A republic is a representative form of a democracy. What sets apart a republic from a true democracy is that in a republic leaders are elected and those leaders actually handle the day to day decision making of the government. In a pure democracy the people hold a forum to decide nearly every issue. A republic can take many forms and how the members of the ruling body are selected vary from one to another. An example of a republic from ancient days is the Pre-Empire Roman Republic.
In science fiction, "republic" may refer to:
A classic example is the Roman Republic, which had the Senate as the major ruling body of the system, consisting of Senators who were usually appointees. One of the best modern examples is the United States of America, which is still currently in operation.
The Republic System in the United States
The rules of the republic for the United States of America are described in the Constitution of the United States. Before the framing of this system, the country was ruled by a very simplified version of the Roman system, with only one vote per member state known as the Articles of Confederation. Under the Constitution, the system was expanded to include three branches with many checks and balances to try to keep any one branch of the system from overwhelming the others.
The Three Branches
- The Executive Branch is made up of the President of the United States and the members of his cabinet and other officers. The power of the Executive is to implement and enforce the laws passed by the Legislative Branch. One key power granted to the President is the Veto power. This allows the President to block implementation of a law that has been approved by the Legislative Branch. The President also has the power to appoint members of the Judiciary or other Federal Offices when a vacancy is found there.
- The Legislative Branch is the Congress, which is sub-divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate. This branch has the power to pass laws, set taxes, and set budgets. If the President vetoes a law, the Congress can overturn the veto if 2/3 of both the House and the Senate vote to do so. The Senate is also responsible for approving appointments by the President to Federal Offices before they become official. The House has the power to Impeach a member of the government if they think a crime has been committed, which removes the offender from office if successful.
- The Judicial Branch made up of the Supreme Court of the United States and other lesser Federal courts. The Judicial Branch interprets the laws, determining how they apply in specific situations and how overlapping laws interact. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of conflicts between different laws, allowing it to invalidate laws that conflict with higher laws, such as the Constitution itself.
Republics in Fiction
In function, most fictional republics resemble Roman Senatorial system. The best fictional example of the later is the Galactic Republic of Star Wars. Even this does contain some portions of the multi-branch system of the US, as a Central Court is mentioned. The United Federation of Planets appears to be a Republic-like system, but how the Federation Council functions or is appointed is never adequately explained to really be sure.