What Kind of Country Is a Republic?

A republic is a country in which the citizens are sovereign and govern through elected representatives. In a republic, leaders of government are subject to the law like everyone else. Republics thrive when citizens cultivate civic virtue and participate in public affairs.

Encyclopedia Britannica identifies a republic as a system in which members of the citizen body constitute the government and the rule of law applies to all members of society. This makes a republic different from a monarchy, in which a single ruler obtains power from inheritance and arbitrarily governs without being accountable to a higher authority.

The underlying principle of a republic is liberty, and republics use many mechanisms to ensure the freedom of citizens. In addition to elections, republics often employ written constitutions, bills of rights, term limits, separation of powers, checks and balances, and other measures designed to limit the power of government and prevent any one person or group of people from amassing exorbitant power.

Republics are designed to cultivate the virtue of their citizenry; the preservation of a republic greatly depends upon the integrity and involvement of citizens. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that some of the most important republican virtues are honesty, duty, education and a commitment to the furtherance of the common good above personal interests.