Do You Think Democracy in America is Working Well?

democracy in america

Democracy is supposed to protect the rights of all citizens, promote morality, and foster economic growth. But in the US, political infighting and money politics render these goals impossible to achieve. As a result, most Americans believe democracy is not working very well or not at all. In fact, the most common response to the question “Do you think democracy in America is working well?” is “No.”

To understand why Americans are disillusioned with their government and pessimistic about American-style democracy, it helps to look at its history. In the 1790s, US President William Penn conceived of the state as a compact among statesmen whereby they pledged their loyalty to one another and agreed that the “government should be a government of laws, not men.” This concept was a major milestone in the evolution of democracy.

But in the long run, it was a flawed idea. In time, as the industrial process accelerated, it surpassed the capabilities of a law-based system. The Founders understood this and sought to coordinate the industrial and civil processes through a government that was responsive to their needs.

The result was the Constitution, which provided for a more loosely structured federal government with more power left to the states and the people. But as the federal government expanded to handle more and more complex tasks, it outgrew this model. Today, the nation is a constitutional republic with a president and Supreme Court that are elected by the people and an electoral college that gives most of the power to the individual states. These structures are problematic for democracy because they distort the functions of checks and balances.

They also create a large gap between the US and other democracies. Most importantly, the winner-takes-all electoral system exacerbates inequality between the states. This means that voters in “deep blue” and “deep red” states have a much smaller say in presidential elections than do those in “swing” states. In addition, the system allows for an influx of big money into campaigns and the election process, allowing candidates to focus on securing their financial backers rather than promoting public interest.

Then there’s corruption. With most government services financed by taxpayer dollars, there’s always a temptation for those in charge of these programs to divert funds into their own pockets or favor certain groups over others. These problems are magnified when political parties, corporations, and special interests have a stronghold over the election process.

While most Americans are disillusioned with their politics and pessimistic about American-style democratic governance, many people outside the US have a positive view of democracy and the value of advancing economic prosperity for all. These views should be kept in mind when the US attempts to impose its own self-styled democratic model on other nations, especially Latin America and the Caribbean, where people are aware that any such effort would be self-defeating and humiliating for both themselves and their country. As a result, they have little faith in the US’s ability to spread democracy abroad.

The Concept of Freedom

Freedom is a concept with as many definitions as there are people in the world. A teenager is going to have a very different idea of freedom than a person in prison. And a person in America is probably going to have a very different idea of what freedom means than a person in Europe.

In the United States, the word freedom is often used to mean civil rights and liberties that are guaranteed under the Constitution. However, it is important to remember that this concept of freedom can also be very broad and can encompass a variety of aspects of people’s lives, from the right to a good education to the ability to travel freely to other countries.

While the term is frequently used in the context of politics and human rights, freedom can also be a very personal, idiosyncratic notion. It is easy to see why it would be difficult to define, especially in a political sense, because there are so many factors that influence what people feel they should have the freedom to do.

This year has been a particularly challenging and illuminating test for the idea of freedom, whether it’s in the form of the coronavirus pandemic or the fight against systemic racism. The concept of freedom is being tested in ways that it has not been tested before, and it seems that people all over the world are rethinking their ideas about what freedom really means to them in this very unique moment in history.

Throughout the centuries, philosophers have struggled to define and categorize different forms of freedom. The most widely accepted definition is that freedom is the absence of compulsion, either external or internal. However, some philosophies take this a step further, and argue that true freedom is not simply the absence of compulsion but rather the ability to choose one’s own actions, regardless of their consequences. This is sometimes called positive freedom, and it is generally regarded as the only true kind of freedom.

Other philosophies take a different view of freedom, and believe that it is not possible to achieve positive freedom in the real world. Instead, they advocate for a concept of freedom that is more focused on the protection of the civil liberties that we already enjoy. These are often referred to as civil liberty freedoms, and they are the main categories that Freedom House uses when ranking nations’ levels of freedom.

Finally, there are those philosophies that claim that the best way to preserve positive freedom is for society to rely on a set of social norms that protect against internal compulsions. This is sometimes referred to as negative freedom, and it involves a retreat into an inner citadel, or the soul, of a purely noumenal self, that is immune to outside forces. This is a state that most liberals would not want to label as freedom, because it risks masking oppressive practices in the name of protecting a nebulous ideal.

What Is Law?

Law is the set of rules that form a framework for ensuring a peaceful society. It serves several purposes, including establishing standards, maintaining order and resolving disputes. It also protects liberties and rights. Laws are created and enforced through the legislative branch, which is made up of Congress. In the United States, the lawmaking power is held by the House of Representatives and the Senate. Laws begin as ideas, or bills, which are then studied and debated by committees before being voted on.

Almost every area of life is touched by law in one way or another. The main branches of law are criminal, civil and administrative. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or groups, and criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to the community or state. Administrative law encompasses the regulatory activities of government agencies, such as regulating businesses or creating public utilities.

Criminal law is the most well-known branch of law, and it focuses on crimes committed against people. It provides punishment for those who break the law and aims to deter others from committing similar offenses. However, it is not always successful in its goals. Criminals can still commit crimes in spite of the laws, and some courts have found it difficult to apply the law equally to all people.

Legal systems differ greatly, and different views about what law is have emerged in the scholarly literature. However, most scholars agree that there are three fundamental concepts in law: objective, subjective and functional. Objective is the principle that law should be based on a set of principles that all parties can accept and apply. Subjective is the notion that the law should reflect the values and perceptions of the individual who applies it. Functional is the idea that a law should be designed to achieve its objectives in a practical manner.

Besides the broad areas of law discussed above, there are many specific legal topics. For example, employment law covers the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union. Tax law includes the study of laws pertaining to income and sales taxes. Banking and financial law involve regulating the amount of capital banks must hold, and rules about how money is invested.

Democracy in Indonesia

A quarter of a century ago, during the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia’s economy nearly collapsed. The rupiah plunged, tycoons were losing their fortunes, and protesters filled the streets in cities across the archipelago, demanding reforms. It was a dark moment for Indonesia, and the country’s future hung in the balance.

But a few years later, the rupiah recovered, economic growth returned, and Jakarta’s authoritarian legacies were largely eliminated. Today, Indonesia is one of the fastest-growing emerging economies and its democracy appears to be thriving. The routinization of politics has made it easier for citizens to hold their elected leaders accountable, and the introduction of direct regional elections mitigated the dominance of old elites in local governments.

Nevertheless, political competition remains fierce and the state still interferes with some freedoms. For example, the police regularly arrest and detain people without charge and are known to extort money, seize property, and use excessive force, including against minors. And while Indonesia’s judiciary is largely independent, judicial decisions can be influenced by religious considerations.

Indonesia’s electoral laws and procedures are generally seen as democratic, though election management bodies can be partisan. The 2019 elections saw the return of several large parties, including two with links to former President Suharto and a new party led by a controversial Islamic figure. New parties face a difficult challenge to gain recognition and must prove their eligibility in a process that can be politically and financially costly.

The country’s constitution and laws protect fundamental rights, but corruption in government is widespread, and respect for personal freedoms is eroded by sectarian rhetoric and violent acts by militant Islamist groups. The presence of these groups, some with close ties to the military, has stoked religious extremism and undercut the government’s commitment to secularism.

While the country’s democracy continues to improve, our recent Global Satisfaction Survey (GSS) found that Indonesians are polarized in their satisfaction with their government and a significant minority say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. More than six-in-ten Indonesians have a favorable view of the incumbent, President Jokowi, and most have a positive view of the ruling Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). However, the same number have unfavorable views of opposition candidate Prabowo Subianto, as well as of his Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

The Justification For Democracy

Democracy is a system of government that gives citizens the power to vote for their elected representatives. It also ensures that citizens’ views are represented in decision making. This makes democracy a more fair and just form of government, compared to feudal or monarchical forms of rule. However, despite its many benefits, democracy has its flaws, and it requires constant vigilance to make sure that it works as intended.

A key test of a democracy’s health is how it handles a crisis. In a democracy, people are held accountable for their actions, and there is a strong sense of cooperation.

These principles are important because democracy is a delicate balance of compromise and understanding. To work, democracy must produce good laws and policies, it must deliver services and be trustworthy, and it must involve people in civic life – think elections, taxes and respect for one another. If these principles are not being respected, or democracy is suffering from a severe threat, then it must demonstrate that its institutions can handle the challenge.

There are many different ways to evaluate the success of democracy. Some of the most common include measuring the rate of economic growth, poverty rates, education levels, breadth of political participation and respect for individual rights. Other measures include measuring the quality of the government and assessing the security from foreign enemies.

A fundamental justification for democracy is that it enables the citizens to achieve their full potential. It does this by providing them with access to opportunities for education and health care that allow them to fulfil their potential and contribute to the economy. It has been shown that countries with high levels of democracy have a higher level of GDP per capita than those without it (Acemoglu et al, 2019).

In addition to this intrinsic value, there are other reasons to support democracy. One such justification is that democratic processes are able to better exploit the innate cognitive diversity of large groups. This is because they involve a wide range of people in the decision making process, and these people bring a variety of perspectives to the issue at hand.

Other arguments for democracy include that it encourages people to think carefully and rationally about the problems they face, and that it promotes a spirit of cooperation and mutual assistance. It has also been argued that it develops the moral qualities of citizens by forcing them to think about their responsibilities and the needs of other people.

In general, few theorists deny that democratic institutions must be evaluated in terms of their outcomes compared to other methods of political decision making. However, some theorists argue that democracy has an intrinsic value of its own, independent of its outcomes. These values are often referred to as “epistemological” justifications for democracy. These arguments draw on a rich tradition of philosophical thought, including that of Aristotle and John Stuart Mill. However, these arguments have been criticized as overly simplistic and inadequate for justifying democracy in its current form (Brennan 2016). The most important consideration is that, whether or not there are intrinsic justifications for democracy, it is still a useful and necessary political institution.

Democracy in America Has Failed

Democracy in America, written by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, is a classic that has influenced the development of political systems worldwide. Its analysis of American society and the evolution of democratic politics has been influential for over two centuries.

Tocqueville’s vision of the new democracy was one of public debate, a constant and open electoral process, a free press, and social equality. He traveled in the age of Andrew Jackson, when American democracy was rapidly expanding and transforming society at an accelerated pace.

Despite these achievements, the US has since deviated from the principles of its own founding and is a long way away from meeting Tocqueville’s expectations. Money politics, polarization of the political system and partisan bickering have severely weakened the democratic process in the US. Moreover, social divisions have deepened and the American government has become more dysfunctional. In the face of a national crisis, it has become obvious that democracy in america has failed.

Americans are disillusioned with American politics and pessimistic about the American-style democracy. According to a poll by the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 18% of Americans think democracy is working very well in the US. Most believe the US democracy has become a “vetocracy.” The US’s most powerful political factions are focused on their own re-election, and they do not care about the needs of ordinary citizens. They have been able to dominate the country’s legislative and policy-making bodies. The two major parties are engaged in a vicious cycle of vetoing, which prevents the passage of legislation. The country has become a two-party state in which the majority of voters only identify as either Democrat or Republican.

In addition to these internal problems, the external environment also affects the functioning of the democracy in the United States. The country is not a superpower anymore and it has to compete with emerging powers. Therefore, its foreign policy must be rethought to reflect the changes in the global balance of power.

Furthermore, US media monopolies are not helping the cause of democracy. They limit people’s access to diversified information and distract them from the real issues facing the nation. In a society dominated by media narratives, traditional notions of civic engagement have disappeared.

In order to make democracy work again, the US must focus on rebuilding a functional political system that can meet the challenges of our time. It can do so by reforming its institutions and creating new forms of governance. It must also develop a new vision of foreign policy, which is focused on strengthening its international alliances and supporting emerging democracies rather than engaging in military interventions or subverting their leaders. This will help revitalize the democratic spirit in the US and allow it to regain its position of leader in the world. HeinOnline is proud to partner with Alan Keely, retired associate director for collection services at Wake Forest Law Library, to present this classic work in an accessible and innovative format.

What Is Freedom?

Freedom is often seen as a positive concept. It signifies the absence of obstacles, limitations or constraints to one’s choices, actions and desires. The opposite of freedom is the state of constraint or coercion, which might be associated with a sense of duty or obligation to others. For this reason, many liberals have promoted the notion of negative liberty as a counterweight to libertarian ideas that might be interpreted as a form of moral coercion.

However, there is a third way of thinking about freedom. This alternative view involves a rethinking of the meaning of freedom itself. Instead of seeing it as the absence of constraints, libertarians might argue that freedom is actually a process of self-mastery or self-determination. In this context, libertarians might promote the idea of positive liberty as a kind of social engineering that would allow people to develop the habits of self-mastery and control that might lead them to the point where they no longer need the help or protection of the state.

This conception of liberation is much more ambitious than the idea that it just means not being subject to a system of rules and regulations or coercion. It would mean a transformation into an inner citadel of the soul or a noumenal self, immune to external forces. Unfortunately, this sort of self-mastery is a long and difficult road that most people will never achieve, even with the best of intentions. Furthermore, this vision of liberation can mask important forms of oppression. The idea of a nirvana or a purely noumenal self also runs the risk of making individuals appear too independent to be considered true liberals, which is not what we should really want.

The point of all this is that we need to think more carefully about what it means for something to be considered a form of freedom. It is certainly the case that we can be free only to the extent that we are able to manage our own lives without interference from the outside world, but that does not necessarily mean that we are all equally or even predominantly at that level of freedom.

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Is Law a Necessary Institution?

Law is a social phenomenon that defines people’s behavior, regulates their relations with one another and shapes the structure of their communities. In modern societies, it serves a number of important functions: it defines and protects our rights, provides stability and security, promotes equality and encourages prosperity. However, it is not without its critics. Some philosophers argue that law is not a necessary part of human society. Others, on the other hand, assert that it is a necessary feature of any human community.

Its Coercive Aspect

Law’s obvious coercive nature makes it an object of fierce controversy. Many philosophers have asserted that its normativity resides in this feature; indeed, some of the early legal positivists, such as Bentham and Austin, viewed it as the essential characteristic of law. More recently, though, some critics have questioned this assertion.

They have argued that the coercive aspect of law is not, in fact, what makes it a normative institution. Rather, the main function of law is its ability to establish and enforce a framework of social regulation and direction. This can be accomplished by means of sanctions (i.e. threats of coercive punishment), and this is why it is a distinct type of social institution.

Other critics have emphasized that the main function of law is its ability to provide reasons for action. According to this view, it is important that laws contain explicit and clear rules and prohibitions that provide people with the motivation to comply. This is why law is considered a “rule-of-reason” institution, and why it has the ability to shape our moral attitudes.

In addition, this view has emphasized that laws are inherently rational, because they aim to achieve the highest good for all individuals. This, in turn, promotes the stability of the state and the well-being of its citizens.

Its Fixed Principles

Law provides a degree of uniformity and certainty to the administration of justice. The existence of fixed principles enables judges to be unbiased and avoid arbitrary, biased or dishonest decisions. It also protects the public from the errors of individual judges.

Despite its controversial aspects, there are many reasons why law should be regarded as a necessary institution. Among other things, it has been a source of social order and harmony, provided a stable economic environment, and prevented wars.

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Democracy in Indonesia Under Threat

Since General Suharto’s fall in 1998, Indonesia has transformed from an authoritarian polity to one of the world’s most vibrant democracies. The state is a parliamentary republic, with a directly elected president who serves as head of state and government and a two-term limit. The bicameral People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) functions as an effective legislative branch, with nine parliamentary parties. In addition, the judicial branch operates with relative independence from the executive and legislature. A well-functioning public sector has reduced poverty and inequality, although uneven health and education services remain serious challenges. The activity of radical sectarian elements adds to domestic instability.

Political transitions and governance at the local level have not always been as democratic. Significant economic and judicial corruption persists, as does the continued role and power of the military. And respect for personal freedoms is constrained by broad and vaguely worded laws that date to the Suharto era or earlier.

Nevertheless, Indonesian citizens have demonstrated that they can identify and punish non-performing leaders. Over the past decade, voters have turned out four out of every ten incumbents seeking re-election.

The country has established a pattern of democratic handovers between rival parties since 1999. And the current presidency, occupied by Joko Widodo, was won by a candidate with a track record of fostering good governance.

But the democratic gains made in Indonesia are under threat from forces that seek to reverse the gains of democracy. A proposal to revert to indirect regional elections would not only undermine the credibility of democratic institutions, it would also deprive citizens of their right to choose their own government.

While there is no denying the troubling state of local governance, calls for a return to indirect elections misdiagnose the problem. They neglect the fact that the problems of direct elections are not primarily the result of electoral rules but rather the existence of a money-politics system through which politicians can buy votes and control state resources.

Moreover, the proposal to revert to indirect elections ignores the fact that voters have been willing to bear the higher costs of holding direct elections in order to have a say in their own government. Repeated surveys show that 93 percent of citizens are in favor of preserving direct elections, even when the costs are higher.

The current electoral rules were crafted through a long process described by some as a game of inches, with the interests of different parties negotiating for years and often bartering support for changes to the electoral laws in exchange for other changes. To undo these efforts to build a new electoral environment would be a major step backwards for the country’s democratic transition and governance.

Democracies and Democracy


Democracy is the idea of rule by the people. Its roots in Athens, Greece are derived from the words demos (people) and kratos (power or rule). The word is often defined in simplistic terms – a form of government where citizens vote for their representatives, a system that offers all individuals equal opportunity to participate in politics and government. But, it is a complex concept, and a well-functioning democracy requires more than voting every 4 or 5 years or participating in protests or running for office.

The idea that a government should be chosen by the people has been central to human thought for millennia. However, the democratic ideal has faced significant challenges in recent times as political upheavals – from Brexit and the election of demagogues to rapid social changes – have shaken traditional liberal democracy and created anxieties about its future.

Concerns that democracy is in decline have prompted some to call for its abandonment or even modification. Others have argued that democracy can only work with well-informed, engaged citizens who make reasoned decisions about the policies of their governments. But the reality is that most individuals – even those living in democracies with good governance and high levels of freedom – do not have enough information to engage in informed decision-making, particularly about issues they feel passionate about.

In addition, the democratic ideal is difficult to realise in practice because of the complexity and scope of the task. A democratic state needs to take on many tasks that fall outside its political territory or time horizons, and it is not always possible to reach consensus about the goals of policy (Moses and Kahan 2013). Decisions made in democracies have long-term impacts across generations and on people who are neither voters nor the legal inhabitants of the state – such as immigrants, those who have been denied the right to vote because they have a mental or intellectual disability or those who are still unborn (Lord, Ross and Lepper 1979).

There is an urgent need for more data on the quality and functioning of democracy. Organisations such as V-Dem, the Economist Intelligence Unit and Freedom House have documented a global decline in democracy. But, the precise reasons for this are unclear. Anger at political elites, economic dissatisfaction and anxiety about rapid social change all play a role.

Several existing indices measure aspects of democracy, but they are either limited in longitudinal availability or have been criticised by scholars for ignoring certain features of democracy. In this article, I develop a new question for the ESS that can be used to examine how people conceptualise democracy and find out whether it is important to them. The question has been tested for construct validity and psychometric properties, and it appears to be a useful tool to add to the existing suite of measures. I also suggest ways to address the issue of social desirability bias – which is prevalent in questions on democracy – and to evaluate associations between different dimensions.