Democracy refers to a type of government system where every eligible citizen of a country has a significant say and contribution in the decisions affecting their personal lives. This type of government provides a platform for the citizens to have equal and full participation- either through representatives or directly-in the creation and development of laws that govern a country. This means that the supreme power of the government is completely vested in the citizens of that nation or state. Essentially, democracy is comprised of economic, cultural, and social conditions that allow the equal and free practice of self-determination when it comes to political matters. The citizens have the right to chose or elect whomever they please. They also have the right to dictate the terms of leadership in their countries.
Although democracy used to exist in ancient Roman and Greek republics, it had little success. The golden age of democracy was actually not realized until the late mid twentieth century (Cohen 2003). Today, most countries follow this type of government.
Forms of democracy
There are two major forms of democracy in the world today. These are direct democracy and representative democracy.
In this form of democracy, the running of the government is in such a way that everybody is given an opportunity to participate. The citizens are actually involved directly in the formulation of new policies. This means that that the legislative arm of government and various representatives are not involved or included in law making. Meetings are usually held and the people are given an opportunity to debate and agree on the laws to be adopted and enforced. Alternatively, the people participate in the voting of different policies and initiatives (Lijphart 2003).
Various arguments for and against democracies have been forwarded in various political circles. One of the arguments for democracy is that is that it hands power to the citizens who are essentially the owners of the country. Direct democracy also speeds ups the various political processes. This is because it allows quick decision-making on pertinent issues that affect the country, for example a referendum done through electronic voting. This prevents time wastage that may occur when different political parties engage in fights over the issues which inadvertently leads to the bogging down of the issues.
On the other hand, direct democracy has been faulted because of a number of aspects. For example, it is argued that this type of democracy is being rigged at an increasingly alarming rate in the society. This particularly occurs when large crowds of the population go out and vote just to make sure that a particular decision that favors them is passed. This is what is called the game of unfair numbers.
This is a type of democracy where the opinion of the people is not expressed directly but rather through elected or nominated representatives. The people elect various political leaders to express and relay their opinions and points. The representatives communicate about the issues that are most dear and near to the people that they represent.
The private agendas of the representatives are completely ignored and they only serve the wishes of the people. It however becomes imperative in some instances for the elected representatives to use own judgment to come up with sound views and opinions that the electorate may not always have. Each act enacted has to put the interests of the people at its forefront (Cohen 2003). However, this has not always been the case in the representative democracy as some leaders are usually elected and instead of catering for the people who elected them, they start concentrating on personal agendas.
Although the representatives are entrusted with the making of some major decisions, their power is however curtailed by a country’s constitutions. For instance, the representatives do not possess the power to choose or select the president, fellow representatives, and other government officers.
A representative democracy does not always result in complete representation of people. The election of a certain representative is not a guarantee that ones views will be taken into consideration. This particularly occurs when people share varying viewpoints or when the views of the electorate are different from those of the elected leader. In such a situation, the representative may chose to forego the opinions of the electorate and simply express his personal views and agenda (Cohen 2003).
It cannot be denied that democracy in most of the capitalistic nations in the world has witnessed various drawbacks. However, democracy as a virtue itself cannot be faulted. Most of the defects emanate from the economic and social systems of the setting in which it are fitted (Lijphart 2003). The process of achieving full-fledged democracy in a given country is one that is very complex and exhausting. It requires complete synchronization and harmonization of the country’s social, cultural, and economical systems to ensure that the democracy dispensation has an atmosphere to succeed. Most of the countries that brag of having full democracy will give credence to this point since the said democracy in those countries has been as a result of intensive campaigns and initiatives by democracy campaigners throughout the years.
Cohen, C. (2007). Democracy. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Lijphart, A. (2003).Patterns of democracy: Government forms and performance in thirty-six countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.