- (If you arrived here from a page about US politics, you may need to see Democratic Party.)
“”Democracy is a system where two idiots outvote one smart person.
Democracy is an old Greek word meaning "rule by the people." Aristotle considered it the third best form of government (after aristocracy and monarchy), but also warned that when corrupted, it resulted in only the third-worst form, ochlocracy. (The worst two were oligarchy and tyranny.)
 Direct democracy
A direct democratic system is a system in which votes are directly counted by the people and action is taken according to such. This method is mostly found only in small countries and communities, for two reasons. First, a few people can take less time to decide than a lot of people, and it takes time to count all the votes.
This sort of democracy has been continuously practiced in some Swiss cantons, in the form of a meeting called the Landsgemeinde, since medieval times.
 Ballot initiatives and referenda
One form of limited direct democracy which exists in conjunction with representative democracy is the ability of citizens to propose new laws, and collect enough signatures to put them on the ballot as a referendum to be voted on by the people. This exists in some states in the United States, although not at the federal level. Attempts by a few such as former Senator Mike Gravel to enact the right to initiatives and referenda at the federal level have found little support.
At the state level, this form of direct democracy has become controversial in recent years due to the passage of such ballot measures as California Proposition 8 in California, the presence on the ballot every election of initiatives proposed by libertarian activist Tim Eyman in Washington state, and the use of ballot initiatives in several states to legalize medical marijuana. This can be seen two ways, either as a positive thing in which citizens can make an end run around a legislature which does not represent the actual majority view, or in a negative way as either giving too much power to one unelected person (e.g. Eyman) or as enabling a majority vote to run roughshod over the rights of a minority as with California's Proposition 8. Which view one takes often varies state by state and issue by issue; the same people who might praise the initiative process when it is used to legalize medical marijuana might be critical of the process when it is used to ban same-sex marriage, and vice-versa. Because ballot initiatives give any group the ability to pass a law quickly and without the likelihood of it being debated and amended to death in the legislature, there seems to be little desire to end or limit the practice even among those who dislike some of the outcomes; after all, if their political opponents can use the initiative process, they can too. Fortunately there has been little success by cranks proposing fringe causes using ballot initiatives, as these usually fail at the polls by a wide margin or more likely fail to collect the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot. In any case this limited experiment in direct democracy points to both the possibilities, and limitations, of direct democracy, and while there is little desire to end the practice attempts to expand it to the federal level or to expand its use at the state level (for example having the people give their final approval at the ballot to all laws passed by the state legislature) have little to no support.
The key to democracy, one way or another, is what we call "voting". This is where each enfranchised citizen expresses their desired outcome in a given situation.
 The franchise
The concept of who is allowed to vote has been critical to democracies since the first. In many, only a few of the people subject to rule were allowed to vote for their rulers. In some, huge portions of the population were not allowed to participate - to use the example of the United States - women were not allowed to vote until the early 20th century, and people with dark skin, despite the reforms of the 1960s, still struggle to participate in the franchise.
In general, the rule has been that whoever is allowed to vote, can only vote once.
 The secret ballot
This concept is a key idea to fair democracy. If one is required to raise one's hand in public, as in old New England town meetings, the police will always get their budget request, however ridiculous it might be. If one is allowed to present one's opinion on these matters in private - via a secret ballot - one's opinions can be trusted to be honest and not coerced.
Public voting has a long history of coercion and stifled votes.
 Representative democracy
A representative democracy (also referred to as a "democratic republic", though not always correctly) is a system in which people choose and authorize representatives to make decisions for them. The parliamentary system is a version of representative democracy. Some countries have claimed to create new kinds of democracy, including "direct democracy" or "people's democracy." Most of the time, the leaders of these countries are slimeballs who are trying to pull the wool over people's eyes, and their countries are actually totalitarian states.
A common exercise in pointless semantics is for some to claim the United States is "a republic, not a democracy." Those who say this might define democracy to mean only the direct kind, not the representative kind and claim that democracy leads to mob rule. In fact, the United States is both, and a representative democracy is sometimes also a republic (although not all republics are representative democracies).
 Democratic centralism
Democratic centralism is based on the notion of a democratic process of discussion and formulating public policy only up to the point where a policy is decided on, but then once the policy is decided on it is enforced on a top-down manner. Democratic centralism is associated with one-party governments, particularly Marxist-Leninist, and the only debate that exists takes place within the ruling Communist Party. Such countries may have universal suffrage but only the ruling political party's candidates are on the ballot so "voting" has no effect on policy; the only way to have a say is to join the ruling party and try to move up in the party heirarchy. This form of "democracy" is a sham, as party members only have a limited voice and non-members don't have any at all.
This can be contrasted to a democratic republic, where citizens retain the continuous right to petition their elected representatives, public policy can undergo continual change in response to public opinion, and multiple competing political parties exist.
- It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried - Winston Churchill.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again; democracy just doesn't work. - Kent Brockman
- All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government. - Will Durant
- Fifty-one percent of a nation can establish a totalitarian regime, suppress minorities and still remain democratic. - Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
 See also
- ↑ Most of Tim Eyman's initiatives attempt to limit taxes, government revenue, or government spending. His controversy is such that some people will vote against any of his initiatives, even those they might individually agree with (such as cutting Washington's exorbitant vehicle plate fee to a flat $30, opening HOV lanes during non-peak hours, and legalizing scratch ticket gambling), solely on the grounds that "it's a Tim Eyman initiative". Another activist filed a ballot initiative in 2003 that if passed would "proclaim that Tim Eyman is a Horse's Ass", but it failed to make the ballot.
- ↑ Example: Libya, where the direct democracy or "Jamahiriya" (state of the masses) exercises little actual control over governance, with actual power concentrated in the unelected revolutionary council and its leader Muammar al-Gaddafi.
- ↑ Does this sound similar to the way governance takes place within religious heirarchies, particularly the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches?
- ↑ A character from The Simpsons.
- ↑ An American philosopher.
- ↑ An Austrian aristocrat (as evident from the name) and a monarchist - which makes you wonder why he dislikes totalitarianism. And, according to Wikipedia, made a distinction between "democracies" and "republics" - such as the USA (but only prior to the late 1820s?).