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At The Democracy Foundation, we receive many emails at our contact address. Some are easy to answer; some are more challenging. Of the more challenging variety, a number of recent emails asserted that America is a republic and not a democracy, equated democracy with mob rule, and asked us to withdraw the NI4D proposal. There is even a dramatic YouTube video which tries to derive this conclusion from first principles. Let us take a closer look at this argument.
First of all, there is an ounce of truth; direct democracy without deliberation is mob rule. That is part of why initiatives, a form of direct democracy, have occasionally wrecked havoc in California and why Oregon has recently added a citizen jury to provide a balance evaluation of initiatives in the voter pamphlet. Current initiative procedures are flawed, giving an impression that direct democracy cannot be made to work. However, we think the solution is not to get rid of direct democracy, but to reform it. The NI4D would make initiatives much more deliberative than even Oregon, permitting the deliberative committee to modify proposed laws to incorporate refinement and constructive criticism (see Democracy Act, 3-I).
Second, whether America is a republic or democracy is a matter of pedantry. Granted, many people don't know what "republic" means, but drilling on vocabulary is not going to change the fact that 24 states offer initiative. Even if "republic" means "not a democracy," are we suppose to annul the laws made by initiative during the last 100 years? Instead of worrying about definitions of words, we need a specific proposal designed to fix our governance problems. How about NI4D?
Finally, http://www.williampmeyers.org/republic.html offers a longer and well researched rebuttal to this nonsense.
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