The United States is a democratic republic
, which does make it a type of democracy; but not a pure
democracy (which is
otherwise known as "mob rule").
The Founding Fathers hated the idea of a pure democracy as much as they hated the idea of a dictatorship; as Benjamin Franklin said in 1787, near the
beginning of the Contsitutional Convention, "A pure democracy is four wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner." In a pure democracy, anything
goes, no matter how aborrent it may be, as long as 51% of the people approve of it. (In other words, there's no minority protection of any kind --
and minorities aren't just races, or religions, they're also subcultures, economic groups, etc. -- in a pure democracy.) Also, every single law
would have to be passed by popular vote, which would be inefficient at best, and impossible at worst.
In a pure republic, people from different parts of a country meet to make the laws in a legislature. A republic by no means has to be democratic;
history is full of undemocratic republics -- in these cases, the legislature members are appointed, not elected.
The genius in putting the two together into a democratic republic is that you end up with a democracy that can run fairly smoothly (you elect
representatives to represent you at the national legislature and vote on every single law that comes up; if you don't like the decisions they make,
you can elect someone else to take their place next term) but has minority protection at the same time.
I think the writers of the U.S. Constitution were social science geniuses ahead of their time , and the fact that the U.S. is still a free and
prosperous country, depsite all the trials and tribulations that this country has been through, is evidence of that. Of course, "liberty and justice
for all" is never as simple as a document and a rule book; it will never be perfect as long as human nature isn't perfect -- but as long as we work
towards that perfect goal, however impossible that may be, and progress -- then we know we're doing the right thing.
And no, the United States is not an empire -- an empire is a conquerer by nature, absorbing other countries into itself and using those countries (by
controlling their governments) to produce for the mother country alone. You can't equate sphere of influence with empire! The U.S. may be one of a
small group of nations who have a global sphere of influence right now, but last time I checked, all U.S. allies (and enemies!) were all sovereign
nations. There's also a huge difference between being an ally, and being a puppet state; just ask the nations of Eastern Europe (especially Poland),
who were "allies" of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and are U.S. allies now...
A democratic republic naturally functions best when it has a free market (though it can be regulated). A democratic republic with a restricted market
(where the government runs most or all industries and businesses) will choke itself to death with corruption eventually, and a dictatorship with a
free market is a contradiction in itself, an impossibility.
I'm not saying by any means that the U.S. is perfect; I'm well aware of the fact that the U.S., like every other country on Earth, has a dark side
to its past as well -- the scourge of slavery, open discrimination against blacks and women in the past, etc. -- but, like any good country, the U.S.
owns up to its mistakes, fixes them, and moves on. As Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government known to man... That
is, until you consider the alternatives."
God bless the U.S. Constitution!