It has been almost a year since the inauguration of Donald Trump and his positive approval rating is at 37% among adults. Jimmy wanted to see what kids thought of his first year in office so we stopped some on the street and asked them how they think he is doing.
If you ask Americans to name their country’s form of government, most of them will say they live in a democracy. However, the real answer is more complicated (and unexpected) than that. Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, explains.
At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1789, legend has it that a woman called out to Benjamin Franklin to ask what kind of government the delegates had created. Franklin responded “…a republic, madam. If you can keep it.”
Shouldn’t Franklin have said “a democracy”?
Isn’t that what we have in the United States?
Most people today would say “yes.”
After all, if our country isn’t a democracy, what is it? It’s not a dictatorship, the rule of one man. Or an oligarchy, rule by a small group. In America the people are in charge. That’s literally what democracy means in the original Greek—demos kratos—the people (demos) rule (kratos).
But let’s pause for a moment and consider more deeply what the word means in practice and why the delegates in Philadelphia rejected it.
That’s right—rejected it.
Our government was established by a national charter—the Constitution of the United States. We are governed by the institutions, and according to the rules and principles, created and adopted when our forebears ratified that document, making it “the Supreme Law of the land.”
Are those institutions properly speaking democratic?
The men who bequeathed our form of government to us—those we call our founding fathers—didn’t see it that way.
They understood the institutions established by the Constitution to be republic.
In fact, though the founders believed in “government of the people, by the people, for the people” as Abraham Lincoln put it in the Gettysburg Address, they did not believe in pure or unrestricted democracy. They feared that democracy, strictly speaking, contained within it the impulse to mob rule—the stifling of civil liberty, the trampling by majorities of the rights of minorities.
To put it more bluntly, pure democracy frightened them.
So, while they built into the Constitution significant democratic elements, they also built in non-democratic features to protect liberty and prevent tyranny. It wasn’t simply that they favored representative government over direct democracy, though they did; it’s that they rejected the idea that “the majority wins” was by definition the just outcome.
Indeed, in what is perhaps the most famous of the eighty-five Federalist Papers—Federalist 10—James Madison, precisely in distinguishing a democracy, which he did not favor, from a republic, which he did, noted that a crucial advantage of republicanism is “to refine…the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of the country…”
And, so, we have representative government, and more than that, we have a bicameral (that is, two-tiered) legislature—a Congress with a highly democratic House of Representatives and a not-very-democratic Senate.
Therefore, California, with its massive population, has fifty-two representatives in the House. Wyoming has one.
Yet Wyoming has two Senators—the same number as California and every other state.
A pure democrat would say, “that’s unfair!” Each Wyoming resident has far more power than every Californian.
But a republican would say, well, we aren’t and shouldn’t be a pure democracy. If we were large population states like California would overwhelm the needs and interests of small population states like Wyoming.
That’s why we’re called the United States of America. Each state has its own separate identity; holds its own separate elections. Just as we don’t want one person or small group of people to dominate our government, we don’t one state or a few states to dominate our government.
A republic is a way of diffusing power—and a brilliant one at that.
We see something similar in the Constitution’s procedures for choosing a president. An obvious possibility would have been by a national popular vote. The founders wisely decided against this option. Rather, they created an electoral college to protect the interests of the less populous states. Even today, their decision makes sense. As my Princeton colleague Professor Allen Guelzo observes, “a direct, national popular vote would incentivize campaigns to focus almost exclusively on densely populated urban areas.” The electoral college system incentivizes candidates to court voters more broadly—making presidential elections more fully national.
So, if we understand the system of government our founders bequeathed to us, we will see why they preferred to describe it as a republic rather than a democracy. Of course, it has strong democratic elements, but America was not created to be a pure democracy for very good reasons.
Those reasons remain as valid today as they were in 1789.
We should not go along with those who today are demanding constitutional changes simply because this or that institution or procedure established by the Constitution—say the Senate or the electoral college—is not “democratic.”
“More democratic” doesn’t necessarily mean better. It doesn’t necessarily mean more just. Our founders understood this. So should we.
We have a republic.
And we should keep it.
I’m Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University for Prager University.
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00:20 Sentence-level corrections won't save you if your message isn't clear
00:31 Cut the "since the dawn of time" opening
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01:48 Make sure people are doing thing in your sentences ...
02:18 ... unless you don't want them to be doing things
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CNBC's Jane Wells reports on California losing a generation of wage earners on "Squawk Alley."
economy: the system by which a country’s money and goods are produced and used, or a country considered in this way 经济体、区域
grand: a thousand pounds or dollars 一千美金
condo: =condominium, 分户出售公寓大厦，独立的公寓房
geocentric: geo + centric 以某地区为中心的
11秒：world的浊辅音/r/，卷舌稍显过；everything的清辅音/θ/，与前面think连起来讲时处理稍有瑕疵（但在3分12秒处的发音正确无误）；“缘于爱”用的是comes out of (love)，而没有用中国学生惯用的because等
57秒：in that world, in that erh, emm, time 此处有些思考、找词迹象，全篇视频最后部分的谈话表现更明显
3分03秒： how the Yuan conquered Song dynasty 存在2处错误，一是元代的Yuan之后需要加朝的英文dynasty，二是宋朝的Song之前需要加定冠词the
3分09秒： but the one book that was helpful，此处可以说 but the book that is helpful，或 but one book，或one of the books (that I've read)，并且根据上下文语境此处应为一般现在时而非过去时
3分15秒：采访者问是否阅读过有关剧情背景历史及人物的书籍，陈回应该话题时，脑中翻译即在母语与英语间转换的迹象尤其明显，另外在表达自己就某事阅读过有关素材时，此处更好的回应可用完成时态而非一般过去时。在3分28秒处，几乎所有的动词都是一般过去时，they are really all strong, they actually, they were on horse backs, they were in battle fields, even, and they were caring for their men，但前后的动词时态不同，开始时脑中转换不及时，用了are这个一般现在时
3分54秒：if you google Charbie, there's probably ten sentences. you know you wouldn't find much 此处应当用there are，因后跟的是搜索到十句，为复数。此外，搜索谷歌得到的应当不是十句，而应当是entries，表示搜索到的结果、条目
1分07秒：have a lot of time to kill，意为浪费时间观看NetFlix的节目，kill在此是比较地道的表达方法，而没有用一般的waste或spend等词
1分38秒起，朱珠开始回答采访者提问，剧中角色与马可存在着被世俗禁止的浪漫关系，她如何看待两人的感情关系以及评价所扮演的角色，期间用了tribe, compassion, chemistry(2分20秒，表示爱情的感觉), hopelessly fall in love with 诸如此类地道但中国学生不常用的词或表达方式
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