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Democracy and Republic. Two regimes with different objectives and power organs

By Demosthenes Kyriazis.


The terms Republic and Democracy, although they do not have the same meaning, are attributed with the same word; with the word “Democracy”.  But the differences between the two are important. They concern the objectives,  the power organs and the processes.

A simple, brief and reliable way of understanding the main differences between them may be deduced from the comparison of: (1) The etymology and the origin of the two names and (2) the power organs which the regimes of the genuine Democracy and Republic have



1. Etymology and origin.


The term Democracy is Greek and means Kράτος (power)  of Δήμος ( Demos).    . Κράτος (cratos) in ancient Greek means power, force, authority,  while Demos (Municipality) is the totality of the citizens of an area. This follows from their name. We call the Municipality of Athenians, not the Municipality of Athens. Democracy therefore means the power of the members of Demos, the power of the citizens.


The term Republic is Latin and is created from the words Res Publica, meaning "thing of the public", something which belongs to all people and is not the property of one (eg the state power). The term was used as the name of a form of government from Cicero to ascribe in Latin the term "State of Plato and Aristotle". Note that the State in Greek means also regime.



2. Power organs


In all regimes, the real power is exercised by the Power Organs, that is, from the person (s) taking the major decisions. Those who take the plethora of minor decisions, constitute the Operation Organs, the servants of the Power. Note that the minor decisions are applied to implement the major ones, and are induced and limited by the major ones. For example, in Absolute Monarchies or Dictatorships the power organ is the monarch / dictator, while the ministers, the generals, and the officials of the State are the operation organs. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Hitler of Nazi Germany were the real power organs, while the other officers were the operation organs. In today's "democracies”, the power organ, in theory, is the Parliament that votes the laws and takes the major and minor decisions. In practice, however, the major decisions are taken from the Prime Minister and his advisers, and then are ratified by the ruling majority of MPs.


In ancient Greece, in the True Democracy, power organ was the Ecclesia of Demos; it was the General Assembly of the citizens, who took the major decisions, while the minor decisions were taken by the Leaders (’ρχοντες). Let's see how Thucydides[1] describes the regime of True Democracy:


"We have a regime which does not copy the laws of others, but we are more exemplary to some others than their imitators. And this regime has the name of Democracy, because it is not the few but the majority who rule; and all citizens are equal in front of the laws for their private differences but for personal  elevation and honors,  citizen is preferred,  much more because he is capable than because the lottery has elevate him; nor someone because is poor, and while he can do something good in the state, is prevented from a significant social position ...”[2]


In the regime of Republic (Res publica Romanorum), power organs were the Highs, the Senate and the People. Each of these organs represented a kind of government; monarchy, aristocracy, democracy. If we take into account that the free citizens of Rome were classified as Patricians and Plebeians and that the Highs and the Senates came from the Patricians’ class, one can easily conclude the differences in the power organs of the two regimes.



3.The main objectives


The main objective of Democracy is the moral of the regime; it is to ensure the equality of the citizens, whether they are rulers or are governed; it is to safeguard the status of the "governing and governed Citizen".


The main objective of Republic is the effective service of the public affairs; it is the effectiveness of the regime.



Important Notice


The regime of the Ancient Greek Democracy has significant operational and financial difficulties, because the citizens had to gather at a certain place and time (in Pnyka on the same day and time) for information, consultation and decision making by referendums. These difficulties made it possible for the Democracy to function only in the small States-Cities of Ancient Greece. At the large States - Commonwealths, Empires - the operation of true Democracy was practically impossible ,  it was utopian, in the past.  Consequently, Republic was the only regime of democracy that has operational and economical effectiveness. This view is compatible with the criterion of the father of the political sciences Montesquieu. According to Montesquieu, the optimal political system depends on the size of the country and is: the Despotism for the very large countries, the Constitutional Monarchy for the Medium-sized and the Democracy for the small ones.

Today, however when "the whole world has became a village" thanks to the digital technology,  the operation of Democracy has functional and economic feasibility in all countries, regardless of their size and population.



Summary and Conclusions

Democracy is called the regime of the ancient Greek civilization, particularly of Athens, while Republic is called the regime of the Roman civilization, of the Roman Empire.

Of the current "democratic" regimes, few are oriented to the principles and philosophy of the ancient Democrcy (eg Switzerland). Most are oriented to those of Republic. The same applies for the political parties. A typical example is the Democratic and Republican parties of the USA.

The use of the term Democracy for any regime, even for those who brutally violate the principles of Democracy and Republic,  is deceiving and is used to strengthen their morality.The absurdity is that we allowed the use of the name Democracy for every regime, while we did not allow the use of the name Feta (Greek) and Cognac (French) in similar cases!!! Why did we allow it? The answer I think is not very difficult.

It is not within our capabilities, but also in our intentions, to exhaust the issue of the differences between Democracy and Republic. Our intention is to present some basic elements of the two regimes, from which each citizen can draw his own conclusions. The conclusions of third parties, sometimes contradictory, complex and obscure, should not be adopted without our own logic, indepentently whether they are expressed from experts, from others pretending to be experts or from ordinary citizens.


[1] Thucydides. Distinguished  historian of Ancient Greece (460-395  BC), who is considered the father of political realism. He wrote history with absolute respect for the true presentation of the facts and proclaimed the doctrine of the Law of History..


[2] Thucydides History. Book Second.  Pericles' epitaph.  Ancient Greek Secretariat "The Greeks". . Publisher: Cactus 1994.



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