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Democracy is a form of government in which the right to govern is vested in the citizens of a country or a state and exercised through a majority rule. It is derived from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía ), "popular government",[1] which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos), "people" and κράτος (krátos), "rule, strength" in the middle of the fifth-fourth century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.[2] A democracy can denote either direct or indirect rule by the people.[3]

In political theory, democracy describes a small number of related forms of government and also a political philosophy. Even though there is no specific, universally accepted definition of 'democracy',[4] there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes. The first principle is that all citizens, not invested with the power to govern, have equal access to power and the second that all citizens enjoy legitimized freedoms and liberties. [5][6]

There are several varieties of democracy, some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others.[7][8] However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political power with balances, such as the separation of powers, then a branch of the system of rule could accumulate power and become harmful to the democracy itself.[9][10][11] The "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government it is possible for the rights of a minority to be abused by the "tyranny of the majority". An essential process in representative democracies are competitive elections, that are fair both substantively[12] and procedurally.[13] Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.[14][15]

Popular sovereignty is common but not a universal motivating philosophy for establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the philosophical principle of equal rights. Many people use the term "democracy" as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as political pluralism, equality before the law, the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances, due process, civil liberties, human rights, and elements of civil society outside the government. In the United States, separation of powers is often cited as a supporting attribute, but in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the dominant philosophy is parliamentary sovereignty (though in practice judicial independence is generally maintained). In other cases, "democracy" is used to mean direct democracy. Though the term "democracy" is typically used in the context of a political state, the principles are also applicable to private organizations and other groups.

Democracy has its origins in Ancient Greece.[16][17] However other cultures have significantly contributed to the evolution of democracy such as Ancient India, Ancient Rome,[16] Europe,[16] and North and South America.[18] Democracy has been called the "last form of government" and has spread considerably across the globe.[19] Suffrage has been expanded in many jurisdictions over time from relatively narrow groups (such as wealthy men of a particular ethnic group), but still remains a controversial issue with regard to disputed territories, areas with significant immigration, and countries that exclude certain demographic groups.



Ancient origins

The term democracy first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought. The philosopher Plato contrasted democracy, the system of "rule by the governed", with the alternative systems of monarchy (rule by one individual), oligarchy (rule by a small élite class) and timocracy.[20] Although Athenian democracy is today considered by many to have been a form of direct democracy, originally it had two distinguishing features: firstly the allotment (selection by lot) of ordinary citizens to government offices and courts,[21] and secondarily the assembly of all the citizens. All the male Athenian citizens were eligible to speak and vote in the Assembly, which set the laws of the city-state; citizenship was not granted to women, or slaves. Of the 250,000 inhabitants only some 30,000 on average were citizens. Of those 30,000 perhaps 5,000 might regularly attend one or more meetings of the popular Assembly. Most of the officers and magistrates of Athenian government were allotted; only the generals (strategoi) and a few other officers were elected.[2]

A possible example of primitive democracy may have been the early Sumerian city-states.[22] Vaishali in what is now Bihar, India is also one of the first governments in the world to have elements of what we would today consider democracy, similar to those found in ancient Greece. A similar proto-democracy or oligarchy existed temporarily among the Medes in the 6th century BC, but which came to an end after the Achaemenid Emperor Darius the Great declared that the best monarchy was better than the best oligarchy or best democracy.[23]

Even though the Roman Republic contributed significantly into certain aspects of democracy, such as Laws, it never became a democracy. The Romans had elections for choosing representatives, but again women, slaves, and the large foreign population were excluded. Also the votes of the wealthy were given more weight and almost all high officials, such as being member of Senate, came from a few wealthy and noble families.[24]

as published in January, 2007. The palest blue countries get a score above 9.5 out of 10 (with Sweden being the most democratic country at 9.88), while the black countries score below 2 (with North Korea being the least democratic at 1.03).]]

A serious claim for early democratic institutions comes from the independent "republics" of India, sanghas and ganas, which existed as early as the sixth century BC and persisted in some areas until the fourth century AD. The evidence is scattered and no pure historical source exists for that period. In addition, Diodorus (a Greek historian at the time of Alexander the Great's excursion of India), without offering any detail, mentions that independent and democratic states existed in India.[25] However, modern scholars note that the word democracy at the third century BC had been degraded and could mean any autonomous state no matter how oligarchic it was.[26][27]

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, there were various systems involving elections or assemblies, although often only involving a small amount of the population, such as the election of Uthman in the Rashidun Caliphate, the election of Gopala in Bengal, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Althing in Iceland, certain medieval Italian city-states such as Venice, the tuatha system in early medieval Ireland, the Veche in Novgorod and Pskov Republics of medieval Russia, Scandinavian Things, The States in Tirol and Switzerland and the autonomous merchant city of Sakai in the 16th century in Japan. However, participation was often restricted to a minority, and so may be better classified as oligarchy. Most regions in medieval Europe were ruled by clergy or feudal lords.

A little closer to modern democracy were the Cossack republics of Ukraine in the 16th-17th centuries: Cossack Hetmanate and Zaporizhian Sich. The highest post - the Hetman - was elected by the representatives from the country's districts. Because these states were very militarised, the right to participate in Hetman's elections was largely restricted to those who served in the Cossack Army and over time was curtailed effectively limiting these rights to higher army ranks.

, 1215, England]] The Parliament of England had its roots in the restrictions on the power of kings written into Magna Carta, explicitly protected certain rights of the King's subjects, whether free or fettered — and implicitly supported what became English writ of habeas corpus, allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment. The first elected parliament was De Montfort's Parliament in England in 1265. However only a small minority actually had a voice; Parliament was elected by only a few percent of the population (less than 3% in 1780.[28]), and the system had problematic features such as rotten boroughs. The power to call parliament was at the pleasure of the monarch (usually when he or she needed funds). After Glorious Revolution of 1688, English Bill of Rights was enacted in 1689, which codified certain rights and increased the influence of the Parliament.[28] The franchise was slowly increased and Parliament gradually gained more power until the monarch became largely a figurehead.[29]

Democracy was also seen to a certain extent in bands and tribes such as the Iroquois Confederacy. However, in the Iroquois Confederacy only the males of certain clans could be leaders and some clans were excluded. Only the oldest females from the same clans could choose and remove the leaders. This excluded most of the population. An interesting detail is that there should be consensus among the leaders, not majority support decided by voting, when making decisions.[30][31] Band societies, such as the Bushmen, which usually number 20-50 people in the band often do not have leaders and make decisions based on consensus among the majority. In Melanesia, farming village communities have traditionally been egalitarian and lacking in a rigid, authoritarian hierarchy. Although a "Big man" or "Big woman" could gain influence, that influence was conditional on a continued demonstration of leadership skills, and on the willingness of the community. Every person was expected to share in communal duties, and entitled to participate in communal decisions. However, strong social pressure encouraged conformity and discouraged individualism.[32]

18th and 19th centuries

scale, another widely used measure of democracy.]]

Although not described as a democracy by the founding fathers, the United States founders shared a determination to root the American experiment in the principle of natural freedom and equality.[33] The United States Constitution, adopted in 1788, provided for an elected government and protected civil rights and liberties. In the colonial period before 1776, and for some time after, only adult white male property owners could vote; enslaved Africans, free black people and women were not extended the franchise. On the American frontier, democracy became a way of life, with widespread social, economic and political equality.[34] Democracy only became a way of life for men. Women still were not permitted to vote by the constitution of the United States of America. Likewise, the frontier did not produce much democracy in Canada, Australia or Russia. By the 1840s almost all property restrictions were ended and nearly all white adult male citizens could vote; and turnout averaged 60–80% in frequent elections for local, state and national officials. The system gradually evolved, from Jeffersonian Democracy to Jacksonian Democracy and beyond. In Reconstruction after the Civil War (late 1860s) the newly freed slaves became citizens with (in the case of men) a nominal right to vote.

In 1789, Revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and, although short-lived, the National Convention was elected by all males.[35]

New Zealand granted suffrage to (native) Maori men in 1867, white men in 1879, and women in 1893, thus becoming the first major nation to achieve universal suffrage. However, women were not eligible to stand for parliament until 1919.

Liberal democracies were few and often short-lived before the late nineteenth century, and various nations and territories have also claimed to be the first with universal suffrage.

20th century

status of democracy in the world.[citation needed]      Governments self identified as democratic[citation needed]      Governments not self identified as democratic: Vatican City, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Brunei.[citation needed]]] 20th century transitions to liberal democracy have come in successive "waves of democracy," variously resulting from wars, revolutions, decolonization, religious and economic circumstances. World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires resulted in the creation of new nation-states from Europe, most of them at least nominally democratic. In the 1920s democracy flourished, but the Great Depression brought disenchantment, and most of the countries of Europe, Latin America, and Asia turned to strong-man rule or dictatorships. Fascism and dictatorships flourished in Nazi Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as nondemocratic regimes in the Baltics, the Balkans, Brazil, Cuba, China, and Japan, among others.[36]

World War II brought a definitive reversal of this trend in western Europe. The successful democratization of the American, British, and French sectors of occupied Germany (disputed[37]), Austria, Italy, and the occupied Japan served as a model for the later theory of regime change. However, most of Eastern Europe, including the Soviet sector of Germany was forced into the non-democratic Soviet bloc. The war was followed by decolonization, and again most of the new independent states had nominally democratic constitutions. India, however emerged as the world's largest democracy and continues to be so.[38] In the decades following World War II, most western democratic nations had mixed economies and developed a welfare state, reflecting a general consensus among their electorates and political parties. In the 1950s and 1960s, economic growth was high in both the western and Communist countries; it later declined in the state-controlled economies. By 1960, the vast majority of nation-states were nominally democracies, although the majority of the world's populations lived in nations that experienced sham elections, and other forms of subterfuge (particularly in Communist nations and the former colonies.) 's evaluation of the number of nations in the different categories given above for the period for which there are surveys, 1972-2005]] A subsequent wave of democratization brought substantial gains toward true liberal democracy for many nations. Spain, Portugal (1974), and several of the military dictatorships in South America returned to civilian rule in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Argentina in 1983, Bolivia, Uruguay in 1984, Brazil in 1985, and Chile in the early 1990s). This was followed by nations in East and South Asia by the mid- to late 1980s. Economic malaise in the 1980s, along with resentment of communist oppression, contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the associated end of the Cold War, and the democratization and liberalization of the former Eastern bloc countries. The most successful of the new democracies were those geographically and culturally closest to western Europe, and they are now members or candidate members of the European Union[citation needed] . The liberal trend spread to some nations in Africa in the 1990s, most prominently in South Africa. Some recent examples of attempts of liberalization include the Indonesian Revolution of 1998, the Bulldozer Revolution in Yugoslavia, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan.

Currently, there are 123 countries that are democratic, and the trend is increasing[39] (up from 40 in 1972).[citation needed] As such, it has been speculated that this trend may continue in the future to the point where liberal democratic nation-states become the universal standard form of human society. This prediction forms the core of Francis Fukayama's "End of History" controversial theory. These theories are criticized by those who fear an evolution of liberal democracies to post-democracy, and other who points out the high number of illiberal democracies.


’s Freedom in the World survey, 2009:     Free     Partly Free     Not Free The study shows that economic freedom, not democracy, leads to political freedom.]]


Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by the people being represented. If the head of state is also democratically elected is also called a democratic republic. The most common mechanisms involve election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.

Representatives may be elected or become diplomatic representatives by a particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the representatives are elected by the people to act in their interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.


Parliamentary democracy is where government is appointed by parliamentary representatives as opposed to a 'presidential rule' wherein the President is both head of state and the head of government and is elected by the voters. Under a parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47]


A Liberal democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities (see civil liberties).


See: Constitutional democracy


Direct democracy is a political system where the citizens participate in the decision-making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or representatives. The supporters of direct democracy argue that democracy is more than merely a procedural issue (i.e. voting).[48] Most direct democracies to date have been weak forms, relatively small communities, usually city-states. However, some see the extensive use of referenda, as in California, as akin to direct democracy in a very large polity with more than 20 million in California, 1898-1998 (2000) (ISBN 0-8047-3821-1). In Switzerland, five million voters decide on national referendums and initiatives two to four times a year; direct democratic instruments are also well established at the cantonal and communal level. Vermont towns have been known for their yearly town meetings, held every March to decide on local issues. No direct democracy is in existence outside the framework of a different overarching form of government.


A Parpolity or Participatory Polity is a theoretical form of democracy that is ruled by a Nested Council structure. The guiding philosophy is that people should have decision making power in proportion to how much they are affected by the decision. Local councils of 25-50 people are completely autonomous on issues that affect only them, and these councils send delegates to higher level councils who are again autonomous regarding issues that affect only the population affected by that council. A council court of randomly chosen citizens serves as a check on the tyranny of the majority, and rules on which body gets to vote on which issue. Delegates can vote differently than their sending council might wish, but are mandated to communicate the wishes of their sending council. Delegates are recallable at any time. Referenda are possible at any time via votes of the majority of lower level councils, however, not everything is a referendum as this is most likely a waste of time. A parpolity is meant to work in tandem with a participatory economy See: Parpolity


"Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians."

Che Guevara, Marxist revolutionary[49]

Socialist thought has several different views on democracy. Social democracy, democratic socialism, and the dictatorship of the proletariat (usually exercised through Soviet democracy) are some examples. Many democratic socialists and social democrats believe in a form of participatory democracy and workplace democracy combined with a representative democracy.

Within Marxist orthodoxy there is a hostility to what is commonly called "liberal democracy", which they simply refer to as parliamentary democracy because of its often centralized nature. Because of their desire to eliminate the political elitism they see in capitalism, Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyists believe in direct democracy implemented though a system of communes (which are sometimes called soviets). This system ultimately manifests itself as council democracy and begins with workplace democracy. (See Democracy in Marxism)


Anarchists are split in this domain, depending on whether they believe that a majority-rule is tyrannic or not. The only form of democracy considered acceptable to many anarchists is direct democracy. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon argued that the only acceptable form of direct democracy is one in which it is recognized that majority decisions are not binding on the minority, even when unanimous.[50] However, anarcho-communist Murray Bookchin criticized individualist anarchists for opposing democracy,[51] and says "majority rule" is consistent with anarchism.[52] Some anarcho-communists oppose the majoritarian nature of direct democracy, feeling that it can impede individual liberty and opt in favour of a non-majoritarian form of consensus democracy, similar to Proudhon's position on direct democracy.[53] Some Anarchists such as Murray Rothbard criticize what they see as the dangers of majority rule, believing that morality should not be dependent on the majority because, as they see it, history has shown majority rule to be fallible. Henry David Thoreau, who did not self-identify as an anarchist but argued for "a better government"[54] and is cited as an inspiration by some anarchists, argued that people should not be in the position of ruling others or being ruled when there is no consent.


Iroquois society had a form of participatory democracy and representative democracy.[55] Iroquois government and law was discussed by Benjamin Franklin[55] and Thomas Jefferson.[56] Though some others disagree,[57] some scholars regard it to have influenced the formation of American representative democracy.[56]


Sometimes called "democracy without elections", sortition is the process of choosing decision makers via a random process. The intention is that those chosen will be representative of the opinions and interests of the people at large, and be more fair and impartial than an elected official. The technique was in widespread use in Athenian Democracy and is still used in modern jury selection.


Consensus democracy requires varying degrees of consensus rather than just a mere democratic majority. It typically attempts to protect minority rights from domination by majority rule.


Interactive Democracy seeks to utilise information technology to involve voters in law making. It provides a system for proposing new laws, prioritising proposals, clarifying them through parliament and validating them through referendum.


Qualified majority voting (QMV) is designed by the Treaty of Rome to be the principal method of reaching decisions in the European Council of Ministers. This system allocates votes to member states in part according to their population, but heavily weighted in favour of the smaller states. This might be seen as a form of representative democracy, but representatives to the Council might be appointed rather than directly elected. Some might consider the "individuals" being democratically represented to be states rather than people, as with many other international organizations.

European Parliament members are democratically directly elected on the basis of universal suffrage, may be seen as an example of a supranational democratic institution.


Aside from the public sphere, similar democratic principles and mechanisms of voting and representation have been used to govern other kinds of communities and organizations.



Aristotle contrasted rule by the(democracy/polity), with rule by the few (oligarchy/aristocracy), and with rule by a single person (tyranny or today autocracy/monarchy). He also thought that there was a good and a bad variant of each system (he considered democracy to be the degenerate counterpart to polity).[58][59]

For Aristotle the underlying principle of democracy is freedom, since only in a democracy the citizens can have a share in freedom. In essence, he argues that this is what every democracy should make its aim. There are two main aspects of freedom: being ruled and ruling in turn, since everyone is equal according to number, not merit, and to be able to live as one pleases.

But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share; so that it results that in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign. This then is one mark of liberty which all democrats set down as a principle of the constitution. And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave. This is the second principle of democracy, and from it has come the claim not to be governed, preferably not by anybody, or failing that, to govern and be governed in turns; and this is the way in which the second principle contributes to equalitarian liberty.[60]


Among political theorists, there are many contending conceptions of democracy.

  • Aggregative democracy uses democratic processes to solicit citizens’ preferences and then aggregate them together to determine what social policies society should adopt. Therefore, proponents of this view hold that democratic participation should primarily focus on voting, where the policy with the most votes gets implemented. There are different variants of this:
    • Under minimalism, democracy is a system of government in which citizens give teams of political leaders the right to rule in periodic elections. According to this minimalist conception, citizens cannot and should not “rule” because, for example, on most issues, most of the time, they have no clear views or their views are not well-founded. Joseph Schumpeter articulated this view most famously in his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.[61] Contemporary proponents of minimalism include William H. Riker, Adam Przeworski, Richard Posner.
    • Direct democracy, on the other hand, holds that citizens should participate directly, not through their representatives, in making laws and policies. Proponents of direct democracy offer varied reasons to support this view. Political activity can be valuable in itself, it socializes and educates citizens, and popular participation can check powerful elites. Most importantly, citizens do not really rule themselves unless they directly decide laws and policies.
    • Governments will tend to produce laws and policies that are close to the views of the median voter – with half to his left and the other half to his right. This is not actually a desirable outcome as it represents the action of self-interested and somewhat unaccountable political elites competing for votes. Downs suggests that ideological political parties are necessary to act as a mediating broker between individual and governments. Anthony Downs laid out this view in his 1957 book An Economic Theory of Democracy.[62]
    • Robert A. Dahl argues that the fundamental democratic principle is that, when it comes to binding collective decisions, each person in a political community is entitled to have his/her interests be given equal consideration (not necessarily that all people are equally satisfied by the collective decision). He uses the term polyarchy to refer to societies in which there exists a certain set of institutions and procedures which are perceived as leading to such democracy. First and foremost among these institutions is the regular occurrence of free and open elections which are used to select representatives who then manage all or most of the public policy of the society. However, these polyarchic procedures may not create a full democracy if, for example, poverty prevents political participation.[63] Some see a problem with the wealthy having more influence and therefore argue for reforms like campaign finance reform. Some may see it as a problem that the majority of the voters decide policy, as opposed to majority rule of the entire population. This can be used as an argument for making political participation mandatory, like compulsory voting or for making it more patient (non-compulsory) by simply refusing power to the government until the full majority feels inclined to speak their minds.
  • Deliberative democracy is based on the notion that democracy is government by discussion. Deliberative democrats contend that laws and policies should be based upon reasons that all citizens can accept. The political arena should be one in which leaders and citizens make arguments, listen, and change their minds.
  • Radical democracy is based on the idea that there are hierarchical and oppressive power relations that exist in society. Democracy's role is to make visible and challenge those relations by allowing for difference, dissent and antagonisms in decision making processes.


In contemporary usage, the term democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, whether it is direct or representative.[64] The term republic has many different meanings, but today often refers to a representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a president, serving for a limited term, in contrast to states with a hereditary monarch as a head of state, even if these states also are representative democracies with an elected or appointed head of government such as a prime minister.[65]

The Founding Fathers of the United States rarely praised and often criticized democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy; James Madison argued, especially in The Federalist No. 10, that what distinguished a democracy from a republic was that the former became weaker as it got larger and suffered more violently from the effects of faction, whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger and combats faction by its very structure. What was critical to American values, John Adams insisted,[66] was that the government be "bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend." As Benjamin Franklin was exiting after writing the U.S. constitution, a woman asked him Sir, what have you given us?. He replied A republic ma'am, if you can keep it[67]

Constitutional monarchs and upper chambers

Initially after the American and French revolutions the question was open whether a democracy, in order to restrain unchecked majority rule, should have an elitist upper chamber, the members perhaps appointed meritorious experts or having lifetime tenures, or should have a constitutional monarch with limited but real powers. Some countries (as Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavian countries, Thailand, Japan and Bhutan) turned powerful monarchs into constitutional monarchs with limited or, often gradually, merely symbolic roles. Often the monarchy was abolished along with the aristocratic system (as in France, China, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Egypt). Many nations had elite upper houses of legislatures which often had lifetime tenure, but eventually these lost power (as in Britain) or else became elective and remained powerful (as in the United States).

Opposition to democracy

. This map shows the data presented in the polity IV data series report as of 2003. The lightest countries get a perfect score of 10, while the darkest countries (Saudi Arabia and Qatar), considered the least democratic, score -10.]] Democracy in modern times has almost always faced opposition from the existing government. The implementation of a democratic government within a non-democratic state is typically brought about by democratic revolution. Monarchy had traditionally been opposed to democracy, and to this day remains opposed to its abolition, although often political compromise has been reached in the form of shared government.

Currently, opposition to democracy exists in communist states, absolute monarchies, and Islamic governments, which appear to have various reasons for opposing the implementation of democracy or democratic reforms.

Criticism of democracy

Economists since Milton Friedman have strongly criticized the efficiency of democracy. They base this on their premise of the irrational voter. Their argument is that voters are highly uninformed about many political issues, especially relating to economics, and have a strong bias about the few issues on which they are fairly knowledgeable. For example, members of labor unions are most passionate and informed about labor policies. They will organize themselves and lobby the government to adopt policies beneficial to labor unions but not necessarily to the rest of the population. As a result, politicians are unaware of voters' actual desires.

Chicago economist, Donald Wittman, has written numerous works attempting to counter these common views of his colleagues. He argues democracy is efficient based on the premise of rational voters, competitive elections, and relatively low political transactions costs. Economist Bryan Caplan argues, while Wittman makes strong arguments for the latter two points, he cannot overcome the insurmountable evidence in favor of voter irrationality. It still remains the Achilles heel of democratic government. The problem is not mere lack of information; it is that voters badly interpret and judge the information they do have.[68]

Furthermore, some have argued that voters may not be well educated enough to exercise their democratic right. A population with low intellect may not be capable of making correct decisions. While this view today is increasingly regarded by advocates of democracy as an attempt to maintain or revive traditional hierarchy in order to justify autocratic rule [3], extensions have been made to develop the argument further. One such variant of the argument is that the benefits of a specialised society may be compromised by democracy. As ordinary citizens are encouraged to take part in the political life of the country, they have the power to directly influence the outcome of government policies through the democratic procedures of voting, campaigning and the use of press. The result is that government policies may be more influenced by non-specialist opinions and thereby the effectiveness compromised, especially if a policy is very technically sophisticated and/or the general public inadequately informed. For example, there is no guarantee that those who campaign about the government's economic policies are themselves professional economists or academically competent in this particular discipline, regardless of whether they were well-educated.

Additionally, some political scientists question the notion that democracy is an "uncontested good."[69] If we base our critique on the definition of democracy as governance based on the will of the majority, there can be some foreseeable and unfavorable consequences to this form of rule. For example, Fierlbeck (1998: 12) points out that the middle class majority in a country may decide to redistribute wealth and resources into the hands of those that they feel are most capable of investing or increasing them. This could result in a wealth disparity in such a country, or even racial descrimination. Fierlbeck (1998) points out that such a result is not necessarily due to a failing in the democratic process, but rather, "because democracy is too responsive to the desires of a large middle class increasingly willing to disregard the muted voices of economically marginalized groups within its own borders."[70] The criticism remains that the will of the democratic majority may not always be in the best interest of all citizens within the country or beneficial to the future of the country itself.

Mob rule

Plato's the Republic presents a critical view of democracy through the narration of Socrates: "Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike."[71] In his work, Plato lists 5 forms of government from best to worst. Assuming that the Republic was intended to be a serious critique of the political thought in Athens, Plato argues that only Kallipolis, an aristocracy lead by the unwilling philosopher-kings (the wisest men) is a just form of government. The other forms of government place too much focus on lesser virtues, and degenerate into each other from best to worst, starting with Timocracy, which overvalues honour. Then comes Oligarchy, overvaluing wealth, which is followed by Democracy. In Democracy, the oligarchs, or merchant, are unable to wield their power effectively and the people take over, electing someone who plays on their wishes, by throwing lavish festivals etc. However, the government grants the people too much freedom, and the state degenerates into the fourth form, Tyranny/mob rule.

The Founding Fathers of the United States intended to address this criticism by combining democracy with republicanism. A constitution would limit the powers of what a simple majority can accomplish.[72]

Moral decay

Traditional Asian cultures, in particular that of Confucian and Islamic thought, believe that democracy results in the people's distrust and disrespect of governments or religious sanctity. The distrust and disrespect pervades to all parts of society whenever and wherever there is seniority and juniority, for example between a parent and a child, a teacher and a student. This in turn is suggested to be the cause of frequent divorces, teenage crimes, vandalism, hooliganism and low education attainment in Western societies, all of which are lower in Asian societies. It is argued by Islamists that moral decay occurs when there is no longer a respectable leader who sets high moral standards and when a politically free environment creates excessive individuality.[citation needed]

Political instability

More recently, democracy is criticised for not offering enough political stability. As governments are frequently elected on and off there tends to be frequent changes in the policies of democratic countries both domestically and internationally. Even if a political party maintains power, vociferous, headline grabbing protests and harsh criticism from the mass media are often enough to force sudden, unexpected political change. Frequent policy changes with regard to business and immigration are likely to deter investment and so hinder economic growth. For this reason, many people have put forward the idea that democracy is undesirable for a developing country in which economic growth and the reduction of poverty are top priority.[73]


Democracy is also criticised for frequent elections due to the instability of coalition governments. Coalitions are frequently formed after the elections in many countries (for example India) and the basis of alliance is predominantly to enable a viable majority, not an ideological concurrence. This opportunist alliance not only has the handicap of having to cater to too many ideologically opposing factions, but it is usually short lived since any perceived or actual imbalance in the treatment of coalition partners, or changes to leadership in the coalition partners themselves, can very easily result in the coalition partner withdrawing its support from the government.

Slow governmental response

Democratic institutions work on consensus to decide an issue, which usually takes longer than a unilateral decision.

Vote Buying

This is a simple form of appealing to the short term interests of the voters.

Non-democratic democracies

Mere elections are just one aspect of the democratic process. If one examines the central tenets of democracy, i.e. equality and freedom, these are frequently absent in ostensibly democratic countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and to some extent India, with its stubborn caste system and vote-bank politics.

Moreover, in many countries, democratic participation is less than 50% at times, which makes them democracies only in name. The Election of individual(s) instead of ideas is the primary disrupter of democracy.


The new establishment of democratic institutions in countries where the associated practices have as yet been uncommon or deemed culturally unacceptable, can result in institutions, that are not sustainable in the long term. One circumstance supporting this outcome may be when it is part of the common perception among the populace that the institutions were established as a direct result of foreign pressure. Sustained regular inspection from democratic countries, however effortfull and well-meaning, are normally not sufficient in preventing the erosion of democratic practices. In the cases of several African countries, corruption still is rife in spite of democratically elected governments, as one of the most severe examples, Zimbabwe is often perceived to have backfired into outright militarianism.

See also

[[Image:|32x28px]] Politics portal

"Model Government Charters: A City, County, Regional, State, and Federal Handbook," published by McFarland and Co., Inc., Jefferson, NC, USA; and London, UK, edited by Roger L. Kemp, Ph.D.

The United Nations has declared Sept. 15 as the International Day of Democracy.[74]


  1. ^ Demokratia, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus
  2. ^ a b Democracy is people who rule the government directly.BBC History of democracy
  3. ^ According to Webster it includes not only direct rule by the people, but also indirect, through representation.[1]
  4. ^ Liberty and justice for some at
  5. ^ R. Alan Dahl, I. Shapiro, J. A. Cheibub, The Democracy Sourcebook, MIT Press 2003, ISBN 0262541475, Google Books link
  6. ^ M. Hénaff, T. B. Strong, Public Space and Democracy, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 0816633878
  7. ^ G. F. Gaus, C. Kukathas, Handbook of Political Theory, SAGE, 2004, p. 143-145, ISBN 0761967877, Google Books link
  8. ^ The Judge in a Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 26, ISBN 069112017X, Google Books link
  9. ^ A. Barak, The Judge in a Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 40, ISBN 069112017X, Google Books link
  10. ^ T. R. Williamson, Problems in American Democracy, Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p. 36, ISBN 1419143166, Google Books link
  11. ^ U. K. Preuss, "Perspectives of Democracy and the Rule of Law." Journal of Law and Society, 18:3 (1991). pp. 353-364
  12. ^ Substantively fairness means equality among all citizens in all respects i.e. equality in chances, in starting point etc.
  13. ^ Procedural fairness means that the rules of the elections are clear and set in advance
  14. ^ A. Barak,The Judge in a Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 27, ISBN 069112017X, Google Books link
  15. ^ H. Kelsen, Ethics, Vol. 66, No. 1, Part 2: Foundations of Democracy (Oct., 1955), pp. 1-101
  16. ^ a b c John Dunn, Democracy: the unfinished journey 508 BC - 1993 AD, Oxford University Press, 1994, ISBN 0198279345
  17. ^ Kurt A. Raaflaub, Josiah Ober, Robert W. Wallace, Origin of Democracy in Ancient Greece, University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0520245628, Google Books link
  18. ^ Weatherford, J. McIver (1988). Indian givers: how the Indians of the America transformed the world. New York: Fawcett Columbine. pp. 117–150. ISBN 0-449-90496-2. 
  19. ^ "The Global Trend" chart on Freedom in the World 2007: Freedom Stagnation Amid Pushback Against Democracy published by Freedom House
  20. ^ Political Analysis in Plato's Republic at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  21. ^ Aristotle Book 6
  22. ^ Jacobsen, T. (July 1943), "Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 2(3): 159-72
  23. ^ Snell, Daniel C. (2001), Flight and Freedom in the Ancient Near East, Brill Publishers, p. 18, ISBN 9004120106 
  25. ^ Dio. 2.39
  26. ^ Larsen, J. A. O., Demokratia, Classical Philology, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan., 1973), p. 45-46
  27. ^ de Sainte Croix G. E. M., The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, Ithaca, 1981
  28. ^ a b The National Archives | Exhibitions & Learning online | Citizenship | Struggle for democracy
  29. ^ The National Archives | Exhibitions & Learning online | Citizenship | Rise of Parliament
  30. ^ Activity Four
  31. ^ Omdirigeringsmeddelande
  32. ^ "Melanesia Historical and Geographical: the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides", Southern Cross n°1, London: 1950
  33. ^ Jacqueline Newmyer, "Present from the start: John Adams and America", Oxonian Review of Books, 2005, vol 4 issue 2
  34. ^ Ray Allen Billington, America's Frontier Heritage (1974) 117-158. ISBN 0826303102
  35. ^ The French Revolution II
  37. ^ Did the United States Create Democracy in Germany?: The Independent Review: The Independent Institute
  38. ^ BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Country profiles | Country profile: India
  39. ^ Tables and Charts
  40. ^ Keen, Benjamin, A History of Latin America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
  41. ^ Kuykendall, Ralph, Hawaii: A History. New York: Prentice Hall, 1948.
  42. ^ Mahan, Alfred Thayer, "The United States Looking Outward," in The Interest of America in Sea Power. New York: Harper & Bros., 1897.
  43. ^ Brown, Charles H., The Correspondents' War. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1967.
  44. ^ Taussig, Capt. J. K., "Experiences during the Boxer Rebellion," in Quarterdeck and Fo'c'sle. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1963
  45. ^ Hegemony Or Survival, Noam Chomsky Black Rose Books ISBN 0-8050-7400-7
  46. ^ Deterring Democracy, Noam Chomsky Black Rose Books ISBN 0374523495
  47. ^ Class Warfare, Noam Chomsky Black Rose Books ISBN 1-5675-1092-2
  48. ^ Article on direct democracy by Imraan Buccus
  49. ^ "Economics Cannot be Separated from Politics" speech by Che Guevara to the ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), in Punta del Este, Uruguay on August 8, 1961
  50. ^ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. General Idea of the Revolution See also commentary by Graham, Robert. The General Idea of Proudhon's Revolution
  51. ^ Bookchin, Murray. Communalism: The Democratic Dimensions of Social Anarchism. Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left: Interviews and Essays, 1993-1998, AK Press 1999, p. 155
  52. ^ Bookchin, Murray. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm
  53. ^ Graeber, David and Grubacic, Andrej. Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century
  54. ^ Thoreau, H. D. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
  55. ^ a b Iroquois Contributions to Modern Democracy and Communism. Bagley, Carol L.; Ruckman, Jo Ann. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v7 n2 p53-72 1983
  56. ^ a b Native American Societies and the Evolution of Democracy in America, 1600-1800 Bruce E. Johansen Ethnohistory, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Summer, 1990), pp. 279-290
  57. ^ Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples By Duncan Ivison, Paul Patton, Will Sanders. Page 237
  58. ^ Aristotle, The Politics
  59. ^ [ Aristotle (384-322 BC): General Introduction Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  60. ^ Aristotle, Politics.1317b
  61. ^ Joseph Schumpeter, (1950). Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-133008-6.
  62. ^ Anthony Downs, (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. Harpercollins College. ISBN 0-06-041750-1.
  63. ^ Dahl, Robert, (1989). Democracy and its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300049382
  64. ^ democracy - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  65. ^ republic - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  66. ^ Novanglus, no. 7, 6 Mar. 1775
  67. ^ Republican Government: Introduction
  68. ^ Caplan, Bryan. "From Friedman to Wittman: The Transformation of Chicago Political Economy" (April 2005). [2]
  69. ^ Fierlbeck, K. (1998) Globalizing Democracy: Power, Legitimacy and the Interpretation of democratic ideas. (p. 13) Manchester University Press, New York
  70. ^ Shrag, P. (1994), "California's elected anarchy." Harper's, 289(1734), 50-9.
  71. ^ Plato, the Republic of Plato (London: J.M Dent & Sons LTD.; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.), 558-C.
  72. ^ James Madison, Federalist No. 10
  73. ^

Further reading

  • Appleby, Joyce. (1992). Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination. Harvard University Press.
  • Becker, Peter, Heideking, Juergen, & Henretta, James A. (2002). Republicanism and Liberalism in America and the German States, 1750-1850. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521800662
  • Benhabib, Seyla. (1996). Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691044781
  • Blattberg, Charles. (2000). From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics: Putting Practice First, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198296881.
  • Birch, Anthony H. (1993). The Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415414630
  • Castiglione, Dario. (2005). "Republicanism and its Legacy." European Journal of Political Theory. pp 453–65.
  • Copp, David, Jean Hampton, & John E. Roemer. (1993). The Idea of Democracy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521432542
  • Caputo, Nicholas. (2005). America's Bible of Democracy: Returning to the Constitution. SterlingHouse Publisher, Inc. ISBN 978-1585010929
  • Dahl, Robert A. (1991). Democracy and its Critics. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300049381
  • Dahl, Robert A. (2000). On Democracy. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300084559
  • Dahl, Robert A. Ian Shapiro & Jose Antonio Cheibub. (2003). The Democracy Sourcebook. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262541473
  • Dahl, Robert A. (1963). A Preface to Democratic Theory. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226134260
  • Davenport, Christian. (2007). State Repression and the Domestic Democratic Peace. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521864909
  • Diamond, Larry & Marc Plattner. (1996). The Global Resurgence of Democracy. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801853043
  • Diamond, Larry & Richard Gunther. (2001). Political Parties and Democracy. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0801868634
  • Diamond, Larry & Leonardo Morlino. (2005). Assessing the Quality of Democracy. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0801882876
  • Diamond, Larry, Marc F. Plattner & Philip J. Costopoulos. (2005). World Religions and Democracy. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0801880803
  • Diamond, Larry, Marc F. Plattner & Daniel Brumberg. (2003). Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0801878473
  • Elster, Jon. (1998). Deliberative Democracy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521596961
  • Fotopoulos, Takis. (2006). "Liberal and Socialist “Democracies” versus Inclusive Democracy", The International Journal Of Inclusive Democracy. 2(2)
  • Fotopoulos, Takis. (1992). "Direct and Economic Democracy in Ancient Athens and its Significance Today", Democracy & Nature, 1(1)
  • Gabardi, Wayne. (2001). Contemporary Models of Democracy. Polity.
  • Griswold, Daniel. (2007). Trade, Democracy and Peace: The Virtuous Cycle
  • Halperin, M. H., Siegle, J. T. & Weinstein, M. M. (2005). The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415950527
  • Hansen, Mogens Herman. (1991). The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0631180173
  • Held, David. (2006). Models of Democracy. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804754729
  • Inglehart, Ronald. (1997). Modernization and Postmodernization. Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691011806
  • Khan, L. Ali. (2003). A Theory of Universal Democracy: Beyond the End of History. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 978-9041120038
  • Köchler, Hans. (1987). The Crisis of Representative Democracy. Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3820488432
  • Lijphart, Arend. (1999). Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300078930
  • Lipset, Seymour Martin. (1959). "Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy." American Political Science Review, 53(1): 69-105.
  • Macpherson, C. B. (1977). The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192891068
  • Morgan, Edmund. (1989). Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America. Norton. ISBN 978-0393306231
  • Plattner, Marc F. & Aleksander Smolar. (2000). Globalization, Power, and Democracy. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0801865688
  • Plattner, Marc F. & João Carlos Espada. (2000). The Democratic Invention. John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0801864193
  • Putnam, Robert. (2001). Making Democracy Work. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-5551091035
  • Raaflaub, Kurt A., Ober, Josiah & Wallace, Robert W. (2007). Origins of democracy in ancient Greece. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520245624
  • Riker, William H.. (1962). The Theory of Political Coalitions. Yale University Press.
  • Sen, Amartya K. (1999). "Democracy as a Universal Value." Journal of Democracy 10(3): 3-17.
  • Tannsjo, Torbjorn. (2008). Global Democracy: The Case for a World Government. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0748634996. Argues that not only is world government necessary if we want to deal successfully with global problems it is also, pace Kant and Rawls, desirable in its own right.
  • Weingast, Barry. (1997). "The Political Foundations of the Rule of Law and Democracy." American Political Science Review, 91(2): 245-263.
  • Weatherford, Jack. (1990). Indian Givers: How the Indians Transformed the World. New York: Fawcett Columbine. ISBN 978-0449904961
  • Whitehead, Laurence. (2002). Emerging Market Democracies: East Asia and Latin America. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0801872198
  • Willard, Charles Arthur. (1996). Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226898452
  • Wood, E. M. (1995). Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing historical materialism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521476829
  • Wood, Gordon S. (1991). The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0679736882 examines democratic dimensions of republicanism

External links


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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Middle French democratie (French démocratie) < Mediaeval Latin democratia < Ancient Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratia), from δῆμος (dēmos), common people) + κράτος (kratos), rule, strength).


  • IPA: /dɪˈmɒkɹəsi/




democracy (plural democracies)

  1. (uncountable) Rule by the people, especially as a form of government; either directly or through elected representatives (representative democracy).
    • 1866, J. Arthur Partridge, On Democracy, Trübner & Co., page 2:
      And the essential value and power of Democracy consists in this,—that it combines, as far as possible, power and organization ; THE SPIRIT, MANHOOD, is at one with THE BODY, ORGANIZATION. [....] Democracy is Government by the People.
    • 1901, The American Historical Review, American Historical Association, page 260:
      The period, that is, which marks the transition from absolutism or aristocracy to democracy will mark also the transition from absolutist or autocratic methods of nomination to democratic methods.
    • 1921, James Bryce Bryce, Modern Democracies, The Macmillan Company, page 1:
      A century ago there was in the Old World only one tiny spot in which the working of democracy could be studied. A few of the ancient rural cantons of Switzerland had recovered their freedom after the fall of Napoleon, and were governing themselves as they had done from the earlier Middle Ages[...]. Nowhere else in Europe did the people rule.
  2. (countable, government) A government under the direct or representative rule of the people of its jurisdiction.
    • 2003, Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, W. W. Norton & Company, page 13:
      In 1900 not a single country had what we would today consider a democracy: a government created by elections in which every adult citizen could vote.
  3. (uncountable) Belief in political freedom and equality; the "spirit of democracy".
    • 1918, Charles Horton Cooley, “A Primary Culture for Democracy”, in Publications of the American Sociological Society 13, p8
      As states of the human spirit democracy, righteousness, and faith have much in common and may be cultivated by the same means...
    • 1919, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, The Spirit of Russia: Studies in History, Literature and Philosophy, Macmillan, p446
      It must further be admitted that he provided a successful interpretation of democracy in its philosophic aspects when he conceived democracy as a general outlook on the universe... In Bakunin's conception of democracy as religious in character we trace the influence of French socialism.
    • 1996, Petre Roman, The Spirit of Democracy and the Fabric of NATO - The New European Democracies and NATO Enlargement, p1
      The spirit of democracy means, above all, liberty of choice for human beings... democracy, in both its individual and collective forms, is the main engine of the eternal human striving for justice and prosperity.

Coordinate terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Simple English

A democracy (a word from the Greek language, demokratia meaning rule by the people[1]) is a kind of government. In a democracy, certain people of a community choose their leaders. There are different ways to do this, but the process is usually called holding an election.

Political parties are involved with politics. It may therefore look easy to pick a political party. The party that gets elected will then choose people to lead.

Very often those leaders will also decide the laws.[2]

In a democracy, there are elections every few years where the people can vote and choose who they want to lead them, or choose the laws. The decision is made based on the number of votes. The side with the most votes wins.

Examples of democracies are South Korea, Mexico, United Kingdom and the United States.

File:Democracy claims
Since World War II, democracy has gained widespread acceptance. This map shows which countries see themselves as democratic, as of March 2008. It shows the de jure status of democracy in the world. The countries in red are Saudia Arabia, Myanmar, Brunei and Vatican City      Governments who see themselves as a democracy      Governments who do not see themselves as a democracy
File:Freedom House world map
This map shows the findings of Freedom House's survey Freedom in the World 2007. The survey reports the state of world freedom in 2006. Note that although these measures (another is the Polity data described below) are highly correlated, this does not imply interchangeability.[3]      Free. Freedom House considers these to be liberal democracies.[4]      Partly Free      Not Free
File:Polity data series map
This is one attempted measurement of democracy called the Polity IV data series. This map shows the data presented in the polity IV data series report as of 2003. The lightest countries get a perfect score of 10, while the darkest countries (Saudi Arabia and Qatar), considered the least democratic, score -10.

[[File:|thumb|350px|Democracy Index as published in January, 2007. The lightest blue countries get a score above 9.5 out of 10 (with Sweden being the most democratic country at 9.88). The black countries score below 2 (with North Korea being the least democratic at 1.03).]]


Kinds of democracy

There are two kinds of democracy: Direct and indirect (also known as Representative democracy).

In direct democracies, everyone has the right to make laws together. One modern example of direct democracy is a referendum, which is the name for the kind of way to pass a law where everyone in the community votes on it. Direct democracies are not usually used to run countries, because it is hard to get millions of people to get together all the time to make laws and other decisions. There is not enough time.

In an indirect, or representative democracy, people choose representatives to make laws for them. These people can be mayors, councilmen, members of Parliament, or other government officials. This is a much more common kind of democracy. Large communities like cities and countries use this method, but it may not be needed for a small group.


Ancient origins

This kind of government was developed long ago by the ancient Greeks in the city of Athens. They had everyone who was a citizen (slaves, women, foreigners, and children could not vote) got together in one area. The Assembly would talk about what kinds of laws they wanted and voted on them. The Council would suggest the laws. In the Assembly, the participants are only the citizens. In the Council, they would pick them by draws(lot). The participants in the Council would change every year and the amount of people in the Council is at the most 500. The Greek citizens would pick a leader by writing the name of their favorite candidate on a piece of stone or wood. The person with the most votes became the leader.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, there were many systems in which there were elections or assemblies, although only a few people could join in at this time. The Parliament of England began from the Magna Carta, a document which showed that the King's power was limited, and protected certain rights of the people. The first elected parliament was De Montfort's Parliament in England in 1625.

However, only a few people could actually join in. Parliament was chosen by only a few percent of the people (in 1780, less than 3% of people joined in).[5] The ruler also had the power to call parliaments. After a long time, the power of Parliament began to grow. After the Glorious Revolution in 1688, the English Bill of Rights made Parliament more powerful.[5] Later, the ruler became a symbol instead of having real power.[6]



  1. "BBC - h2g2 - Demokratia - the Athenian Democracy". Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  2. "Democracy Conference". 
  3. Casper, Gretchen, and Claudiu Tufis. 2003. "Correlation Versus Interchangeability: the Limited Robustness of Empirical Finding on Democracy Using Highly Correlated Data Sets." Political Analysis 11: 196-203
  4. Methodology
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Exhibitions & Learning online | Citizenship | Struggle for democracy". The National Archives. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  6. "Exhibitions & Learning online | Citizenship | Rise of Parliament". The National Archives. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 10, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Democracy, which are similar to those in the above article.

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