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Today relatively few nations practice democracy. One reason may be that real democracy seems to require a special environment.

Democracy seems to have a better chance in countries that do not have extremes of wealth and poverty and that have a large middle class. The opportunity to control one's economic decisions provides a base for making independent political decisions. If people do not have the power to control their own economic lives, they will not likely be free to make political decisions.

Countries with stable, growing economies seem better able to support democratic government. In the past, some politicians who promised citizens jobs and food have toppled many democratic governments during times of severe economic depression. People who are out of work or unable to feed their families often become more concerned about security than about voting or exercising other political rights.

Democracy prospers where most people accept democratic values such as individual liberty and equality for all. Such countries are said to have a social consensus. Countries divided by disagreements about basic values may have difficulty supporting democratic governments.

History shows that conditions in the American colonies favored the growth of democracy. Most white people had an opportunity to get ahead economically. The American colonists were among the most educated people of the world at the time. The English heritage provided a general consensus of political and social values.

A democracy is any system of government in which rule is by the people. The term “democracy” comes from the Greek demos (meaning "the people") and kratia (meaning "rule"). The ancient Greeks used the word democracy to mean government by the many in contrast to government by the few.

Pericles, a great leader of ancient Athens, declared, "Our constitution is named a democracy because it is in the hands not of the few, but of the many." The key idea of democracy is that the people hold sovereign power. Abraham Lincoln best captured this spirit by describing democracy as "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Democracy may take one of the two basic forms. In direct democracy the people govern themselves by voting on issues individually as citizens. Direct democracy exists only in very small societies where citizens can actually meet regularly to discuss and decide key issues and problems. Direct democracy is still found in some New England town meetings and in some of the smaller states, called cantons of Switzerland. No country today, however, has a government based on direct democracy.

In indirect or representative democracy the people elect representatives and give them the responsibility and power to make laws and conduct government. An assembly of the people's representatives may be called a council, a legislature, a congress, or a parliament. Representative democracy is practiced in cities, states, provinces, and countries where the population is too large to meet regularly in one place.

Nowadays, the terms representative democracy, republic, and constitutional republic mean the same thing: a system of limited government where the people are the ultimate source of governmental power.


Date: 2016-01-14; view: 1261

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