What Is Democracy For, Anyway?

Detail of Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy, 1940 (Wikimedia)
Our system of government is designed, not to stop the majority, but just to slow it down so it has time to think things through.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W e have lately had a lively debate around here about democracy — what it is good for, what are its limits, and how that should shape its structure. As usual, that debate involves some different perspectives among my colleagues, as well as a bunch of left-wing critics willfully misreading those perspectives and ascribing them to National Review as a single, monolithic, permanent institutional point of view. Let me step back and ask the fundamental question: What is democracy for?

The American Way

There are four basic pillars to the American experiment:

  • Republicanism: government without a monarch.
  • Democracy: government chosen by, and accountable to,


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