The term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens.
Although not explicitly described as a democracy by the founding fathers, the United States founders also shared a determination to root the American experiment in the principle of natural freedom and equality.
The limits of laws and legal proceedings, so as to ensure a person fairness, justice, and liberty.
Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows people to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws, and encompasses social, economic, and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political determination.
Several variants of democracy exist, but there are two basic forms, both of which concern how the whole body of citizens executes its will. One form of democracy is direct democracy, in which citizens have direct and active participation in the decision making of the government. The other form is representative democracy, where the whole body of citizens remain the sovereign power but political power is exercised indirectly through elected representatives. Most modern democracies are representative democracies, the concept of which arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and the American and French Revolutions.
Common Understandings of Democracy
While there is no universally accepted definition of "democracy," equality and freedom have both been identified as important components of democracy since ancient times. These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes. For example, in a representative democracy, every vote has equal weight, no unreasonable restrictions can apply to anyone seeking to become a representative, and the freedom of its citizens is secured by legitimized rights and liberties which are generally protected by a constitution.
The term "democracy" is also often used as shorthand for liberal democracy, which is a variant of representative democracy that may include 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 the existence of elements of civil society outside the government. In the United States, separation of powers is often cited as a central attribute of democracy. Democracy, however, does not necessarily guarantee a good government.
Another essential part of an "ideal" representative democracy is competitive elections that are fair both substantively and procedurally. Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are considered to be essential rights that allow citizens to be adequately informed and able to vote according to their own interests. It has also been suggested that a basic feature of democracy is the capacity of individuals to participate freely and fully in the life of their society.
The term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens. Athenian democracy took the form of a direct democracy, and it had two distinguishing features: the random selection of ordinary citizens to fill the few existing government administrative and judicial offices, and a legislative assembly consisting of all Athenian citizens. All citizens were eligible to speak and vote in the assembly, which set the laws of the city-state. However, Athenian citizenship excluded women, slaves, foreigners, and males under 20 years old.
Democracy in the United States
Although not explicitly described as a democracy by the founding fathers, the United States founders also shared a determination to root the American experiment in the principle of natural freedom and equality. The United States Constitution, adopted in 1788, provided for an elected government and protected civil rights and liberties for some.
The United States is an example of a Presidential Democracy – a Presidential Democracy is a system where the public elects the president through free and fair elections. The president serves as both the head of state and head of government controlling most of the executive powers. By contrast, a parliamentary democracy is a representative democracy where government is appointed by, or can be dismissed by, 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. Some modern democracies that are predominately representative in nature also heavily rely upon forms of political action that are directly democratic. Examples include Switzerland and some U.S. states, where frequent use is made of referendums and initiatives.