If friend look carefully at the United states Pledge the Allegiance, you"ll see that it calls the United claims a republic. It reads: "I pledge allegiance come the flag that the United says of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, through liberty and also justice for all." for this reason what does that mean, exactly? have the right to the United claims be both a democracy and also a republic? and what is the difference between a democracy and republic, anyway?

As it transforms out, there are subtle, yet important, differences in between a democracy and a republic, and that the interpretations aren"t support exclusive. In other words, it"s complicated. however don"t worry! learning the differences between a republic vs a democracy is vital for loads of AP exams, consisting of both background tests (U.S. And world) and both government and politics exam (U.S. And also comparative). That"s why we"ve placed this overview together because that you.

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By the finish of this article, you"ll know the definitions of a democracy and also a republic, exactly how they operate, the differences in between them, and also where the United claims fits right into the discussion.

So let"s gain started!


What Is a Democracy?

The ax "democracy" originates from the combination of two Greek words: "demos," meaning "the people," and "kratia," which method "power or authority." Thus, a democracy describes a kind of government where the power to govern rests v a country"s human being rather 보다 a ruling household (a monarchy) or a single individual (totalitarianism). That way that citizens regulate how their federal government operates, usually with voting.

The beginnings of Democracy

The ax "democracy" first pops up in the fifth century BCE to refer to the government in Athens, Greece. in between 508 BCE and also 322 BCE, Athenians governed themselves in what is currently referred to together a pure democracy. (Don"t worry...we"ll get in that a small later.)

Ancient Athenians didn"t have actually anyone to represent them in government; instead, everyone had actually a voice—literally. Debates on topics of governance were organized publicly in what was referred to as The Athenian Assembly, and also every male Athenian citizen had individual voting rights. Not only that, but qualified citizen were offered time off of work and a stipend to help make certain every voice to be heard! with the Assembly, every voice can weigh in ~ above every issue, and all laws and also rules of governance were developed based on bulk rule.

While this type of democracy would ultimately be replaced by a an ext representative kind of government, the underlying idea—that federal government works best when it"s run by the citizens—would go on to affect the governance of most of the western world, consisting of the united States.


The 3 significant Types of Democracies

With farming populations and more complex systems of government, the Athenian technique of one voice, one poll doesn"t always work. So as the human being has changed, democracy has readjusted with it. Here are the three major types the democracies seen in the human being today.

Direct Democracy

Also well-known as pure democracy, direct democracy is democracy in the most straightforward form. Just like the Athenians at the Assembly, straight democracy lets each qualified separation, personal, instance shape plan by casting a direct vote. In other words, citizens space directly involved in the political process!

In this system, politics decisions are made based upon what the bulk of voter decide. Each qualified human casts a vote, and the group with the most number of votes wins. The benefits to a straight democracy are that it lets each person, regardless of class, race, or financial position have actually a voice.

However, in practice, direct democracies often exclude specific groups. Because that instance, in ancient Athens, only male citizens had actually the ideal to take part in direct democracy. Women, criminals, and slaves—even though they were topic to Athens" laws and policies—were refuse a voice.

Additionally, direct democracy doesn"t constantly work well on a big scale. That"s due to the fact that there are an overwhelming number of decisions that have to be made to keep governments running.

Examples of direct Democracy in Action

Because direct democracy have the right to be unwieldy on the nationwide level, over there are few countries that use it together a primary governmental system. However that doesn"t mean direct democracy doesn"t exist anymore! here are some instances of wherein you can see direct democracy in action.

Switzerland: Switzerland, a country of about 8.2 million people, uses straight democracy to run its local, regional, and also federal governments. Every citizen over the period of 18 weighs in on how the country should be run, and because votes are so important, they space held 4 times a year and also scheduled years in advance. Also, together a direct democracy Switzerland lacks an elected Head that State. Instead, the nation has a commonwealth Council i beg your pardon is chosen by the federal Assembly (which works favor the Athenian Assembly) every 4 years. Every year, a brand-new person from the commonwealth Council is chosen to serve as president!

Local poll in the U.S.: due to the fact that the populaces are much smaller, local, municipal, and also county elections often rely on straight democracy to make sure federal government is serving the will of the people. Neighborhood laws and referendums are regularly put up for a majority vote whereby every vote counts.

State poll in the U.S.: Fourteen states allow citizens to style legislation and put the up for a vote v what are dubbed ballot initiatives. Each state allows an separation, personal, instance citizen create a ballot initiative, and also if that gets enough signatures via petition, that gets placed on a statewide ballot whereby it overcome by majority vote. The catch? In bespeak to go on the ballot, every initiative should be rule constitutional through the state courts, too!

Representative Democracy

The second form of democracy is a representative democracy (sometimes called indirect democracy). In this device of government, particular individuals are elected to stand for the will of the people. these people, often referred come as chosen officials, are favored to poll on behalf of a particular group that citizens. These teams can be defined in countless ways. Sometimes civilization are group by neighborhood, through city, through county, or even by district or state.

The idea behind a representative democracy is to rationalization the procedure of government. Because elections wherein everyone weighs in room logistically difficult, having actually a small variety of people representing the desire of the majority allow for much much faster decision making. This is specifically important when governments are representing a big number the people, and it"s among the reasons why numerous federal governments use indirect democracy come operate.

But representative democracy comes with drawbacks, too. among the biggest problems is that in most cases, to represent aren"t forced (by law, constitution, etc.) to actually represent the will certainly of your constituents. They"re may be to do their very own decisions, which deserve to mean that chosen officials are more prone come corruption.

Additionally, there"s the trouble of the vocal minority. Have you ever heard the term, "the squeaky wheel it s okay the grease"? that just means that the human being who complain the loudest are frequently the persons who gain the many attention. So periodically a few people that complain loudly room mistaken because that representing the bulk of their community.

Examples of Representational Democracy in Action

Because representational democracy works best on a bigger scale, many Western federal governments operate this means (if the nation is democratic, the course). Here are a couple of examples of representational democracy in action.

The U.S. Legislature: The U.S. Legislature is a commonwealth representational government, meaning the the representatives who serve produce laws that use to the entirety of the joined States. The legislature branch is break-up into two houses: the Senate and the home of Representatives. In the Senate, each state elects two people to stand for their understand on the nationwide level. In the home of Representatives, the number of representatives from every state is figured out by population, therefore bigger states have more representatives. In both cases, all the representatives are elected by bulk vote in their corresponding states. (Note: this is different than various other representative democracies, prefer the uk parliament, where one house is elected and also the other residence is appointed by the prime Minister or President.)

U.S. State Legislatures: U.S. State legislatures work specifically like the federal legislature, only on a smaller sized scale. Each state has both a senate and a residence of representatives, and the state"s inhabitants elect representatives based on the districts castle live in. This enables each state"s inhabitants to have a say in exactly how their state is governed. (The only exemption to this is Nebraska, which has a unicameral state government.)

The Canadian Government: like the joined States, Canada holds well-known elections wherein a handful of to represent are liked to stand for the citizenry at both the provincial and also the national level. The elected officials serve in The home of Commons, which is similar to conference in the united States. Each of Canada"s 10 districts are also representative democracies where chosen officials represent the will certainly of their province"s citizens.


Constitutional Democracy

A constitutional democracy is the 3rd major type of democracy in operation today. Constitution democracies are characterized by having structures in location that limit the strength of the majority. Put another way, constitutional democracies have actually constitutions or other governing papers that help regulate the power of those elected to office.

To carry out this, constitutional democracies duty based top top a combination of democratic principles and also the ascendancy of law. The nation"s structure serves as the highest type of law and outlines people"s rights as well as what the government can and also can"t do. (You might say that the constitution puts limits on the government"s strength in order to defend citizens freedom.)

As a result, a constitution democracy government must both uphold the constitution and also still represent the will certainly of that people.

The benefit of a constitutional democracy is the it provides a nation a set of values to use as a guide for all various other decisions. It also protects the citizen by guaranteeing them a certain set of rights. (For the unified States, that"s "Life, Liberty, and the search of Happiness.")

However, a constitutional democracy additionally limits an individual citizen"s ability to participate in government due to the fact that there room strict legal parameters approximately what human being can and also can"t do. Additionally, constitutions are an extremely hard come change. In the unified States, that takes a two-thirds majority vote in congress or a constitutional convention (or share meeting) referred to as for by two-thirds of the states" federal governments in order to amend the Constitution! That deserve to be a huge problem, particularly when elements of the Constitution room out the date. (Check the end the 13th Amendment, i beg your pardon prohibits slavery, or the 19th Amendment, which gives women the best to vote, to check out this in action.)

Examples of constitutional Democracy in Action

Constitutional democracies space a popular kind of democracy about the world. We"ll talk about a couple of countries that use constitutional democracy below, but if you"re interested in a full list, girlfriend can discover that here.

The united States: of course, the unified States counts on the Constitution and the invoice of civil liberties to produce all brand-new legislation. It"s the project of the righteousness branch—including the supreme Court—to recognize whether new laws violate the structure or Americans" constitution rights. In fact, did you know have the right to go to college to research constitutional law? girlfriend can! check out the Constitutional legislation Reporter to learn more about exactly how constitutional law is exercised in America today.

Germany: After civilization War II, Germany was break-up into essentially two different countries, east Germany and West Germany. When West Germany was collection up through the Allies, it was developed as a constitutional democracy. It wasn"t until the loss of the Berlin wall surface in 1991 that Germany was linked under a single constitution.

Mexico: The united States" southerly neighbor is also a constitutional democracy. The constitution of Mexico, i m sorry was ratified in 1917, to be the an initial constitution in the human being to create guidelines for social legal rights for that citizens, favor a best to an education. (Remember: the united States at first did this through the bill of Rights, which room the an initial ten amendments come the Constitution.)

But Wait...Can a nation Be more Than One kind of Democracy?

As you were reading through this section, you more than likely realized that the joined States, in addition to many various other countries, loss into more than one democratic category. That"s due to the fact that a democratic country can use much more than one type of democracy to operation its government. For instance, a city have the right to use direct democracy to vote in new laws and select state and federal representatives. Those to represent then get involved in representative democracy, where they speak—and vote!—on behalf of their constituents. And finally, every one of these actions—policy decisions, government structure, citizens" rights, and the production of brand-new laws—are administrate by the constitution. That method the United says is a constitutional democracy as well.

This is feasible because every democracies, nevertheless of their business structure, run on a shared collection of principles. Let"s take a closer look in ~ those now.


Voting is a key component that democracy

Characteristics the Democracies

Beyond just structure, democracies are likewise characterized by a mutual ideology, or mechanism of beliefs. Follow to Larry Diamond, a professor at Stanford and one of the foremost scholars in democracy studies, democracies have four foundational characteristics. We"ll talk about each rule in much more depth below.

#1: cost-free and same Elections

In order come make certain that people"s voices space being heard accurately, democracies have to ensure the all voting processes are "free and also fair." however what does that mean?

In order for an election to it is in "free and fair," it has to be administered in a means that permits its citizens to vote and treats every political parties and candidates equally. That means the procedure 1) requirements to be available to everyone that meets voting qualifications and 2) as unbiased together possible.

Furthermore, in order to be as fair, this elections require to happen at a regular interval. If elections are only happening every 2 decades, the denies civilization the capacity to make their voices heard!

Free and also fair poll are essential to democracy since the voting process is the means that citizen voice their opinions and, in representative develops of government, select the world who will stand for them in higher levels the government. It additionally puts an essential check top top power. If representatives room coming up because that reelection regularly, it puts pressure on them to poll in line through their constituents. Otherwise they might lose their position during the following voting cycle.

#2: citizen Participation

In order for democracy come function, that citizens have to participate in the procedure of government. That method people need to run because that office, develop ballot initiatives, petition because that laws and also causes they think in, and vote. Remember the the hatchet "democracy" method that the power to preeminence belongs come the people. Only by exercising that power deserve to a nation"s citizens ensure that their will certainly is reflect in the country"s laws and also structures.

It"s likewise important that in a democracy, all citizens are offered an equal right to participate regardless of where they live, what they perform for work, or what society they come from. If civic participation is restricted to a specific class or race, the device becomes an oligarchy instead. (In oligarchies, a tiny group the unelected people hold every the administrate power.) when everyone has a chance to participate, that ensures the the government accurately shows the populace, that decimal populations have a voice, and also that new laws space fair for everyone.

#3: defense of Citizens" human being Rights

Perhaps many notably, democracies think in freedom. Citizens should deserve to express their opinions and participate in democracy without are afraid or intimidation. Not only do democratic societies believe that creates a better life for its citizens, it also helps store governmental power in check. If human being can freely—but peacefully—express your opinions, it makes it clean when chosen representatives aren"t listening to the will certainly of the people.

Even an ext importantly, democracies believe in the defense of people"s basic human rights. In the joined States, these are outlined in the bill of Rights, and they encompass the best to totally free speech, the right to bear arms, protection from the illegal seizure the property, and also the appropriate to a trial by jury. (Not acquainted with the bill of Rights? The bill of rights Institute division it under for you!)

In various other words, democracies guarantee an essential protections to individual citizens which allows them come live in safety, freedom, and also peace.

#4: Equal dominion of Law

Finally, the last point all equipment of democracy have actually in common is the ascendancy of law. According to Dr. Diamond, the dominance of law is fundamentally essential to democracy due to the fact that it protects the rights of citizens, maintains order, and also limits the power of government. In other words, if poll are just how citizens make their voices heard, then regulations are the ways that citizens" desires are enforced.

It"s nice clear how laws work in a constitutional or representative type of democracy. In a constitutional democracy, the constitution itself lays the end some fundamental laws, and no various other legislation have the right to violate them. In a representational democracy, legislations are created by the elected officials in order come make certain that your constituents" involves are gift addressed. Yet what around a straight democracy wherein everyone has actually a voice?

Well, even in ancient Athens, the oldest direct democracy, had laws to aid govern the city-state. The whole suggest of The Assembly was to create brand-new policies and also laws that the majority of human being could agree on, and those plans would administer the whole populace!

Laws, then, are a tool civilization can usage to make sure the ideals that democracy—like liberty and an easy human rights—are maintained.


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What Is a Republic?

Whew! currently you recognize a lot about how democracies role and their main point ideals. Now it"s time to look at a republic vs. A democracy. Exactly how are lock different? Well, the prize is a little bit complicated.

The ax "republic" comes from the Greek indigenous politeia, which way the "rights of citizens." (It likewise comes indigenous the Latin res publica, which method "public affair.") In modern English, a republic is a federal government system where the strength rests through a nation"s citizens.

To do this, republics use chosen officials to stand for the will certainly of their citizens in ~ the government. In other words, republics count on a representational kind of government, as with the representational democracies we talked about earlier!

Additionally, in order because that a country to qualify together a republic, its head the state has to be an chosen official. That means that while nations like France and Germany—which have chosen presidents as heads that state—are republics. Countries with a monarch as the head that state, prefer Canada and also the unified Kingdom, room not.

So to summarize: a republic is a form of federal government where the power a) rests with the people, b) is worked out through representative government, and c) has an chosen head of state.


The origins of Republics

While many ancient states were republics, one that the most notable was the roman inn Republic the existed between 500 BCE and 27 BCE. during this time, Rome had increased to include most of contemporary Europe together with parts that Asia and Africa. That meant that Rome was home to plenty of different cultures, and its citizens spoke 21 various languages!

This time duration also significant Rome"s switch from a monarchy—where a king ruled the nation—to a constitutional government.

In 509 BCE, the last roman inn King, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus to be overthrown and also sent right into exile. The roman inn Senate, which was comprised of Rome"s noble families, decided to institute a new form of government. The nation would currently be led by two chosen consuls who had equal power and would offer one-year terms. these consuls were elected by legislative branch assemblies consisted of of masculine citizens that Rome. These assemblies also voted top top laws occurred by the roman Senate.

The roman Senate was comprised of Patricians, which to be members the Rome"s noble class. The Senators were appointed through the roman inn consuls, and also they offered as senators for life. The Senate"s project was to draft new laws that would certainly be voted on by the Assembly. Over the next few centuries, the federal government of Rome would build a collection of guidelines and principles to govern the expanding country, which would coalesce right into the roman inn Constitution. The Constitution would remain among the foundational governing records of the Roman empire up till its fallen in the fifth century CE.


The countries in blue, orange, yellow, and green room all classified as republics.

Types the Republics Today

Remember the a republic is a nation where governmental strength rests v its citizens, supplies a representational government, and has an elected head that state. These are pretty general criteria, so that method there are rather a couple of republics today. In fact, together of 2017, 159 of the world"s 206 countries use words "republic" as part of their official names!

Additionally, the loose meaning of a republic means there countless different species of republics work today. We"ll briefly talk about the significant types of republics here, however you can find more in-depth information around each one by adhering to the web links in every description.

Constitutional Republic

In a constitutional republic, the federal government is limited by laws created by a official constitution, i beg your pardon is generally secular in nature. Additionally, the government is operation by elected officials who room voted on by the population, and those officials are required to follow the rules of government laid out by the country"s constitution. (For more information around republics based upon religion, view the ar on "theological republics.")

Examples of contemporary constitutional republics include the nations like India and South Africa.

Parliamentary Republic

A parliamentary republic offers a parliamentary kind of government in i m sorry the head of state operation the executive branch of government and the head of parliament operation the legislature. The legislature chin is comprised of elected officials that room voted right into office by the country"s citizens.

Examples of parliament republics encompass Greece, Hungary, and Malta.

Presidential Republic

A presidential republic allows its citizens to selected a president to offer as the country"s head the state. However, in a presidential republic, the president likewise serves together the head the the government, too! This is various from a monarchy, whereby the king or queen serves as the head the state while a element minister or president runs the day-to-day operations of the government.

Examples the presidential republics today incorporate Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia.

Federal Republic

Federal republics are nations that room actually a union that states, every one of which operate on a republican form of government. In order come qualify together a federal republic, states need to have self-reliance to do their very own laws and also decisions, as lengthy as those regulations don"t conflict with policies established for the entire nation on the federal level. (In this way, states duty as a mini-republic, complete with elected officials and also an elected head the state, choose a governor!)

Examples of commonwealth republics encompass the unified States, Germany, and also Switzerland.

Theocratic Republic

These varieties of republics are governed generally by spiritual law. In this case, spiritual texts become the backbone of the nation"s administer structure and are often drafted right into a religious governing constitution. That method that added laws and also policies arisen by the government must likewise be in heat with spiritual law. Additionally, in order come qualify as a republic, these theocracies must have an elected head the state fairly than a monarchy.

Examples of contemporary theocratic republics include Iran, Afghanistan, and also Pakistan.

Can a country Be much more Than One type of Republic?

Just choose a nation can be more than one kind of democracy, a nation can also be much more than one type of republic! for example, Iran has actually a parliament—making it a parliament republic—but it additionally bases its governing structure on religious law, making it a theocratic republic. The exact same is true for a country like Germany, i m sorry operates top top the ethics of both a parliament republic and also a federal republic.

In other words, lot like democracies, the species of republics we discussed over are not mutually exclusive. In fact, in order for a government to operation efficiently, it have to often integrate governing structures.


Russia is a republic yet is not democratic

Republic Vs. Democracy: What"s the Difference?

You"ve probably already noticed that republics and democracies have a lot in common, namely that they both space systems wherein the strength to govern rests through the people. Therefore what"s the difference in a republic vs. A democracy?

The major difference in between a democracy and a republic is the a republic is a form of government whereas a democracy is an ideological background that helps shape just how a federal government is run. Put another way: a republic is the mechanism of federal government that allows a country to be democratic! so while civilization tend to usage the terms "democracy" and "republic" interchangeably, they aren"t precisely the exact same thing.

The best method to know this distinction is to look at examples where a republic format of government isn"t democratic. To execute this, let"s talk about two non-democratic republics: Russia and North Korea.


The Russian government, like numerous other nations, is collection up choose a republic. According to the Russian Constitution, the Russian president—which is chosen by the Russian populace—is the head of state and also runs the executive, management branch the government. It"s the president"s task to appoint a prime minister, whose job it is to operation the government on a day-to-day basis.

But in reality, Russia has actually operated an ext like a dictatorship than a democracy under current President Vladimir Putin. Return the president and other government officials are elected by well-known vote, the Russian government additionally limits Russian citizens" freedom, consisting of suppressing free speech and controlling access to target information.

North Korea

North Korea"s government is set up lot like the united States" and also is separation into three branches: the executive branch, the righteousness branch, and also the legislative branch branch. Through law, the citizens in phibìc Korea selected officials come the legislative branch branch through famous vote, and the legislative branch passes regulations on instead of of the people. (That"s why phibìc Korea"s complete name is the democratic People"s Republic that Korea.)

In actuality, North Korea is classified as a dictatorship. The existing president, Kim Jong-Un, inherited his position from his father. Additionally, poll in north Korea are mainly for show—only one candidate runs because that each position, so human being really have actually no selection in their representation. Beyond that, the federal government severely limits people"s capability to travel, so much so that many North Koreans need to pay world to smuggle them out of the country. So regardless of having a republican government structure—and having the hatchet "democratic" in your country"s name—North Korea doesn"t duty like a democracy on a day-to-day basis.


The unified States: A democratic Republic

So that leaves us through one final question: what kind of government is the joined States? whereby does the U.S. Fall in the republic vs. Democracy debate? The prize is the the United says is both a democracy and also a republic!

The U.S. Together a Republic

When the starting fathers were composing the U.S. Constitution, they envisioned the United claims as a republic. Alexander Hamilton and also James Madison made this clean in The Federalist Papers, where they make it clear that the federal federal government will be consisted of of chosen officials who stand for the will certainly of the people. In fact, many of the unified States" founders believed that a straight democracy would an outcome in nothing an ext than "...instability, injustice, and also confusion." together a result, the U.S. Constitution outlines a system of government that permits people to fairly vote ~ above representatives, and those representatives make laws in accordance come the people"s will. each of the states" governments are set up in the same way, which method that the states are mini-republics, too!

Additionally, in stimulate to it is in a republic, civilization must elect the human who will serve together the head that state. This is certainly true in the U.S., whereby citizens vote on who will serve as chairman of the nation every 4 years (though even if it is this is a direct or indirect poll is a topic of controversy thanks to the electoral college).

Considering every one of this, the United says works as a mix of a constitutional, presidential, and also federal republic!

The U.S as a Democracy

Remember that the difference in between a republic and a democracy comes in just how each the those concepts functions in government. For this reason if the United claims is a republic because of how the federal government operates, it"s a democracy due to the fact that of why it operates. In other words, the U.S. Operation its federal government like a republic, yet it bases its government on autonomous ideals.

In order to operate as a democracy, the joined States has to have totally free and same elections, citizens participation in government, defend citizens" person rights, and also honor the preeminence of law. The United says meets all 4 the criteria come qualify together a democracy.

In regards to elections, the U.S. Holds constant elections because that its elected officials at continual intervals, and any standard U.S. Citizen is permitted to cast their poll for their representatives. Additionally, these representatives are various other U.S. Citizens. Roles in federal government aren"t passed down from household to family—all citizen in great standing are welcome to run for office regardless of class, gender, or culture.

But what about guaranteeing person rights? One look in ~ the invoice of Rights renders this clear. Not only do the amendments to the U.S. Constitution do guarantees around equality and also freedom, they also serve together a collection of protections for every U.S. Citizens from the overreach of federal government power.

And finally, the U.S structure serves together the country"s guiding legit document. Every other regulations must an initial uphold the laws and rights outlined in the structure first!


So now What?

Are you reading this article in preparation for the U.S. History AP Exam? If so, friend should additionally check out several of our various other resources! We have subject-specific posts like ours NATO overview and also a finish guide to AP U.S. Background books.

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