Surprisingly enough, there is no universally acknowledged definition of democracy but, according to Economist.com “most observers today would agree that at a minimum, the fundamental features of a democracy include government based on majority rule & the consent of the governed, the existence of free & fair elections, the protection of minorities & respect for basic human rights.”
Democracy originated in Ancient Greece but every society that has instilled this form of government has added it’s own spin on the ideology leading to numerous democratic systems. A representative democracy involves a group of representatives & a head of state being elected by a majority. These representatives are elected to act on the behalf of their constituent’s beliefs & interests but they do have the freedom to use their “best judgment.” A representative democracy can be further broken down into a parliamentary democracy & a liberal or constitutional democracy.
Another form of democracy is a direct democracy. With this form, the representatives are eliminated. The people vote on all issues. Historically, this type hasn’t really worked & had to be limited to smaller groups of people. However, California now uses this form to run their state. I personally believe this may grow in popularity or at least become a more possible option with the advancement of technology, communication, & transportation in today’s culture. There are many other forms but those are probably the two most common forms.
Democracy is not the “holy grail” of government ideologies, however. There are many criticisms of democracy. One such criticism is that voters tend to be very uninformed on the issues such as the economy. People (like I’ve stated previously & including myself) tend to be lazy & not want to study even the basics of politics. This is where lobbyists & the media can influence the people. This is a bit of a evil cycle, here. We have to rely on the media to tell us what is going on in D.C. but, nowadays media doesn’t just report the facts. Their political leanings tend to infiltrate or even guide their reporting causing their viewers to be influenced unless they are aware of what is going on. So watch, but watch with discernment.
Another serious criticism was brought up by Plato in his The Republic. He claimed that
democracy grants the people too much freedom eventually leading to mob rule/tyranny. Our forefathers were not stupid & tried to prevent this by creating the Constitution that would limit the powers of what a majority could impose.
According to Wikipedia “Traditional Asian cultures, in particular that of Confucian & Islamic thought, believe that democracy results in the people’s distrust & disrespect of governments or religious sanctity.” They believe that it eventually leads to a moral decay of the society. And, you know what? I can certainly see this happening today in our own country.
Other concerns include: political instability, short-termism, slow governmental response, & vote buying.
Links of interest:
- Democracy at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Democracy
- American Thinker: How Democracies Become Tyrannies -- A great article about Plato’s “The Republic” in comparison to what is going on in our country today.