What first must be acknowledged is that the form of government we have is indeed a republic. That it is not as pure a republic as when it was created is true, problematic, and a point for further discussion. However, I stress again that our nation is not a democracy, thank the Lord! Ancient Athens was a democracy, and the experience of democracies throughout history has been the inevitable rule by the mob. As a point of differentiation, in our Republic, we elect leaders who run on platforms that we agree with. In Athens, citizens voted on whether or not to build ships, invade Sicily, and so forth.
We are, then, properly defined, a federal representative republic. Here I will address the latent objection that we're no longer purely a republic, and have indeed adopted characteristics both of a democracy and of socialism. That we have adopted democratic tendencies (such as the direct election of Senators and our seemingly national obsession with opinion polls) is obvious. That we have also adopted socialistic tendencies is true (witness government control and interference in education, health care, and retirement savings, off the top of my head as examples); that this is a function of the type of citizens we have is the irrefutable cause, unfortunately.
Our system was built for a self-governing people, and somehow, we've become less and less self-governing over time. Theories abound, but the nature of government is to expand and consolidate power. If the people, and the States as well, are willing to turn over those things that are properly their domain, the federal government will be more than happy to assume responsibility for these things. Is the genie out of the proverbial bottle? Perhaps. However, there is a solution: a return to American Federalism.
Ever heard of the analogy of cooking a frog? If you boil the water and throw the frog into the pot, he'll jump right out, and you'll have a mess on your hands. But put that frog into a cool pot of water, and slowly heat it up, and before you know it, your frog has been cooked.
Change is like that. Make it too sudden, too abrupt, and it'll never take. But slowly, gradually, ease people into the concepts that we've somehow forgotten, and watch what happens.
Want an example? Take the Department of Education (please). If this bureaucratic nightmare was eliminated, and the states given the authority, formerly vested at the federal level, to educate their residents in the manner that they best saw fit, that's not a drastic change. It's merely a shifting of responsibility. Locally, nothing would really change, except where taxes were before federal, they would now be local, and where the educational dollars are spent would also have no federal control to it.
Taken a step further, states could decide if the Capitol best knew how to allocate resources for their residents, or would the counties be better equipped? As with many areas I generally refer to as domestic, the more local control gets, the less money gets spent on staffing large departments, and the more it ends up used by the beneficiary, in this case, the student.
Taken another step further, imagine states competing for human capital - taxpayers like you and me - by offering the most competitive products and services at the lowest cost (taxes) possible. Do you think that companies would want to relocate to a state that is run like a business or more like modern-day France?
Here's my theory on self-government, and as it is mine, forgive me if I think it to be quite good. There are some self-governing people out there today. A lot of them are small business owners, for example. Anyone who homeschools their kids is without a doubt self-governing. To these folks, an American Federalist approach to government is going to be met with a "where do I sign up?" attitude.
There's some other folks - most numerous of all the groups - who will have the aptitude and ability to be self-governing, but might need a little help seeing that. These folks might initially bristle at the idea that someone is re-arranging things like where educational dollars come from, but they're reasonable enough and when they see the beauty of the system as it was meant to be, they'll get on board.
A smaller group - and for argument's sake, let's call them liberals, shall we? - will resist this with their dying breath. Why? Because to a real liberal, a true leftist, the State is everything (except, with the exception of issues of morality; rightly defined as secularism). Assuming that people can take care of themselves and each other better than the government is just dangerous thinking to leftists.
And the last group are the folks who just have lost all instinct of self-preservation. This is the kind of person who wouldn't evacuate the hurricane path or heed tornado warnings because they wouldn't want to miss their government check when it arrives.
So, where am I going with this? Simply: self-government is a necessary component to the continued existence of a republic. If we lose that instinct, the form must change. If the form changes, Liberty herself is in danger. And lastly, through education and deliberate mechanisms, we can foster and develop the instinct of self-government in just about everyone. For those we can't, they can rely on the love and care of their fellow man, just as people have since the beginning of time.
A republic we are and a republic we must always remain; the fate of millions yet unborn, the Liberty of humankind, depends on it.