Constitutional republic

Constitutional republic

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Constitutional republic'
Start a new discussion about 'Constitutional republic'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
A constitutional republic is a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 in which the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and other officials are representatives
Representation (politics)
In politics, representation describes how some individuals stand in for others or a group of others, for a certain time period. Representation usually refers to representative democracies, where elected officials nominally speak for their constituents in the legislature...

 of the people and must govern according to existing constitutional law
Constitutional law
Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....

 that limits the government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

's power
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

 over all of its citizens. Because the head of the state is elected, it is a republic and not a monarchy.

In a constitutional republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

, legislative
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

, and judicial
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 powers are separated into distinct branches
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

.

The fact that a constitution exists that limits the government's power makes the state constitutional. That the head(s) of state and other officials are chosen by election, rather than inheriting their positions, and that their decisions are subject to judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

 makes the state a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

.

Purpose and scope


John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 defined a republic as "a government of laws, and not of men." Constitutional republics attempt to weaken the threat of majoritarianism
Majoritarianism
Majoritarianism is a traditional political philosophy or agenda which asserts that a majority of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society...

 and protect dissenting individuals and minority
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

 groups from the "tyranny of the majority
Tyranny of the majority
The phrase "tyranny of the majority" , used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a dissenting individual's interest that the individual would be...

" by placing checks on the power of the majority of the population. The power of the majority of the people is limited to electing representatives who legislate within the limits of an overarching constitutional law that a simple majority cannot modify.

No single individual is allowed to exercise executive
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

, legislative and judicial
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 powers. Instead, these powers are separated into distinct branches that serve as a check and balance on each other. In a constitutional republic, "no person or group [can] rise to absolute power."

The notion of the constitutional republic originates with Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's Politics
Politics (Aristotle)
Aristotle's Politics is a work of political philosophy. The end of the Nicomachean Ethics declared that the inquiry into ethics necessarily follows into politics, and the two works are frequently considered to be parts of a larger treatise, or perhaps connected lectures, dealing with the...

and his theory of a fifth type of government called the polity
Polity
Polity is a form of government Aristotle developed in his search for a government that could be most easily incorporated and used by the largest amount of people groups, or states...

. He contrasts the polity of republican government with democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 and oligarchy
Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...

 in book 3, chapter 6 of Politics. Polity can refer to the political organizational system that is being used by a group, be it a tribe, a city-state, an empire, a corporation, etc. Aristotle also envisioned a polity to be a combination of what he thought were the best characteristics of oligarchy (rule by the wealthy) and democracy (rule by the poor). The polity government would be ruled by the many in the best interests of the country.

Oligarchies favored the wealthy members of society and featured elected leadership positions. Democracies favored the poor and middle-class members, of which there are generally greater numbers, and had features such as legislative assemblies open to citizens of voting age. Aristotle believed that, when used correctly, the polity would be the most ideal government possible because it could take input from community members of all levels and rule fairly in the interests of the whole community and not just the majority.

Constitutional republics were first advocated in the 18th and 19th centuries by classical liberals, who were engaged at the time in a political and ideological conflict against conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 supporters of traditional monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

. An early experiment was the Corsican Republic
Corsican Republic
In November 1755, Pasquale Paoli proclaimed Corsica a sovereign nation, the Corsican Republic, independent from the Republic of Genoa. He created the Corsican Constitution, which was the first constitution written under Enlightenment principles, including the first implementation of female...

, founded in 1755 by Pasquale Paoli
Pasquale Paoli
Filippo Antonio Pasquale di Paoli , was a Corsican patriot and leader, the president of the Executive Council of the General Diet of the People of Corsica...

 but annexed by France in 1769. Since the beginning of the 20th century, constitutional republics have entered the political mainstream and have gathered the support of many other ideologies in addition to liberalism.

According to James Woodburn, in The American Republic and Its Government, "the constitutional republic with its limitations on popular government is clearly involved in the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, as seen in the election of the President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

, the election of the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 and the appointment of the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

." That is, the ability of the people to choose officials in government is checked by not allowing them to elect Supreme Court justices. Such justices are appointed by the popularly elected president, and approved by the popularly-elected Senate. Woodburn says that in a republic, as distinguished from a democracy, the people are not only checked in choosing officials but also in making laws.

A Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

 exists in the U.S. Constitution which protects certain individual rights. The rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights cannot be infringed upon by the majority of citizens. Removing the protection of these rights from the Constitution would require the proposal of a Constitutional amendment by a two-thirds majority of Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 and ratification by three-fourths of the states.

However, James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 and others, held that the federal government was not the sole or final judge of its own authority, holding that this would "make it, and not the Constitution, the judge of its powers." Rather, in the Virginia Resolutions, the Kentucky Resolutions and elsewhere, various individuals stipulated that the people of the individual states were the final check on federal power to ensure compliance with the Constitution, holding that the people of any given state had the final power to "interpose" for the purpose of maintaining the Constitution against federal abuses thereof.

Though a constitutional republic is not a pure democracy it necessarily has some democratic elements, such as the ability of the people to elect a president (in the U.S. the majority of the population is checked here too, as the popular vote of the people does not necessarily decide the winner). Nations where the head of state is not elected, as in a monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, as not elected but has a parliament with elected representatives that govern according to constitutional law protecting individual rights are called constitutional, democratic monarchies
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

). Both are considered liberal democracies
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 because they protect individual liberty from majority and minority forces, while retaining some democratic elements.

Also, a representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 may or may not be a constitutional republic. For example, "the United States relies on representative democracy, but [its] system of government is much more complex than that. [It is] not a simple representative democracy, but a constitutional republic in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law."

Support and Criticism


Alexander Tsesis, in The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History says, to him, a constitutional republic means "a representative polity established on fundamental law, each person has the right to pursue and fulfill his or her unobtrusive vision of the good life. In such a society, the common good is the cumulative product of free and equal individuals who pursue meaningful aims."

Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 claimed that a constitutional republic is a protective legal framework for what he considered to be "capitalist exploitation." In "Outline of the Critique of Political Economy," Marx's stated that "All the bourgeois economists are aware of is that production can be carried on better under the modern police than e.g. on the principle of might makes right. They forget only that this principle is also a legal relation, and that the right of the stronger prevails in their 'constitutional republics' as well, only in another form."

See also

  • Constitution
    Constitution
    A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

  • Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

  • Constitutional monarchy
    Constitutional monarchy
    Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

  • Constitutional economics
    Constitutional economics
    Constitutional economics is a research program in economics and constitutionalism that has been described as extending beyond the definition of 'the economic analysis of constitutional law' in explaining the choice "of alternative sets of legal-institutional-constitutional rules that constrain the...

  • Rechtsstaat
    Rechtsstaat
    Rechtsstaat is a concept in continental European legal thinking, originally borrowed from German jurisprudence, which can be translated as "legal state", "state of law", "state of justice", or "state of rights"...

  • Constitutional law
    Constitutional law
    Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the relationship of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary....