Democracy Essay, Research Paper
Democracy is the fastest growing type of government in the world. More and more countries are revolting against their dictators and parliaments and evolving into Democracies. Democracy means the people are sovereign, government by the people. Representative institutions, therefore, derive their authority from the people and are responsible to the people. According to democratic theory, elections, political parties, and representative legislatures are means of implementing popular sovereignty. Most Americans are not only liberals, in the classical sense of believing in individual liberty, but are also democrats since they believe in equality, majority rule, with recognition of the rights of minorities, and government that is responsive and responsible to a broad electorate. Democracy also includes freedom of speech, press, and assembly; freedom to form opposition political parties and to run for office; commitment to individual dignity and to equal opportunities for people to develop their full potential. Some communist countries tend to call themselves democratic, and the mere fact that a government is elected by a majority of the popular vote does not of itself guarantee a democracy.
Forms of Democracy date back to about 500 BC where Cleisthenes, a Greek statesman and regarded as the founder of Athenian Democracy, led the government of Athens. From this period to today Democracy has reigned as one of the most powerful forms of government. John Locke said in his ?Second Treatise of Civil Government? (1690), ?all men were fundamentally equal in the sense that no man had jurisdiction over any other man. Each individual was equal and free to judge his own causes and to protect his interests against all other men.?
Under the umbrella of democracy the American States and the federal government have grown politically and socially. The United States is a unique body because of how and why it started as well as its geographical location. The foundations of the democratic process in America are completely different from anywhere else on the globe. The land was virginal and the colonies had almost complete sovereignty from England from the very beginning because an ocean and financial troubles separated them. The people who came to America were the broken and unhappy in England and all were trying to find a place where they could start new and create a political structure that would facilitate an individual freedom unlike anything that they had previously experienced in Europe. The nature of democracy in the New World rested within the fact that all of the immigrants were basically from the same social strata, resulting in the first new country where there was no preliminary basis for an aristocracy. There were also outside influences lending unvoiced support for the creation of this new democracy. Being an ocean apart from its mother country, who at this time did not have the financial reserves to oversee its colonies, let the Americans govern themselves. If they had not had this sovereignty at the beginning America might have become something completely different than it is today, but that was not the case. So these immigrants now had a fertile place to plant their ideas of a country founded upon the many ideas of the Enlightenment. Another large influence was the lack of neighbors. America had no worries of guarding and protecting its borders because there was not anyone there who could pose a threat. They could put all of their energies toward the creation of their democracy. This democratic nation was to have no aristocracy and only one major division between its people: the North and the South. There were two very different attitudes in these regions. The North and the South had conflicting views as to how they were going to advance themselves in the economic and political arenas. But the introduction of slavery into labor was the major conflict between the two. With the advent of slavery, the South was creating a class system amongst themselves that would not exist in the other regions of the States. The few Southern founders were granted huge amounts of land with which to work, and instead of diving into the land themselves like the northerners did with their smaller pieces of land. They instead bought slaves and would eventually divide the country in a nasty dispute over their handling of affairs. It was realized that the majority of the influences over public policy were the men in the North. They created the first public school system that was to be readily accessible to the majority of the people. The enlightened idea that every man should have access to knowledge was given exercise in this new nation, creating a highly learned society, but one that is not very intellectual. Schools teach specialized skills so that we can enter the work force as soon as possible, but gloss over any areas that have no value in work. Whereas in England, the few who do go on towards a higher education are actually being challenged and forced to expand their minds. Higher education in America is available to many, but it is more specialized and very basic. Democracy is a facilitator of a blended society. The masses will be very similar in their thinking as well as their actions.
America is a social democracy because the citizens are united by their beliefs and movements as well as their political organization and its laws. Americans give up the idea of complete personal freedom so that they can obtain and preserve a civil society in which they can live. A centralized government is one that controls all interests that are common amongst the nation, whereas a centralized administration deals with the interests of a small area or community. In the 1830?s, many of the citizens were very interested in every turn that this budding country took in the political arena. They saw criminals as a personal affront and society shunned all who dared to break the peace. Now, with millions of people who live from the Atlantic to the Pacific, many views of American politics have changed. Instead of enthusiasm, lack of concern and apathy have taken over many people. Laziness has taken over present day America and the society is really hurting because of it. Crime is rampant and no one seems to care if justice or punishment is served or not. Many are very disillusioned with the government and think it is easier to do nothing than to become involved and try to change it.
One downfall that democracies may face is that they have a tendency to lose liberty and personal interest as the country grows larger. Not only with more people are there bound to be more differing ideas, but more people who share them, creating more voiced dissonance in the political sphere. This dissonance is glossed over when still in the minority. When a government is run and hindered by the thoughts of the majority, where do the ideas of the minority fit? When in elections only 45% of the population votes, and who elects representatives, how is the majority of the country really represented? The original thought behind the majority was that the consensus of many would be more informed and intelligent than of a few. But looking upon the uninformed voting habits of the public today, is that still the case? Original American concepts of democracy are falling to the wayside, hypocrisy and apathy are taking its place, creating an even more fertile ground for the majority to gain more power than it already has. If not careful, the majority will soon be speaking for a very select group, while the masses will be left out, creating a repressive government of the past to take over what is now one of the greatest democracies of the era.
Lives that are kept ordinary and boring are not a threat to the development and movement of a nation. The contradictions in American values are amazing. Liberty is canonized, yet many will give it up so easily if enticed, which is not difficult. Yet, there is still some element that has kept the country together and away from the tendency to convert from democratic means to other, more easily managed ways of govern. This element is adaptable from person to person. Many are satisfied with the government as it is, as long as they can go about their lives without interference. Others will whole-heartedly take it as a personal mission to enter into politics and change the world for the better. Whatever the case may be, people are easily led away from what is really important to the lasting of a society, and take their lives on a tangent route that may leave them satisfied with their mediocre accomplishments, but might eventually kill off any real progress towards excellence in any type of society, even if for the time being, it feels that as a nation, America is content with itself.
So the question remains. Is Democracy the best form of government? I believe this to be true. If this is the type of government that has lasted for hundreds of years and brought a nation to be a super power of the globe, then is it really necessary to consider any other forms of government? Maybe so if democracy begins to bring down America. Until that time comes, don’t fix something that isn’t broken.
1: The Democratic Platform. Online. Internet. August 27, 1996. http://www.democrats.org/index.html
2: FAQS. Online. Internet. February 28, 2000. http://www.usademocracy.com
3: Movement for Direct Democracy. Online. Internet. 2000. http://galaxy.einet.net/galaxy/Government/Politics/Issues/Direct-Democracy.html
4: Silva, Ruth C., et al. American Government: Democracy and Liberty in Balance. New York: Knopf, Inc, 1976.
5: Cook, Terrence E., and Morgan, Patrick M. Participatory Democracy. San Francisco: Canfield Press, 1971.
6: John Locke: The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Online. Internet. 1690 http://www.swan.ac.uk/poli/texts/locke/lockcont.htm