We often hear about “democracies” and “hereditary systems,” but what exactly is the difference between them? In general terms, we can use democracy to describe a system where public opinion is directed toward a common purpose, rather than toward a ruler. Underlying this definition is the belief that the people ought to have authority to govern for the good of the public. Demography shows this to be true. The U.S. has a large number of democratic citizens and also a relatively small number of poor citizens.
Many people ask how come our democratic institutions allow for freedom of speech and other basic political rights, but this is not an easy question to answer. One reason may be that the vast majority of citizens in democratic societies enjoy those freedoms. Democracy is a form of government where the people have the right to deliberate and determine laws, or to select governing leaders to perform that function. Some scholars argue that in order for a country to have democracy, it must have an established political culture, and a free and fair election system. Without these fundamental rights, it is impossible to guarantee human rights anywhere in the world.
Another explanation is that a society based on representative democracy has become increasingly stable since the advent of democracy around the world. Representative democracy allows citizens to influence politics through their representation in a legislative body. Elected representatives serve the public by being responsive to their constituents. They cannot serve themselves as they are bound to vote according to the wishes of their constituents. However, there are some criticisms of representative democracy and one of these criticisms is that representative democracy does not ensure that citizens have a genuine sense of social trust and social welfare. This is because elected officials are often given money by special interest groups who have a vested interest in seeing a certain policy enacted.
A problem with representative democracy is that elected officials may take their votes based on political party lines, and not on their own personal interests. Elected officials also are subject to bribery. Although this is against the basic tenets of democracy, the lack of strong ethics prevents us from holding leaders accountable. Without strong moral principles and strong principles of honesty and integrity, any government can easily fall into corruption. For this reason, those who support constitutional democracy argue that we need a stronger system of laws to protect against any undue influence from special interest groups.
Advocates of direct democracy believe that citizens have an individual right to participate in decision-making through a direct democracy. The founding fathers of our country gave us the option of choosing leaders through a constitutional process. We can choose our leaders through a direct democracy by voting for them through our representative. But we need to ensure that the process of choosing a leader and formulating policy through elected officials are balanced. Otherwise, a society of direct democracy can have an imbalance of power where some groups of citizens have more power than other groups of citizens.
A final criticism of democracy is that it is based on free-press and universal suffrage. Advocates of democracy believe in the separation of powers and say that if a group of individuals want to form a democracy, they should be able to. This separation of powers and checks and balances prevents the press from becoming a democracy and allows a free press to challenge power. In addition, critics of democracy claim that we do not have free elections because a democracy requires a majority to pass a bill.