Today I’m going to tell you the eight steps to become a republican. Before I do, I must confess. This article has nothing to do with the Republican Party. When I talk about being a ‘republican,’ I’m talking about committing to the philosophy of republicanism. So, whether you vote republican, democrat, or independent, you can still hold to this philosophy.
Why should you? Just as plants thrive in different types of soil, so governments thrive in different soils. Just as a fern thrives in a cool, moist environment, so a republic thrives in republicanism. Since republicanism is the soil of our government, I sincerely hope that you will follow these eight steps.
What Is Republicanism?
Really quickly, republicanism is a philosophy. It is an approach to government that was held by the founders of America and the early patriots of our country. Republicanism leads to republics.
So, what is a republic? Thomas Jefferson defined them this way: “…governments are more or less republican as they have more or less of the element of popular election and control in their composition.” In other words, republics reject a ruling aristocracy and give the power to the people.
America is a republic, but the republic can’t thrive outside of republicanism. In our case, the philosophy of republicanism is very rare. That is why our government is so sick. (Had you noticed?)
Republicanism has historical precedent. It is the result of observing the societies of ancient Greece and Rome. Recognizing what was right and wrong with these societies led later generations to adopt the best philosophies of these societies and label it ‘republicanism.’
The Eight Steps to Adopting Republicanism
So, how do you adopt the philosophy of Republicanism? Here are eight steps, related to the eight core ideas of republicanism.
#1 – Accept Responsibility for Government
Republicanism holds that the people are responsible for their government, not an elite ‘aristocracy.’ This sounds good, but the bad news is that if you are ever going to exercise this responsibility, you must accept it. That means that the problems in government are not ultimately the result of bad politicians or policies. You, the citizen, are responsible for the state of our government today. This is an uncomfortable reality, but you have to accept it before you can move on.
#2 – Identify & Protect Human Rights
In a democracy, the will of the majority goes, even if it tramples the rights of the minority. That is where a republic differs. A republic protects the rights of the minority. Why? Because human rights are innate and inherent. The government doesn’t ‘decide’ to give you human rights – you have them because of who you are – an individual created in God’s image (that’s what the founders of our country would say). The Constitution outlines what some of these rights are, and it implies that we have other rights.
So, identify these rights and then protect them. Ask yourself this question: “what rights does God give to every single individual, that the government can’t rightly bestow or take away?” These – and only these – are true ‘human rights.’ Once you’ve identified them, stand up for them on every occasion, even for those people who disagree with you.
#3 – Take Morality Seriously
“Public virtue,” said John Adams, “cannot exist without private, and public virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.” No, the founders never set up a state religion, but they allheld to the importance of morality! Today we’ve rejected the idea of absolute morals. If you say that something is wrong, you are being ‘judgy.’ Hogwash. Some things are just flat wrong (anyone want to argue for child abuse?). So what is right and wrong? Take this seriously. (Christianity, by the way, provides some excellent and defendable answers – but I digress). Our government falls apart when people stop taking their beliefs seriously.
#4 – Become Disinterested
No, I didn’t say ‘become uninterested.’ Today we hardly use the word, but ‘disinterestedness’ is a virtue that is essential for Republics. Basically, it means that you do things even though they don’t benefit you.
The founders were terrified of citizens getting into politics for profit. What if people only engage in politics because they want to gain something? You can see the tragic effects this has in other parts of the world: bribes to policemen, strongmen making millions, and corrupt governors stealing money from the public treasury. Disinterested citizens say, “I’m going to serve my country because it is what I should do. I’m not going to gain anything from this. This isn’t about me, its about my country.” Cultivate that philosophy.
#5 – Recognize and Correct the Balance of Power
Republicanism says that liberty and power are engaged in battle. The more power the government has, the less liberty the people have. Power corrupts individuals. That is why the government should have limited power, and that power should be divided between the branches of government. Today, the President and Supreme Court have plenty of power. The Legislature and Constitution have little power. Work to correct this.
#6 – Learn About Politics
Since you are responsible for government, you need to know about who you are choosing to represent you. This doesn’t mean five minutes of research before you vote. It means following politics more carefully, reading about government and economics and history and international news. And yes, it includes researching politicians.
#7 – Get Out of Debt
Republicanism argues that only ‘disinterested’ citizens are worthy to choose their leaders. This means you need personal independence. The more outside interests bind you, the less you can fairly and accurately make good decisions. Historically, you needed to own land to vote. The founders felt that if you owned land, you were self-sufficient, and you could choose freely. You weren’t tied to outside interests. Today, I’m not going to tell you to go buy some property, but in the spirit of republicanism, I will tell you to get out of debt. If you are in debt, you may be too tied to other interests to see what is good for your country.
#8 – Involve Yourself in a Patriotic Project
The founders assumed that citizens would care enough about the government they live in to actually do something for it. So, involve yourself in some patriotic project. A patriotic project educates citizens, or reduces the power of the government, or promotes the morality of the citizens, or protects human rights, or things like that. A patriotic project is ‘disinterested’ – you do it because you should, not because you gain by it.
Or, if this stuff is just too hard, then don’t do it. Our republic requires republicanism, but monarchies and democracies aren’t nearly as hard to live in. In a democracy, all you must do is conform to the majority. In a monarchy, all you must do is obey. You don’t have to be moral, or virtuous, or disinterested, or educated, or self-sufficient. You just have to go along with what you are told to do. Force and fear combine to keep you in line.