Democracy or Republic?: The People and the Constitution (Hardcover)

Democracy or Republic?: The People and the Constitution By Jay Cost Cover Image

Democracy or Republic?: The People and the Constitution (Hardcover)


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In recent years, the Constitution has become a source of political controversy between conservatives and progressives. While the right defends our founding document, the left argues that it's an antiquated plan of government that goes against basic principles of democratic sovereignty.

What's missing from this debate is an appreciation for the Constitution's purpose. What kind of government were the founders trying to achieve?

In his new book, Democracy or Republic? The People and the Constitution, Jay Cost provides insight into that question. He argues that the founders' vision was for a republic, not a democracy.

In both types of government, the citizens have the power to rule, but republics go further than this. A republic, as Abraham Lincoln put it, is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." But in a simple democracy, the majority can rule for the good of themselves, rather than the whole community. How do you place the people in charge without creating a democratic tyranny? By the time of the American Revolution, nobody in the history of the world had yet answered this question.

But America's Founding Fathers did just that, and the Constitution reflects their ingenious solution-the idea of consensus. They created a government that would take action not because a narrow and fleeting majority demands it, but because a large, broad, and considered coalition of the people has found common cause with one another. This reflects the true opinion of the people, not just a faction that is temporarily in power. That is how government of the people becomes government for the people.

America, then, is not merely a democracy. It is something greater. It is a republic, built on the ideal of consensus. And while our country today has many problems, consensus remains the best way to solve them. Far from being a liability for the United States, the Constitution is still its greatest asset.

Jay Cost is the Gerald R. Ford nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he focuses on political theory, Congress, and elections. He is also a visiting scholar at Grove City College and a contributing editor at the Washington Examiner. His previous books include James Madison: America's First Politician (Basic Books, 2021); The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy (Basic Books, 2018); and A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of Political Corruption (Encounter Books, 2015). He earned a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago and a BA in government and history from the University of Virginia.
Product Details ISBN: 9780844750514
ISBN-10: 0844750514
Publisher: AEI Press
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Pages: 175
Language: English