"The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them." -Karl Marx

This article is part of
the Political Philosophy
Popular sovereignty

Democracy is a form of government, invented by ancient Greeks. in ancient Athens. Democracy allows the people to have some degree of say in how their government is run. This happens either by people directly voting on matters or by electing people's representatives to make the law. At its best Democracy promotes good Human beings.

Democracy is useful in preventing despots from taking power, as it would be difficult to get people to vote for a tyrant. Still, many nations, such as the United States, try to pass themselves off as being democratic, when in fact they are illiberal democracies that give too much power to the rich. Democracy appeals to Liberals because it promotes equality and freedom.

Democracy is what didn't happen in the 2000 US presidential election. (I'm looking at you, Florida.)

Parliamentary democracy

Normally, in a Democracy, the citizens vote to elect officials who in turn vote to enact laws that are used to promote the well-being of the people both in and outside of said Democracy. See also Republicanism (for Republic).

Representative democracy

Representative democracy means people eligible to vote elect representatives who govern in their name.

Direct democracy

Direct democracy means people eligible to vote, vote directly to decide laws and other matters of government.

Democracy that's not liberal

However, in the hands of Conservatives, this process is often corrupted into something more suitably called Democrazy or Plutocracy. Politicians of all political parties that stand a chance of winning elections can become dependent on rich sponsors, then too much government policy is decided by these rich sponsors instead of the people. Many "democracies" around the world are illiberal democracies.

Sadly, The United States also has many of the characteristics of an illiberal democracy.

Does democracy require elite rule?

All too often animals develop pecking orders and the strong animals dominate, bully, take advantage of weaker animals. Humans evolved from animals and have some of the bad characteristics of animals. Democracy is about preventing the strong from oppressing the weak or limiting the problem since it can’t be prevented totally. Representative democracy can be seen as an elite rule. The voters choose representatives to rule on their behalf.

Basic elements of democracy

Abuse of power is limited because the rulers have to return for re-election periodically. Power of the elected legislative parliament is limited to the duration of a legislative period which is defined through constitutional law. A government may be elected by a parliament. Then its term of office is coupled to the parliament's legislative period. If governors and (ruling) presidents are elected directly by the citizens, then the endurance of their terms of office is defined by constitutional law.

Besides limiting the time of legislative and governmental power to certain periods democracy needs another ingredient: Free, fair election by ballot. Free and fair means:

  1. All candidates must have the same realistic chance to be admitted for the election.
  2. All citizens must have the same rights and a realistic possibility to give their votes for the candidates of their personal choice.
  3. All voters mark their ballots unobserved.
  4. All votes must be counted as given.
  5. If a parliament has to be elected, then all candidates must have the same right to get a seat when they or their party got enough votes.
  6. If a single representative, governor, or president is elected, then the winner is the one who receives the majority of the citizens' votes.

A constitutional law that complies with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes it much easier to achieve free and fair elections since it usually strengthens equality of all citizens as common sense in a state's society.

See also