A Republic, Not a Democracy? Initiative, Referendum, and the Constitution's Guarantee Clause
52 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2012
Date Written: 2002
Although the argument is often made that voter initiative and referendum procedures violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of a "republican form of government," historical inquiry finds little or no merit in this contention. For the American founders, the concept of republic and democracy largely or entirely overlapped. Moreover, their use of the term "republic" was based on explicit acknowledgment that republics could include direct citizen lawmaking --- as had been the case in the Roman republic and in most other republics prior to the drafting of the Constitution. The purported distinction between "republic" and "democracy" is an invention of the political battles of the 1840s, and draws strength from a misinterpretation of Madison's views in The Federalist.
Keywords: constitution, democracy, republic, initiative and referendum, guarantee clause, republican form, founders, Madison, Greek, Rome, classics
JEL Classification: K1, K10, K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation