What key elements compose a democracy? What is required to run a successful democracy? To answer these questions, we must first answer: what is a democracy? Some define it as a specific orientation of politics for those in favor of a government by the people or elected representatives. According to Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” (Lincoln).
Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous; it is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the establishment of freedom. Certain components distinguish democracy from other types of governance. This includes: people who have sovereignty, a government based upon consent of the governed, rulership of the majority, however serving to protect the rights of minorities–whether ethnic, religious, or political, or simply the losers in the debate over a piece of controversial legislation, guarantee of basic human rights for all, free and fair elections, equality before law, constitutional limits on the power of government, social, economic, and political pluralism, and values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise (McGann).
Although experiencing minor improvements in terms of democracy, progression of liberty for racial minorities, and improvement in voting conditions. These features make having a
... famous phrase of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Freedom and democracy are often used in place ... in Iraq and Pakistan. By the dictionary definition, democracy is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the ...
democratic system preferable over a dictatorship or monarchy. People want to be involved and feel like they have a say in the matters of the nation.
It is clear now how a democracy differs from other types of government systems. However, what are the primary components that sustain democratic systems? The first one is Participation. Citizens under the oppressive rule of a tyrant will generally stay out of the tyrant’s way. Why question the ultimate authority? Democracy is built off the idea that everyone should be engaged; everyone can help shape the country to their preference. Everyone can do successful planning, decision making, and evaluation of the country’s needs and modify anything they don’t like. The government also gets clear feedback, increasing the efficiency of their job. What role does a government play in a democracy? To prevent too much power from getting into the hands of one person or a group of individuals, it is split into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch creates and passes laws, the executive branch enforces laws, and the judicial branch interprets laws to settle disputes.
The second fundamental aspect of democracy is majority rule. This refers to any of the numerous voting processes that occur in a democratic system; the majority (which is, in most cases, more than half) wins. This regulation exists to diminish arguments between people with conflicting opinions on a topic. It would be quite difficult to have everyone vote unanimously one everything, so majority rule is quite essential. However, this type of rule has led to many outrages. Scholars do not recommend majority rule due to the apparent compromise made between the benefits of majority rule and other values important to a democratic society. It has even been argued that majority rule will lead to tyranny by majority, and that certain constitutional limits should be placed on government power to reduce the effects of this happening. Others oppose these arguments and suggest voting actually protects minorities; the cycle that ensures that parties that lose to a majority have an interest to remain part of the group’s process, because the decision can easily be overturned by another majority. Unless something occurs that changes this majority rules process, it will remain a major part of democracy.
... age was his commitment to the idea of democracy. By democracy, Jackson meant majoritarian rule. "The people are the government", he said, "administering ... his message to Congress he announced his creed: "The majority is to govern," he declared; and he repeated this commitment ... office. Government service was not really opened to the general public, as Jackson seemed to be demanding, but rather remained ...
The third fundamental aspect of democracy is the guarantee of basic human rights. The Declaration of Independence states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (US 1776).
The idea of human rights stems from John Locke’s visionary thinking. Thomas Jefferson was influenced by this and decided that a democracy needed individual rights in order to survive and thrive. Equality guarantees that every person has a uniform liberty to make the best use of their lives and talents, and is about believing that despite the location of their origin, their beliefs and views, or any disabilities, no single person should have poorer life chances. Historically, discrimination has occurred based on characteristics such as race, disability, sex and sexuality. Consider Germany under the Nazi Regime; with a simple enabling act passed by parliament, Hitler was given totalitarian power. Anyone with rights was quickly stripped of them; whatever Hitler thought about specific groups of people became a reality. Millions upon millions of people were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and lives were destroyed. Germany began to fall in 1945 when the Red Army proceeded into Berlin; ultimately, who’s fault was this? Hitler’s belief that certain people did not deserve equal rights as others.
A fourth fundamental aspect of democracy is public education (Davidson).
“Public education isn’t important because it serves the public, it is important because it creates the public.” says Neil Postman, former chairman, Department of Culture and Communication, New York University (Postman).
Benjamin Barber, professor of Civil Society, University of Maryland, along the same lines: “Public schools must be understood as public not simply because they serve the public, but because they establish us as a public.” (Barber).
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These two quotes explain that public education serves as a way to develop children into the next generation; the next generation to vote on propositions, presidential candidates, and so forth. Without quality public education, the people cannot know, handle, let alone check the powers that govern us (Davidson).
Without quality public education, there can be no substance to the promise of equality and freedom, no possibility of developing and realizing individual capacities, no possibility of children overcoming disadvantage, or of teens reaching for the stars, no possibility of being a people guiding their own destiny or of individuals choosing their own course. Above all, there is no possibility of being a self-governing people, a democracy. For democracy to survive, let alone thrive, the people must be able to know and analyze the powers organizing our lives. The people must be able to reflect on the perils and possibilities of our time and develop considered views about how to navigate them. The people must be able to analyze written and oral arguments, journalistic accounts, images and sound…distinguishing the reasonable from the sensational, the serious from the simplistic, the well founded from the fatuous (Brown).
Stated here is precisely the reason the government must furnish a designated system for teaching and provide it to growing intellectual minds. Some of these students will be the leaders of the country in the future; how can they conduct events in an orderly manner without the knowledge to do so? Unfortunately, the United States has made major cuts to the budget of education due to its debt, and so have other democratic republics. This certainly provides a more challenging atmosphere for students to survive and thrive, especially with the level of intellectualism needed to make it on someone’s own.
The fifth fundamental aspect of democracy is transparency. When U.S. president Lyndon Johnson signed the precedent-setting Freedom of Information Act in 1966, he stated: “[T]his legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the nation permits. No one should be able to pull the curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.” This means that if citizens are the ones attempting to govern their own affairs, (directly or through representative government), they must be informed about how best to determine their affairs and how best to represent and execute them. This goes back to the fourth pillar, education; the public needs to be aware of updated occurrences. Without any such knowledge, they will be incompetent in coming to any conclusions about government affairs or deciding upon ideas that could lead to consequences for the nation as a whole. If transparency is not present in a democracy, the government overseeing the nation is likely to yield to a state of corruption, where media and other propaganda influence citizens into favorable opinions. Throughout history, this has occurred when no restrictions are set upon the powers of the government and leaders only attempted to find more power.
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The sixth fundamental aspect of democracy is separation of powers. This system ensures that no single branch can dominate another, & all get equal weight. Stemming from the ideas of Baron de Montesquieu, the tripartite system prevents any individual or group of individuals from gaining absolute power over the majority of people. Similarly, there would not be any power struggle; none of the 3 parts of government would be competing for further authority. Citizens would live their lives in a greater orderly fashion, and the government could not become corrupt. In the constitution, this system is described in detail; “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows…” (art. 2, sec. 1, cl.1.).
Without this, the US could have become a dictatorship by now.
The seventh and final fundamental aspect of democracy is cultural pluralism. It describes smaller groups contained within a larger society maintaining their own unique cultural identities. This is slightly different than multiculturalism, however – in cultural pluralism, there must be one dominant culture or tradition. A great example is the United States, where there tends to be an emphasis on sports/athletics and patriotism. The Super Bowl and the celebration of July 4th are examples of traditions carried out by the majority of people living in the U.S., even if they are not citizens. However, many other sub-cultures can be identified – celebrations like Diwali and Eid are common but not carried out by the majority. This makes the United States a country in which cultural pluralism exists. If a government’s goals are to protect basic human rights attested to each individual, this is the manner in which it must be done; democracy would not be possible without cultural pluralism.
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A conclusion can be formed about the underbelly of democracy. The constituents that uphold this particular form of government are absolutely vital in the safekeeping of human life. Through these seven essential pillars, citizens can function in a society in which everyone has an equal say in the government’s decisions; the decisions that will affect their lives, either directly or indirectly. A full democracy can be found in 25 countries at present, while 53 more have what is considered a “flawed” democracy. Democratic countries such as the United States actually go to other countries with other government systems, such as dictatorships or communists, to spread the ideologies behind democracy, for the betterment of the people. Those who study governments can attest to the fact that democracies don’t fight one another; accountability and participation are good in themselves; they’re more likely to be humane and, on the whole, they’ll take better decisions. With 7 pillars, democracy manages to be the most successful form of government in the world.