What is Democracy?
Democracy is the form of government that has the most positive connotation. It seems that the best, most advanced, nations in the world are democratic, and the only way to improve impoverished nations is to assist in the creation of a democracy. While the connotation is positive, there has been no solid consensus on the denotation, or literal definition, of the word democracy.
Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl define democracy in their article, “What Democracy Is… and Is Not,” As “A system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens, acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives.” This definition is fairly broad and seems to encompass most democracies in the world, but Robert A. Dahl adds to this definition by choosing to judge democracy by the characteristics that is must encompass, “elected officials; free, fair, and frequent elections; freedom of expression; alternative sources of information; associational autonomy; and inclusive citizenship.” Both of these definitions define democracy well and I agree with each author, however democracies differ greatly on the details concerning each characteristic, and I think it is impossible to define democracy further without excluding a largely recognized democracy in the world today.
One historical characteristic of governments in general, is that they are subject to change and improvement. As democracy continues to expand and show up in a larger number of countries, we may find new characteristics added to the list of necessities. Some recent changes have included the fine-tuning of representative democracy, the call for more direct democracy, and the developing of advocacy democracy.
I am supportive of the improvement in voting procedures and turnout. Democracy in America has come along way with its expansion of suffrage and work toward fairer elections. I am much more apprehensive about the increase in direct democracy however. I understand the need for government to be open to the citizens it governs, but when more people are involved in making decisions, it takes much longer to find a consensus, and there is still no guarantee that everyone will be content. Less educated people also have less opportunity to participate in government when they are bounded by stricter time constraints and less knowledge on specific subjects. I do think that the option to be involved in government should be available to all, but I do not support the growth of government to involve everyone on a high level.
Democracy is a confusing word, but through trial and error the world is finding many effective and ineffective ways to govern a nation. As the analysis continues, I hope democracy advances in a positive and productive way.