I think this applies not only for republics like America, but even for constitutional monarchies like Britain, Canada, New Zealand, etc.; for any kind of liberal democratic government system. I think throughout the western world, the scenario laid out by Fenster is where we find ourselves today. Now, some reactionaries have come to question democracy entirely, but the problem is, as we have seen, the elites need to be held in check themselves (after all, they’re fallible people just like the masses), so balancing power between them and the people is necessary. Having a system with free and fair elections, and referenda on particularly important matters, is surely the best way to accomplish this.
An interesting hypothetical case study.
Direct democracy does not scale up well and tyranny is unacceptable so country X has been established as a republic. As a republic, it relies on elites to run things, with the elites maintaining legitimacy by not straying too far from public sentiments and by giving the enough of the people what they want enough of the time.
But human nature being what it is, elites are tempted to use their privileged positions to enhance their self-interest. And since there is no bright line test for the factors that maintain legitimacy no one knows where the boundary is, and there is constant movement away from the public good toward the private good of the favored.
In time, the country begins to resemble an oligarchy. But it is only halfway there. In fact, at a certain point you could say it is exactly halfway…
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