A Better Place to Be: Republicanism as an Alternative to the Authoritarianism-Democracy Dichotomy
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Title of Dissertation: A BETTER PLACE TO BE: REPUBLICANISM AS AN ALTENATIVE TO THE AUTHORITARIANISM-DEMOCRACY DICHOTOMY
Christopher Ronald Binetti, Doctor of Philosophy, and 2016
Dissertation directed by: Dr. Charled Frederick Alford, Department of Government and Politics
In this dissertation, I argue that in modern or ancient regimes, the simple dichotomy between democracies and autocracies/dictatorships is both factually wrong and problematic for policy purposes. It is factually wrong because regimes between the two opposite regime types exist and it is problematic because the either/or dichotomy leads to extreme thinking in terms of nation-building in places like Afghanistan. In planning for Afghanistan, the argument is that either we can quickly nation-build it into a liberal democracy or else we must leave it in the hands of a despotic dictator. This is a false choice created by both a faulty categorization of regime types and most importantly, a failure to understand history. History shows us that the republic is a regime type that defies the authoritarian-democracy dichotomy.
A republic by my definition is a non-dominating regime, characterized by a (relative) lack of domination by any one interest group or actor, mostly non-violent competition for power among various interest groups/factions, the ability of factions/interest groups/individual actors to continue to legitimately play the political game even after electoral or issue-area defeat and some measure of effectiveness. Thus, a republic is a system of government that has institutions, laws, norms, attitudes, and beliefs that minimize the violation of the rule of law and monopolization of power by one individual or group as much as possible. These norms, laws, attitudes, and beliefs ae essential to the republican system in that they make those institutions that check and balance power work.
My four cases are Assyria, Persia, Venice and Florence. Assyria and Persia are ancient regimes, the first was a republic and then became the frightening opposite of a republic, while the latter was a good republic for a long time, but had effectiveness issues towards the end. Venice is a classical example of a medieval or early modern republic, which was very inspirational to Madison and others in building republican America. Florence is the example of a medieval republic that fell to despotism, as immortalized by Machiavelli’s writings. In all of these examples, I test certain alternative hypotheses as well as my own.