What Is Democracy? Why Democracy?

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05 What Is Democracy? Why Democracy?

The word democracy originated from two Greek words: ‘demos’ meaning people and ‘kratia’ meaning rule. So democracy means rule by the people. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as: “Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Democracy is the most prevalent form of government in the world today and it is expanding to more countries.

What is democracy?

A simple definition:

  • Democracy is a system of governance where the citizens of a country choose representatives who form a governing body.

Features of democracy

First feature

  • In a democracy, the final decision making power must rest with those elected by the people.

Second feature

  • A democracy must be based on a free and fair election where those currently in power have a fair chance of losing.

Third feature

  • In a democracy, each adult citizen must have one vote and each vote must have one value.

Fourth feature

  • A democratic government rules within limits set by constitutional law and citizens’ rights.

Summary Definition:

Democracy is a form of government in which:

  • Rulers elected by the people take all the major decisions;
  • Elections offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers;
  • This choice and opportunity is available to all the people on an equal basis; and
  • The exercise of this choice leads to a government limited by basic rules of the constitution and citizens’ rights.

Arguments against democracy

  • Unstable: Different leaders are elected after a certain time interval.
  • Lack of morality: Democracy involves political competition and power play
  • Delay: Due to many people involved
  • Bad decisions: Elected leaders are unaware of the best interests of people
  • Corruption: Due to electoral competition
  • Decision: Ordinary people should not decide for themselves because they  do not know what is good for them

Arguments for democracy

  • More accountable: Leaders need to respond to the needs of the people. Due to this, an independent and democratic country, like India has responded better to food scarcity than China.
  • Provides method to deal with differences and conflicts: In a socially diverse country like India, difference and conflicts are likely to occur. Only when one knows that no one is a permanent winner or loser, we can peacefully resolve clashes.
  • Improved quality of decision making: Due to consultation and discussion in a democracy and involvement of many people it is easier to point out mistakes in any decision.
  • Enhancement of dignity of citizens: Since everyone is treated equally and each person in a democracy is a ruler himself, people are responsible for their own conduct.
  • Correction of mistakes: In a democracy, mistakes cannot be hidden for wrong but are publically discussed and corrected.

Broader meanings of democracy

  • Representative democracy is the commonest form of democracy in the modern world. This system involves common people electing officials to represent them.
  • Democracy may be used to describe an ideal standard that all democracies must aim to become.
  • Unlike in monarchy or dictatorships, all citizens must show active political participation to make a country more democratic

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