In his praise for what he regards as judicial activism ["The Value of 'Activism,' " Sept. 1], George F. Will said that judicial review is compatible with America's "democratic values" and repeated an argument that judicial review is a means by which a contemporary majority is blocked by the "especially dignified" past majority that produced the Constitution through a "democratic" ratification process.

That ignores the fact that, except for an era spanning roughly the mid-'50s through the mid-'70s, judicial activism has been largely conservative, sanctioning such things as slavery and racial segregation while striking down progressive social and regulatory measures.

Mr. Will also ignored the fact that the "especially dignified" majority and "democratic" ratification process restricted voting to propertied males. He no doubt would want us to forget that the founders of this nation disdained democracy and instead promoted their creation as a republic, which would guarantee a republican form of government to the states. The distinction is vital to intelligent political discourse.

While democracies enable electoral majorities to control governments and redistribute wealth, the American republic checks and balances popular sentiments with practices such as judicial review. Our republican form of government may be the best system for a society with vast resources and opportunities. However, it is dishonest to call it "democracy" when we attempt to export it to poorer nations such as Iraq where wealth is dependent on a single resource susceptible to control by a privileged elite.