A theoretical model for governance, common in democratic states, which features the division of sovereign power into at least three (but sometimes up to six) organs of state in order to forestall tyranny, by preventing the acquisition of a monopoly of power by a monarch or oligarchy; also, such an arrangement.
A situation in which a government or other authority democratically supported by a majority of its subjects makes policies or takes actions benefiting that majority, without regard for the rights or welfare of the rest of its subjects.
The United States is an example of a representative democracy. Citizens over the age of 18 may vote in elections to choose their representatives. Those representatives serve in local, state, and national governments. For example, at the local level, citizens elect mayors; at the state level, they elect governors and state legislators; and at the national level, they elect the president, representatives, and senators.
The United States also provides historical examples of the tyranny of the majority. For example, until 1967, some states outlawed interracial marriage. Such laws embodied majority opinion, at least at the time the law was made, but were oppressive to a minority of citizens who opposed the law. Democracy can make such laws difficult to change until majority sentiment shifts--in this case, after the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.
Democracy is a form of government in which the power of government comes from the people. More formally, we might say that in democracy, the right to govern, or sovereignty, is held by the majority of citizens within a country or state. Even though there is no universally accepted definition of democracy, all definitions include two fundamental principles: First, in a democracy, all citizens have equal access to power. Second, all citizens enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.
Democracies come in several forms, some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others. An essential process in representative democracies is competitive elections that are fair both substantively and procedurally. Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.
Democracies must balance conflicting obligations to try to maximize freedom and protect individual rights. For example, many democracies limit representation. In a full, direct, democracy, every citizen would be able to vote on every law. But in reality, in most democracies, citizens are represented by elected lawmakers charged with drafting and voting on laws. Many also institute measures such as the separation of powers, which divides executive, judicial, and legislative authority among different branches of government to protect against the possibility that a single government or branch of government could accumulate too much power and become harmful to democracy itself. Although such measures may limit representation, they make lawmaking more efficient and help guard against dangers such as the tyranny of the majority. Although majority rule is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, without responsible government it is possible for the rights of a minority to be abused by the tyranny of the majority, in which a majority institutes policies abusive to a minority (for example, a racial majority may deny a racial minority access to education, housing, jobs, or other resources).