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Democracy describes a system of government in which the power to make important political decisions is given directly to ThePeople? via direct vote. Exactly what "democracy" means depends on what one means by "the People," by "important political decisions," and by "direct vote." Sometimes "democracy" is used more loosely to describe RepubliC?s, as in the phrase "Western democracies" and "making the world safe for Democracy," but in careful discussions of PoliticalTheory? this usage is incorrect. Sometimes, in order to distinguish democracies from republics, the term DirectDemocracy? is used. Depending on what, exactly, one means, one can accurately say that there has never been a "true" democracy of any considerable size (but see NoTrueScotsmanFallacy?).

The traditional, and to many still compelling, objection to democracy as a form of government is that it is open to DemagoguerY?. It is (famously) for this reason that the UnitedStates was established, strictly speaking, as a RepubliC? rather than a DemocracY. Thus BenjaminFranklin?'s famous answer, to the question as to what sort of government TheFoundingFathers? had established, was: "A Republic, if you can keep it." A cynic would point out that DemagoguerY? and PopulisM? are two sides of the same coin. Demagogues appeal to people's baser instincts; populists allegedly appeal to their enlightened interests.

At least some arguments against democracy amount more to a complaint that the outcome of democracy is different from what the critic desired. Support for democracy may, then, sometimes not be support for the principle or theory of democracy, but rather a hopeful confidence that democracy will yield the kind of society that the supporter hopes for on independent grounds.

See DirectDemocracy?; TechnoDemocracy; RepubliC?; DemocraticRepublic?; RepublicanisM?; DemagoguerY?; PopulisM?; ThePeople?.


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Last edited February 17, 2001 5:34 am by cobrand.bomis.com (diff)