Many people are unaware that the phrase “democracy” actually means “order”. And in many parts of the world, including the United States, it denotes a political system where citizens have certain rights ( freedoms ) guaranteed by law. In other words, to be a democracy, a country has to have laws that guarantee rights to individual citizens that exceed those provided by other nations. For instance, a nation with a history of slavery would not necessarily be called a democracy. A society where people are denied their freedom of speech or their right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, would not likely be described as a democracy either.
The origin of democracy in America can be traced back to the long process of civilisational evolution in pre-colonial times. In these times, societies were often characterized by aristocratic rule, slavery, hierarchy, and privilege. These factors created a need for a system of laws and rights that would govern these changing institutions. This is what led to the idea of the US Declaration of Independence, which read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and the right to do business.” This founding document established the right of every citizen to participate in the political process and enjoy the freedoms that the constitution was written to protect. This also explains why the US constitution is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of human literature ever written.
The idea of democracy in America came to the forefront of American politics during the era of both revolutionary and constitutional periods. One of the most influential voices in promoting democracy in America was Thomas Jefferson. His comments regarding the need for a constitutional system gave way to the formation of the US Bill of Rights. Jefferson’s comments on democracy were often quoted as something that sounded like a throwback to the ancient Greek ideals of democracy. However, the principles Jefferson spoke of were actually derived from Montesquieu.
Montesquieu had written in his book that a republic was a form of government in which power is distributed between the many, rather than among a single ruler. In his view, a democracy should be chosen over a republic because a democracy allows many individuals to participate in making decisions for the nation. Thus, the founding fathers picked up the idea of democracy in America and used it to form the US Constitution. The US Bill of Rights also put into place a number of rights guaranteed to Americans, including the freedom of speech and the right to vote.
A key concept of democracy in America is the concept of economic policy, which is often referred to as laissez faire, or “the economic policy of equal access.” This phrase, although common, does have a distinct definition in the present period. America’s laissez faire political system allows some industries to be highly protected, while ensuring that other industries are fairly represented. In Jefferson’s time, an industrial sector would include such sectors as the woolen, textile, and tobacco industries.
In today’s economic climate, almost every industry is required to have labor that is protected from being underpaid or hiring illegal aliens, or having their rights violated in any way. Without such protections, an American economy can fall apart. The bottom line is that if we choose to work in an industrial sector that is highly regulated, we will receive fair wages and benefits, and be able to pursue our dreams and live our lives as we choose. It is important to remember that the freedoms that we cherish are ones that are the result of a civilization that was forged through centuries of struggles for democracy and liberty.