What is Democracy?

Democracy is a form of government where people decide who governs them. It is the most common type of government in the world and it involves people having a say in decisions about things such as policies, laws and taxes. There are many different ideas about how a democracy should work, but there is broad agreement that a flourishing democracy requires a free and independent press, the freedom of speech and association and transparent decision making.

The word “democracy” comes from the Greek words demos (“people”) and kratos (rule). It refers to rule by the majority, but it is also a way of governing that depends on the participation of all citizens. Democracy is a political system that puts a premium on people’s rights and freedoms, and it is generally regarded as the best way of ensuring that these rights and freedoms are respected.

It is usually thought that democracy is the only system that offers the chance for every person to live in a fair and just society. It is also widely believed that it is the only system that provides the guarantee of individual rights such as privacy and freedom of speech. It is also often argued that democracy allows for the most effective use of resources as it ensures that all citizens can access healthcare and education. Finally, it is argued that democracy has benefits for the economy because the system encourages greater spending on these areas.

There are, however, many criticisms of democracy. Some of these are philosophical and others are practical. The philosophic critiques of the democracy have been largely based on theories of social choice and rationality such as Condorcet’s jury theorem or theories about the wisdom of the crowd.

More recently, the economic dissatisfaction of some and the rapid changes in the world have given rise to a range of anti-establishment political leaders, parties and movements. Anger at political elites and anxiety about globalization have fuelled the growth of far-right or left-wing extremist parties in Europe, for example. In other parts of the world, demonstrations such as the Arab Spring have been fueled by economic concerns and anger at perceived inequality.

Many practical criticisms of democracy have been based on the ways in which political systems fail to deliver on their promises. Some theorists have used these criticisms to argue that democracy is unsustainable or not suitable for modern times. Others have argued that the benefits of democracy outweigh the problems, and that the problems can be overcome with modest reforms. For example, the UDHR guarantees the right of peaceful assembly and association, which means that people can gather together in groups to discuss their ideas and to protest against decisions they disagree with. This activity can be inconvenient for governments, but it is essential if democracy is to work well. It is also important that people are adequately informed about politics and understand the positions of other political parties and movements so that they can make informed choices.