Features of Democracy: Basic Principles and Roots

featuresofdemocracyA democracy in its roots is the theory that the majority decides how a group of people should deal with a particular issue. It is not, however, that simple. The original design of democracy did not really take account of the scale of population growth that has taken place in the last century. As a result, while the original idea still stands, there has been a need to make some adjustments in order for the concept to function in a practical way, while still serving the needs of hundreds of millions of people. You might be wondering how democratic governments affect your finances. This online course comprehensively explains how the economy really works.

Main Principle

The fundamental principle of democracy is that the governing power is exercised based on the judgment of all adult citizens, in choosing who is going to be responsible for making decisions on their behalf. This is done through a free and fair election process with each adult citizen casting only one vote for their chosen candidate. Originally, this was for one leader but, over time, it has evolved into people voting for someone who represents their area, and who, in turn, has a vote in the overall decision made by the government.

A democracy is represented in many different forms throughout the world, depending on the amount of each individual’s participation in that countries form of it. At the heart of each different variety, is that the majority rule is the indicator of the right direction to take, but there needs to be checks, and balances, to ensure that the opinion of the minority is not left out.

How it Works

The main focus of a democracy is to protect the rights of the citizens that it governs. This means that every citizen should have their human rights protected, and have the opportunity to voice their opinion, even if it does not align with the majority. In order to keep things fair, in most cultures people do not get to vote until they have reached an appropriate age.

This is usually eighteen years old but can vary depending on the culture. A democracy further ensures that every single person, no matter what their age, has equal protection under the law, and the chance to participate in the day to day function of their society as a whole.

Direct Democracy

This is the original idea of democracy was that a citizen can participate in decision making with their fellow citizens, without having to go through someone else. It is somewhat impractical when dealing with a large number of people, as the process would take too long. This type of democracy can often be found within communities, tribal councils, and small trade unions. It is only really practical if you can get all of the relevant people into the same place, at the same time, to make a decision. The principles of democracy can find its roots in Greece. In fact, Athens was once a direct democracy. Get to know the founding fathers of Democracy with this online course on Greek history and culture.

It can still be found in a diluted form, when countries or states, call for a referendum. This is where one specific issue is put to the people to express whether they support it, or not. Some countries, such as Switzerland, decide a lot of issues in this way. The main problem with this level of voter participation is the time, and the cost.

careersincriminaljusticeRepresentative Democracy

These days, and in response to the growing world population, most countries use a representative democracy. This means that people in a designated voter district, vote for a particular person, to represent their interests, in the decisions made by the government of that country. The size of the support of each representative varies, depending on the country, and the structure of the government. What about American democracy, is it broken? Check out these varying perspectives and debates on the current state of American democracy.

In order for there not to be an abuse of power, these representatives need to have their actions answerable to the people so their actions are subject to public scrutiny. In addition, for a democracy to be fair there must be a process to protect the rights of minorities, to ensure that it does not turn into a form of mob rule. This responsibility falls onto the government, to protect each individual’s rights, as well as to try to implement the wishes of the majority.


Pluralism is the formation of groups, organizations, and societies that try to influence the way that the elected government makes decisions. They are usually privately funded, and can have widely diverse opinions. In most democracies, there are thousands of these organizations, often on conflicting sides of a particularly contentious issue.

They provide a check on the government, and allow citizens to put forward alternative views, to the current political agenda, on an issue. By allowing these kinds of organizations to exist, and freely express their opinions, it allows the continuation of a free, and fair society. Democracy can only function if all people are allowed to express their opinions, without fear of oppression.

Interestingly, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index of 2010, Norway topped the list as the most democratic nation in the world. Also, America came out as #17 and the U.K. came in at #19. Moreover, the study shows a decline in democracy around the world since 2008, stating that the global financial crisis boosted some authoritarian regimes. The report also states that only 12.3 percent of the world’s citizens experience full democracies, which is a decline from previous years.

Democracy is a very effective way of governing, and has been proven to be efficient, across most of the world, in varying forms. What is most important, for it to function correctly, is that everyone takes their civic duty seriously, and participates in the process. This blog posts explains how ancient Greece formed the basis for democracy.