A constitutional republic is a state where the head of state and other officials are elected as representatives of the people and must govern according to existing constitutional law that limits the government‘s power over citizens. In a constitutional republic, executive, legislative, and judicial powers are separated into distinct branches so that no individual or group has absolute power. 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 makes a state republican.
Unlike a pure democracy, in a constitutional republic, citizens are not governed by the majority of the people but by the rule of law. Constitutional Republics are a deliberate attempt to diminish the threat of mobocracy thereby protecting minority groups from the tyranny of the majority by placing checks on the power of the majority of the population. The power of the majority of the people is checked by limiting that power to electing representatives who govern within limits of overarching constitutional law rather than the popular vote having legislative power itself. John Adams defined a constitutional republic as “a government of laws, and not of men.” Also, the power of government officials is checked by allowing no single individual to hold executive, legislative and judicial powers. Instead these powers are separated into distinct branches that serve as a check and balance on each other. A constitutional republic is designed so that “no person or group [can] rise to absolute power.”
The United States is the oldest constitutional republic in the world. (For more on the issue of constitutional republic versus democracy, see here.) These are the people who are elected to represent me:
I hope you know who your representatives are. If not, take a look here.
Remember, all politics is local!
Last update: January 9, 2011