Difference Between Democracy and Republic

Utah state Capitol

In this article, we will illustrate the differences between a democracy and republic. The main difference between a democracy and a republic is the limitations placed on governments by the law. A democracy is a government system where all eligible citizens have equal rights to participation, development and creation of laws either directly or by chosen representatives. It is a government of the people where the voice of the majority rules. A republic refers to a government with a chosen head of state that serves for a limited term. Even in a republic government, the voice of the majority rules. However, there are laws protecting the rights of the minority. It is easier to think that the two systems are mutually exclusive but they often overlap in many situations.

A republic is a form of representational democracy with some laws that check and balance the constitution to make sure the rights of the minorities are protected. The United States is a republic. It is common to hear American politicians referring to the U.S as a “democracy”. However, what they are referring to is a representational democracy which is the same as a republic.

There are many political implications that come with the U.S being a republic. Laws voted for by the majority could be challenged if they violate the U.S constitution and therefore could be overturned. Democracies are believed to be here longer than republics. It is however difficult to tell exactly where each system started. Many countries and cultures have both democratic and republican characteristics. The most well documented early democracy was found in Greece and the most well documented historical representational republic is the Roman republic. Although the word democracy is quite popular and the desire to achieve democracy is common, most countries today are republics operating under a presidential system.


Comparison Board

Definition The majority rules supreme. A representative democracy limited by the establishment of a written constitution.
Social Structure Class distinctions may be prominent in capitalist societies. Class distinctions may be prominent in capitalist societies.
Constraints on the government No Yes (Constitutional Constraints).
Religion Religious freedom is the norm unless in cases where the majority chooses otherwise. Religious freedom is the norm unless this is limited by a constitution.
Political System Democratic (this is a system, not the party) Republican (this is a system, not the party)
Economic System Mainly capitalism or Keynesianism. Mainly capitalism or Keynesianism.
Famous Examples Rome, Classical Greece United States Of America, France, Rome
Sovereignty is held by The citizenry  (as a group) Individual citizens
Key Elements Free elections Free elections guided by a constitution.
Modern Examples US, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Western Europe etc. The US
Free Choice Yes, unless limited by the majority. Yes unless limited by a constitution.
Private Property Private ownership is permitted unless limited by the majority. Private ownership permitted unless limited by a constitution.
Variations Direct democracy, representative democracy, parliamentary democracy. Constitutional republics, Democratic republics.
Way of Change Voting. Voting.


Venn Diagram

3 thoughts on “Difference Between Democracy and Republic”

  1. The difference is that ‘republic’ comes from Latin and ‘democracy’ comes from Greek. That is really about it. Democracies can and usually do have constitutions, Republics can and usually do feature majority rule. There is no tension, at all, between having a constitution and having majority rule. A country has majority rule even when there are limits on the majority, in the same way that a country is a monarchy even when there are limits on the King. Majority rule is just the system you have when the actions the government can take are taken as the result of majority support. Constitutions just ell you what kinds of actions the government can take. You are confusing how decisions are made with what decisions can be made.
    Individual citizens are not sovereign in any system of government. Having each person be sovereign is what individualistic anarchism promotes.
    Also Keynesianism is not an alternative to capitalism, it is a variety of capitalism. And if capitalism or Keynesianism existed in ancient Rome and Athens then that will come as news to economic historians, and biographers of Keynes.

  2. A major benefit of a constitution is that it says what a government can or cannot do and can be viewed by anyone.
    A major problem with a constitution is that it can be ignored.
    It seems the US constitution is hard to ignore perhaps because of the many ways disputes can be settled within it short of what could be a very well armed and complex insurrection.


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