Rethinking a Republic

Last week someone back East sent me this link and it’s turning me on my head the way I’ve understood the notion of a Republic. Being as far removed as we are from the Founding Fathers, I’m not sure when the last time this notion was taught. I’m not even sure it’s true, though I find the concept satisfying. In essence, the government has no ability to do anything that would violate our natural rights. When it does by passing a law, it’s really only a suggestion to us the sovereigns. In a Democracy you have civil rights because the majority gives and takes away from your rights, but in a Republic, you have natural rights the government can’t violate even by law, because WE THE PEOPLE delegated to government officials only to do those things we can do ourselves, so any laws that would trample on our natural rights are advisory only. Here’s one paragraph from the article, but I would ask that you read the whole article and leave your thoughts below. I would enjoy hearing other perspectives on this. (

“The people did ‘ordain and establish this Constitution,’ not for themselves, but ‘for the United States of America.’ In delegating powers to the government agencies the people gave up none of their own. (See Preamble of U.S. Constitution). This adoption of this concept is why the U.S. has been called the ‘Great Experiment in self government.’ The People govern themselves, while their agents (government agencies) perform tasks listed in the Preamble for the benefit of the People. The experiment is to answer the question, ‘Can self-governing people coexist and prevail over government agencies that have no authority over the People?’”

One link in the article goes to another page which explains the difference in being one of the “people” of the United States vs. a “citizen” and how being classed as a citizen removes some of your natural rights.

Interesting stuff. Imagine if everyone understood this version of what a republic is… Still, it’s quite a foreign concept to some level because I’ve always accepted that if I elect representatives, they can pass laws binding me through government threat of force. Please leave your thoughts below.

After-note: I just heard someone started passing a rumor that I was suggesting in a Republic the laws are only advisory. NO, that’s not what I said. Law governs, but my point above or rather this new thought from the other website is that since sovereignty is at the individual level, then laws that violate our natural rights would be advisory instead of binding. It’s something I’m chewing on, but certainly not something I’m going to put into practice! I’ll be keeping all the laws that have been passed. :)

15 Responses to “Rethinking a Republic”

  • J Michael Carman:

    Oak, your friend isn’t by any chance an open-borders advocate, i.e., that free movement in and out of countries by anyone is a “natural right?” Just askin…

  • Pam Warren:

    The concept you highlighted is one that was taught by Ezra Taft Benson. 

  • One of the People:

    Thus why only a moral people can have a Republic!
    This is how I’ve been taught by my Mother what our country is. She is a huge history buff and has taught at an LDS based private school. I remember a long time ago when my Father would complain about filling out government forms and having no other option to choose but “citizen” in the check boxes. 

  • OAK:


  • EDB:

    I suppose natural rights are the reason paying taxes is “voluntary” today and the reason we pay them is because of the threat of Government’s use of force.  In Bastiat’s essay “The Law” he explains taxation as “legalized plunder’.  Plunder denotes force. Therefore, when our grandparents authorized the Federal Government to take our money, they gave away our natural right to refuse.  Are we doing the same to our grandchildren?  

  • This wasn’t a friend. The letter was from someone I didn’t know and actually a touch rude. :)

  • Tom Westmoreland:

    In my research of American history I occasionally run across evidences of similar concepts in the “original” thinking that established the United States. For example, law enforcement functioned very differently than it does today. In the early days of this Republic, a sheriff was not allowed to use a firearm to fulfill his duties. This prevented a government agent from endangering his life and others by using deadly force against an armed American. In those days in order to have the right to vote one had to be armed and in doing so was part of the local defense known as militia. Voting was often done by convening the militia. The same was true of law enforcement. Should a sheriff need to make an arrest he called upon the militia to enforce it. That way the power was always reserved to the people who maintained a check on government powers and thus prevented abuses. 

  • Craig Laurence:

    Cleon Skousen’s book The Majesty of God’s Law is a great read. I see it as a description of what we are talking about here. A Republic in the sense of what we are describing in this thread must of necessity be established on God’s law. That is, scripture–the laws of Nature’s God (as it is described in the Declaration of Independence), and if you believe in modern revelation, the laws of Nature’s God are the words of the living prophet(s). A Biblical world view of law and government is in my belief what the Founders established. All law was a reflection of God’s law. No law was a law that was not a reflection of God’s law. If the people did not concur that legislation was congruent with God’s law, it simply was not law. Only a moral and religious people could recognize true law. The fact that our laws are no longer a reflection of God’s law, and especially the degree to which they are not, is the true moral compass for our nation. For example, the Declaration of Independence is really a declaration that a group of people who want to be governed by God are unwilling to allow an unrighteous secular ruler to govern them. It is a declaration of allegiance to God’s law, and that the rule of King George III had no hold over them, and the signers provided a list of sin and transgression as their reasoning. Certainly, this is not a popular interpretation of the Declaration of Independence, but when it was finished it is that interpretation, I believe, that made the old man weep.

  • Anonymous:

    Very interesting article, Oak.  I was especially interested in the differences between the passage of the water restrictions under a democracy and a republic.  It illustrates that in a republic as defined in that article, the people CANNOT delegate rights to their government that they do not have themselves.  I have always considered a republic to be where we should not delegate rights we do not have, but we can, and we do.  This is how it is currently being done.

    We pass laws all the time that affect everyone, including versions of universal legal plunder (i.e. medicare, social security).  It would be interesting, indeed, if when those laws were passed that they only applied to the people who voted for them.  That makes good sense.  If you want to pay into a Social Security tax, and then later draw benefits from it… more power to you!  But, if you prefer to opt out and not pay the tax, then you (of course) receive no benefit from it later, that is also an option.  What a great nation we would have if such were the case.

    EDB mentioned Bastiat and legal plunder.  I want to clarify something.  Not all taxes are considered to be legal plunder by Bastiat.  Just taxation represents fair payment for services rendered.  Redistributive taxation constitutes legal plunder.  Some taxes are necessary and important.  If everyone pays taxes for police service, and everyone receives police service, this is not legal plunder.  Those taxes are just and beneficial to society as a whole.

    If some people (i.e. the ones who work) pay for others (i.e. the ones who do not work) to receive welfare benefits.  This is legal plunder.  Those taxes are unjust and not beneficial to society as a whole.


  • Interesting. Thanks for posting that Tom.

  • Scott Bishop:

    I have enjoyed reading this article and the many comments after it. There are, of course, some errors in what we have come to accept as our reality.
    Natural Rights and the form of government upon a people are mutually exclusive. In other words, people have natural Rights whether the government under which they live accepts, rejects, suppresses, or encourages that fact. The role the government plays is whether or not, and more often to what extent, it suppresses and denies those natural Rights. Another way of saying this is that every human being on the face of this earth has exactly the same natural Rights; the difference being that many, and indeed most, do not exercise their natural Rights because of fear, force, and ignorance of their rights.
    The form of government under which one lives obviously has an affect on how one views their natural Rights. A democracy is nothing more than mob rule – when enough of the people want a law, it is passed, even if it is to the detriment of the people themselves, in whole or in part. Consequently, all democracies eventually lead to despotism. A Republic, on the other hand, is the rule of law, which means that no matter how many people want a particular law passed, it can not obviate the supreme law, meaning that even if passed it is invalid from its inception if in its very essence it tries to bind men in ways they have not authorized in their supreme law.
    In essence, this is what the article is trying to convey, as far as law goes. However, just because a law seems to violate a natural Right does not make it invalid or unconstitutional. If it does so, however, it is not valid upon the human being but only upon those entities which the government creates (corporations, legal fictions, employments, offices, etc) since the creation is never greater than its creator.
    It is up to each individual to know his or her Rights (the U.S. Supreme Court said, correctly, that you have no rights that you do not assert) and to assert them appropriately. The phrase “Freedom is not Free” has become nothing more than a trite saying in our society, but it is nonetheless correct. Freedom has a cost – education of self and others, time and energy to defend one’s freedom, etc.
    You have an unlimited right to contract, meaning that you can volunteer into a government’s control if you so desire. It is because of this that you can accept benefits such as welfare, etc. But, if you volunteer for the benefit, there is, of course, a cost, and that cost is a tax in some form.
    All of the taxes in existence today are authorized, but not all of them are authorized upon the people. It is up to the individual to determine which taxes apply to him or her and which don’t, and then pay or don’t pay as appropriate. Best be careful when making this decision and determination, of course. (Does that even need to be said?)
    You can not contract for someone else, so your mother or father could not have “contracted” you into a system by your birth certificate, though they could have relinquished certain of their own rights by doing so.
    “Therealdougc” said it correctly when he stated that you can not vest an authority in your government that you do not have. Because of this, your government does not have any authority over any human being that you yourself do not have and thus can not operate on your behalf in the exercise of a power in trying to implement that authority. The only exception to this is that the government does have certain authorities over individuals who voluntarily contract with it that it would not have otherwise.
    No one really reads posts this long, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

  • J Michael Carman:

    I would love anyone here to list specifically the Natural Rights we all possess? The Declaration says that “among these” are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. What else should be considered a natural right?

  • Tom Westmoreland:

    Attempting to list all Natural Rights would be an interesting project. I cannot do it. Some that come to mind though might be: The right to own, control, and protect property. The right to self-preservation/defense (that might be included under the right to life). The right to do noble acts. The right to bind ourselves by covenant/contract. The right to love (happiness?). The right to worship. The right to procreate. 

    A general rule comes from the origin of the term right, meaning it is right therefore it is a right of man. 

    Also, I would think that Natural Rights would mesh with Natural Law. A couple of examples might be, man has the right to fly as long as he obeys Natural Law. Man has the right to be godlike as long as he obeys God’s commandments. 

  • Scott Bishop:

    Why would you want to limit your natural Rights to a potentially incomplete set?
    I rather prefer to understand how to determine what a natural Right is and then abide by the precepts of the 9th Amendment – “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    So, the question then becomes, how do you determine what is and what is not a natural Right?
    A natural Right is one that everyone can enjoy, participate in, and exercise, simultaneously, without having to provoke, cause, coerce, or constrain anyone else to serve them.
    Life is a natural Right. Everyone can enjoy it simultaneously without having to coerce anyone else to serve them. One might say that a newborn child causes or constrains its parents to serve it, but this is not true. The child came about in a contractual nature because of the actions of the parents. They chose or volunteered to the effects of their actions. This is why pregnancy caused by rape or incest, and the endangerment of the mother’s life due to the pregnancy are the only lawful and valid reasons for an abortion. This contract ends only at the time at which the newborn becomes self-sufficient, which, to a large degree, is dependent upon the teachings given it by its parents.
    Everyone can exercise their Liberty without having to constrain anyone else to fill their needs.
    Everyone can pursue their Happiness without having to constrain anyone else to fill their needs.
    Everyone can travel freely, contract voluntarily, etc, etc without having to constrain anyone else to fill their needs. The pursuit of Happiness includes the ability to exchange a part of your life for property and then to control and direct that property as you see fit.
    In contrast, education forces someone else to be a teacher or to build schools; healthcare forces someone else to be a doctor or nurse or to build hospitals; etc, etc. These are not natural Rights, though we can deem them to be civil rights, though the validity of that is questionable.
    Lawfully, you can not permit, license, or limit a natural Right but only a Privilege granted by an earthly entity.

    Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are the three general areas of natural Rights, which contain all other natural Rights within them.

  • I read it all Scott and I liked it. :)