Is the United States of America a Democracy, a Republic or an Oligarchy?


The United States is both a democracy and a republic, but the terms are not mutually exclusive. So let us break it down whether the United States a democracy or a republic:

The United States a Democracy?

  • The United States is a democracy, because, the people, hold ultimate political power.
  • It is not a “direct democracy,” but a “representative democracy.”
  • Representative democracy means voting in elections to choose representatives – this makes it a representative democracy, but remember the United States Constitution does not use the term “democracy.”

The United States a Republic?

  • The United States is a republic because its elected representatives exercise political power

The United States an Oligarchy?

  • A recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page concludes that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.
  • In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power. This makes it an Oligarchy.

So, which term should I use?

  • It’s really up to you.
  • In practice, as set out by the American founding fathers the word “republic” has the same meaning as the term “representative democracy.” But some call it an Oligarchy in 2022 as they feel power has gone from the people to big businesses and a wealthy super elite.

What type of government in the U.S.?

  • Constitutional – power is exercised by the people and their representatives are bound by the constitution and the broader rule of law.
  • Federal – power is shared between a national government, representing the entire populace, and regional and local governments.

So is the United States still a democracy/republic as opposed to an oligarchy?

  • In the literal sense of the word, yes. In practice, the answer is pretty complicated.
  • The United States system of government depends on citizens being able to freely elect leaders who will represent their interests. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Mohammed Abbasi

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