Posted by: A. C. Cockerill | April 11, 2012

Question of the Week #14: Government

Question of the Week #14:

What is the difference between “a republic” and “a democracy”?


  1. I believe a democracy is when citizens vote directly for their leaders and a republic is where citizens vote for representatives, who in turn vote for the leaders. Am I correct?

    • Hi Jolyse,

      The terms “democracy” and “republic” are problematic. There are several definitions.

      In the USA, democracy often refers to a government voted in by the people either directly or indirectly through representatives. A republic refers to a democracy with an elected head of state, who is bound by a constitution (as opposed to a monarch or dictator). This definition set ties back to the Founding Fathers and their fight for independence from the English monarchy. James Madison is said to have claimed that democracies get weaker as they grow and republics get stronger as they grow.

      The other frequent usage has democracy being used for a government voted in directly by the people and republic being used for a government voted in through representatives.

      Cheers, Ashley

  2. In a true democracy, everyone has a voice in government. In a republic, people vote for representatives, who act as their voices in government.

    • Hi Meggan, Your description fits one of several definitions I found. Cheers, Ashley

  3. good question. not sure of the answer. we allow political parties to elect leaders and then if they win their seat, they become the power of the new government. so alison redford was recently elected as the leader of the conservative party. now we’re in the midst of a provincial election and if she wins her seat and her party wins the majority she will be the provincial premier. not good but it is the way it is.

    • Hi Louise, Very interesting. Your system sounds similar to that of the UK. Cheers, Ashley

  4. I believe Jolyse has it right. Greece was a democracy, where everyone got together to vote on an issue. America is a representational republic, where an individual is elected to vote on issues for their “people”

    • Hi Mona, It’s also interesting to compare the ancient Greek democracy versus the early Roman republic, before it started to evolve into an empire. Cheers, Ashley

  5. The only democracies we’ve ever had in this country were the original New England settlements where townspeople gathered to vote directly on matters of government.

    Obviously, that can’t be done on a national basis. Even when we first won our independence our nation was too far-flung for that to be practical, which is why our forefathers founded a constitutional republic.

    The concept of a constitutional republic is that the people elect those who will run the government, but those elected officials are constrained by the limits placed on them by the constitution. Unfortunately, in the 20th century our federal judiciary decided the constitution was not as important as their own opinions, so they began ignoring and “:re-interpreting” it at will.

    • Hi David, In choosing a constitutional republic instead of a straight democracy, I think the Founding Fathers also considered the views of those living in the country versus the views of those living in the cities. Their lifestyles have always been very different, and each group struggles to understand the other. And now there’s a third group, those who live in the suburbs. I’m a suburbia girl myself. 🙂 Cheers, Ashley

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