitas" is not private property. A "constitutional republic" is a state in which the powers of government are constitutionally limited both in theory and practice--authority is not private property. A constitution need not be "written" to be in force.

Thus, the USA would be an indirect democratic protocol and constitutional republic. The UK would be a protocol monarchy, indirect democratic constitutional republic.

China would be a non-democratic protocol republic. In China, authority is the private property of the state, without de facto limit, but "dignitas" of the head of state is not inherited like property.


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  • Sep 8 2013: It could re-frame political discussions by specifying functional differences between a republic and a democracy. Blindly citing wikipedia as an infallible and eternal source says nothing.
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      Sep 10 2013: Wikipedia was easier to link to than to the encyclopedia sitting on my shelf. Nevertheless I can not find any reference of mine to have named it infallible - its wikipedia, and you know what that means, do you?

      Maybe it is that I do not see any practical use in yet another taxonomy of terms about you said that it 'seems to be no consensus' on the existing ones. So what? Does this hinder any state, any nation to do what it does? Does it help countries to treat each other more peaceful? I have my doubts, because if a discussion is on that level of detail, it is either held by enthusiasts or nitpickers whose main interest has long been off any relevant and problem solving attitude.

      Anyway, if it helps you and others to better understand why an 'indirect democratic protocol and constitutional republic' does anything to avoid to become a 'non-democratic protocol republic', yet uses the existing ones to increase individual profits and to sell them government bonds to be able to remain an 'indirect democratic protocol and constitutional republic' thats fine, but to me this is just confusing things and not helping at all ... :o)

      But thats just me.

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