The basic sense of democracy

The concept and essence of democracy as a system of government, the basic elements, main definitions. The history of democracy: from ancient Greece to the present day. The main principles of democracy. The advantages and disadvantages of democracy.

Рубрика Государство и право
Вид реферат
Язык английский
Дата добавления 12.08.2011
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1. What democracy is, main definitions

2. The history of democracy

3. The main principles of democracy

4. The advantages and disadvantages of democracy


The list of the used literature


Form of government - the members of a social organization who are in power. The problem that "what is the best form of government?" was not only the problem in the past but it is still a problem even at the end of the 20th century. The question again remains that "what is the best form of government?" The government should be based on the three creative principles of absolute justice, kindness and kinship. The law of nature is governing the whole universe according to these three creative principles.

A government should based on absolute justice, kindness and kinship. Without these creative principles, no government will serve the purpose and it will cause eventually trouble to the people. There should be justice in forming government, electing candidates, and making policies. These principles keep the government in moderate position. Having these principles, neither there will be extreme liberty, as we know that extreme liberty causes social and moral disorders. Nor these principles allow for extreme control of government that causes disastrous problem.

These principles keep society, government, and economic and other pursuit of happiness in proportion. With kindness, we have an opportunity in the world that is based on the theory of "Social Darwinism." With absolute justice, everyone can have his/her share accordingly. These principles were not introduced in the system of Locke, Hobbes or Rousseau. In order to have a best form of government these principles are essential and are based on the natural law.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” - told Winston Churchill.


In a democracy, the government is elected by the people. Everyone who is eligible to vote - which is a majority of the population - has a chance to have their say over who runs the country.

I think of democracy as a system of government with four key elements:

1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.

2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.

3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.

4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

Democracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office.

The people decide who will represent them in parliament, and who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do so by choosing between competing parties in regular, free and fair elections. Government is based on the consent of the governed. In a democracy, the people are sovereign--they are the highest form of political authority. Power flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily.

Democracies guard against all-powerful central governments and decentralize government to regional and local levels, understanding that local government must be as accessible and responsive to the people as possible.

The basic sense of democracy as a form of governance rests on its etymology as rule by the entire people rather than, as Shapiro puts it, by any "aristocrat, monarch, philosopher, bureaucrat, expert, or religious leader." Beyond that, actual definitions of democracy come in all shapes and sizes.

For example,

· Democracy is "the substitution of election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." (G.B. Shaw).

· Democracy is "government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them or by officers elected by them." (Oxford English Dictionary, 1933).

"Democracy provides opportunities for

1) effective participation,

2)equality in voting,

3)gaining enlightened understanding,

4)exercising final control over the agenda, and

5)inclusion of adults." The political institutions that are necessary to pursue these goals are "

1) elected officials,

2) free, fair and frequent elections,

3) freedom of expression,

4) alternative sources of information,

5) associational autonomy, and 6) inclusive citizenship." (Dahl)

· "In a democracy important public decisions on questions of law and policy depend, directly or indirectly, upon public opinion formally expressed by citizens of the community, the vast bulk of whom have equal political rights." (Weale).

Democracy is "a state where political decisions are taken by and with the consent, or the active participation even, of the majority of the People. Liberalism, though recognizing that in the last resort the `legal majority' must prevail, tries to protect the minorities as it does the civil rights of the individual, and by much the same methods. Liberal democracy is qualified democracy. The ultimate right of the majority to have its way is conceded, but that way is made as rough as possible." (Finer 1997).

Each emphasizes one or more things thought to be true about democracy.


It is often very difficult to find basic information about the history of democracy. Debates about the nature of democracy will never end, but there is no reason to throw up our hands. Indeed, systematic comparisons between different political systems and societies are necessary if we are to understand and create democracies.

The word "democracy," as well as the concept it represents, can be traced back to the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The beginnings of democracy can be credited to the Greeks of the sixth century BC. The word comes from two Greek words: demos, meaning "the people," and kratein, meaning "to rule." These two words are joined together to form democracy, literally meaning "rule by the people" (Pious).

The Greek system of government was perhaps closer to a true democracy or rule by the people than any other in history. The Greeks viewed dictatorship as the worst possible form of government, so their government evolved as the exact opposite. Their civilization was broken down into small city-states (never more than 10,000 citizens), and all the men voted on all issues of government. There were no representatives in the Greek system of government. Instead, they ruled themselves directly; each man was a life long member of the decision making body. This was almost a total democracy except for the fact that women and slaves (over 50% of the population) were not considered citizens and were not allowed to vote. Despite this, no other civilization has come as close to democracy as its creators, the Greeks, and many later civilizations have incorporated this Greek idea as part of the foundation for their government.

For most of world history, most people have got along without democracy. Most governments of historical nations have been monarchies of one kind or another. Of the republics before modern times (Ancient Greece and Rome, Ancient India, Medieval Italy), only a small handful have been true democracies - notably that infamous political experiment, Athens.

Well, I suppose, for most people, for most of history, democracy has not even been a distant dream, so fighting for it wasn't even a possibility. Perhaps it is a truth that when democracy is a reality in one part of the world, then all the peoples of the world want it.

But I wonder whether in fact the peoples of he Middle East really are fighting for democracy as such. What I think may be happening is that they are fighting against their governments' corruption, intimidation and so on.

For most of history, government has had very little impact on the lives of most people. Even in monarchies, throughout history villages have tended to run their own affairs, with the agents of the central government seen as a distant (and not very friendly) presence. The most centrally organized society of pre-modern times has been imperial China - but even here, there was only one magistrate to tens of thousands of ordinary people. What modern technology has done is to enable governments to be come much more involved in people's lives, to make a much greater impact. And people don't like it - especially when those government agents are arrogant and bullying.

Modern governments have taken a huge amount of power away from their people. Even in a society like Britain, townsmen and villagers in feudal and early modern times essentially governed themselves through their parish and town councils. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, however, the state expanded into every corner of people's lives - just as it has in every other advanced nation. In fact, just as it MUST in every advanced nation (a topic for another blog).

And in fact, without open democratic systems, governments WILL, despite the best intentions of this in high places, become corrupt and bullying. And in the modern world, where government officials have a so much greater impact on the lives of the people than in previous times, resentment will grow. Hatred will come. It may well be that, in modern times, authoritarian regimes really are all doomed.

democracy government history principle


If democracy is to work, citizens must not only participate and exercise their rights. They must also observe certain principles and rules of democratic conduct. People must respect the law and reject violence. Nothing ever justifies using violence against your political opponents, just because you disagree with them. Every citizen must respect the rights of his or her fellow citizens, and their dignity as human beings. No one should denounce a political opponent as evil and illegitimate, just because they have different views. People should question the decisions of the government, but not reject the government's authority.

- To preserve and protect individual rights and freedoms, a democratic people must work together to shape the government of their choosing. And the principal way of doing that is through political parties. Political parties are voluntary organizations that link the people and their government. Parties recruit candidates and campaign to elect them to public office, and they mobilize people to participate in selecting government leaders. Democratic political parties have faith in the principles of democracy so that they recognize and respect the authority of the elected government even when their party leaders are not in power.

- In a democracy the press should operate free from governmental control. Democratic governments do not have ministries of information to regulate content of newspapers or the activities of journalists; requirements that journalists be vetted by the state; or force journalists to join government-controlled unions. The press, itself, must act responsibly. Through professional associations, independent press councils, and "ombudsmen," in-house critics who hear public complaints, the press responds to complaints of its own excesses and remains internally accountable.

- Press outlets should establish their own editorial boards, independent of government control, in order to separate information gathering and dissemination from editorial processes.

- Free and fair elections allow people living in a representative democracy to determine the political makeup and future policy direction of their nation's government. Free and fair elections increase the likelihood of a peaceful transfer of power. They help to ensure that losing candidates will accept the validity of the election's results and cede power to the new government. Elections alone do not assure democracy since dictators can use the resources of the state to tamper with the election process.

- For much of human history, rulers and law were synonymous - law was simply the will of the ruler. A first step away from such tyranny was the notion of rule by law, including the notion that even a ruler is under the law and should rule by virtue of legal means. Democracies went further by establishing the rule of law. Although no society or government system is problem-free, rule of law protects fundamental political, social, and economic rights and reminds us that tyranny and lawlessness are not the only alternatives. Rule of law means that no individual, president or private citizen, stands above law. Democratic governments exercise authority by way of law and are themselves subject to law's constraints. Laws should express the will of the people, not the whims of kings, dictators, military officials, religious leaders, or self-appointed political parties.

- Freedom of speech and expression, especially about political and other public issues, is the lifeblood of any democracy. Democratic governments do not control the content of most written and verbal speech. Thus democracies are usually filled with many voices expressing different or even contrary ideas and opinions. According to democratic theorists, a free and open debate will usually lead to the best option being considered and will be more likely to avoid serious mistakes. Democracy depends upon a literate, knowledgeable citizenry whose access to information enables it to participate as fully as possible in the public life of their society and to criticize unwise or tyrannical government officials or policies. Citizens and their elected representatives recognize that democracy depends upon the widest possible access to uncensored ideas, data, and opinions.


Some advantages to a democracy are that it can provide change in government without violence; power can be transferred from one party to another through elections. The people we elect owe their success to the people who elected them in the first place. When people elect someone they elect who suit them, they should be grateful that you even like them. It should also make them want to work harder and motivate them to work for the people and not themselves. In democracy people feel a great sense of participation in the choosing of their government, they get to voice their opinion by means of votes. Sometime it even makes people feel a sense of belonging in their society. Also, I can note other advantages:

ь Peaceful Modifications in the Government. Democracy can offer modifications in government without hostility. In a democracy, authority can be reassigned from one party to another by the mode of elections. The power of the general public of a country decides its ruling power.

ь Averting Monopoly. Furthermore, any government is confined to an election tenure after which it has to contend against other parties to recover power. This method averts monopoly of the reigning party. The reigning authorities have to ensure it functions effectively for its people as cannot continue being the authority subsequent to carrying out its term unless re-elected by the people.

ь Feeling of Gratitude. This inculcates a feeling of responsibility towards the citizens. The reigning party owes their accomplishment in the elections to the people of the country. This leads to a feeling of thankfulness towards the citizens. It can act as their inspiration to function for the people for it is the general masses that have absolute authority over selecting their government.

ь Social Responsibility of the Citizens. An additional vital advantage of democracy is that the citizens achieve a sense of contribution in the procedure of selecting their government. They get the chance to speak out their views by method of electoral voting. This gives ascend to a feeling of belongingness in the brains of the masses towards their society and its well being.

There are also disadvantages to democracy which are the government is always changing after every election term, the person you elected may lose focus of what was important and may steer in the other direction. Democracy can also influence people, some may vote for someone that everyone else wanted and not what they want. Everyone has different views about the various political systems, you should always choose what you want not what everyone else wants. Because in the long run, you should be happy with the choices and opinions of your own. We all don't think alike, that is what make us individuals and make this world a great place to live in. Also:

o Making the wrong choice. In a democratic country, it is the common man who has the supreme right to choose their legislature and their prevailing authorities. As per a general study, not all the people are completely conscious of the political circumstances in their nation. The common masses may not be acquainted of the political matters in their society. This may lead to common man taking an erroneous selection during election.

o Authorities May Lose focus. As the government is bound to changes and modification after each election tenure, the authorities may function with a interim objective. Since they have to go through an election procedure after the conclusion of each tenure, they may lose focus on functioning effectively for the citizens and instead might concentrate on winning elections.

o Hordes Have Influence. A further disadvantage of democracy is that hordes can manipulate citizens. People may vote in support of a party under the pressure of the bulk. Constrained or influenced by the ideas of those around, an individual may not put across his/her accurate judgment.

Democracy averts radicalism and encourages teamwork and synchronization. It also slows things down, stops those in authority doing what they wish regardless of the majority's desires.


So, when we talk about democracy we automatically draw up the fundamental belief that each individual has a value. The free enterprise system that the United States has is parallel to democracy, because the free enterprise system is also based on individualism.

Democracy is not something that will be found in all countries. There are 5 basic concepts of democracy:

1. Worth of the Individual 2. Equality of All Persons 3. Majority Rule, Minority Rights 4. Necessity of Compromise

The concept of democracy has evolved a lot throughout history. One period when there were many new ideas about a democracy is the Enlightenment period. Some important people who expressed these ideas are Thucydides, Aristotle, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In “The Peloponnesian War,” Thucydides states that, “Our constitution is called a democracy because the power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.” He means that instead of having one absolute ruler, the government system is run by the people, having everyone equal before the law.

Nowadays, the democracy is almost everywhere in the world. Europe has used its form of government for almost half a century. North and South America are now virtually a hemisphere of democracy; Africa is experiencing democratic reform; and new, democracies have taken root in Asia. Democracy may be a word familiar to most, but it is a concept still misunderstood and misused.


1. What is Democracy? Lecture at Hilla University for Humanistic Studies, - 2004. - 45 p.

2. Charles Tilly, Democracy, - Cambridge University Press, 2007. - 234 p.

3. Tom Lansford, Democracy, - Marshall Cavendish, 2007, 143 p.

4. Jan-Erik Lane, Svante O. Ersson, Democracy: a comparative approach, - Routledge, 2003. - 306 p.

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