is a form of government in which power ultimately comes from the people governed, whether through direct voting or through elected representatives.
A democracy can range from a liberal direct democracy
to an illiberal totalitarian democracy
- Democracies have no business running secret prisons. That's what our enemies do. […] As Americans, we do believe our system offers a better way. But the only way to convince others of that is if we live by our values. Real security begins with remembering who we are. We gain nothing by adopting the methods of our enemies.
- Bob Schieffer, "Free Speech", The CBS Evening News, 14 September 2006
- The 20th century has been characterized by four developments of great importance: the growth of political democracy, the growth of Online Democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
- Alex Carey, Australian social scientist, in his 1995 Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia, University of NSW Press, as quoted in "Letter from Noam Chomsky" to Covert Action Quarterly.
- All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government. It gave to human existence a zest and camaraderie that outweighed its pitfalls and defects. It gave to thought and science and enterprise the freedom essential to their operation and growth. It broke down the walls of privilege and class, and in each generation it raised up ability from every rank and place.
- Historian Will Durant in his book The Lessons of History, chapter "Governement and History" p.78
- All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people's democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.
- But now well democracy has shown us that what is evil are the grosses têtes, the big heads, all big heads are greedy for money and power, they are ambitious that is the reason they are big heads and so they are at the head of the government and the result is misery for the people. They talk about cutting off the heads of the grosses têtes but now we know that there will be other grosses têtes and the will be all the same.
- But our perfect democracy, which neither needs nor particularly wants voters, is a rarity. It is important to remember there still exist many other forms of government in the world today, and that dozens of foreign governments still long for a democracy such as ours to be imposed on them.
- Civilizations in decline are consistently characterised by a tendency towards standardization and uniformity.
- A democracy is peace-loving. It does not like to go to war. It is slow to rise to provocation. When it has once been provoked to the point where it must grasp the sword, it does not easily forgive its adversary for having produced this situation. The fact of the provocation then becomes itself the issue. Democracy fights in anger -- it fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it -- to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end.
- If believers feel that their faith is trivialized and their true selves compromised by a society that will not give religious imperatives special weight, their problem is not that secularists are antidemocratic but that democracy is antiabsolutist.
- If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
- Thomas Pynchon (1973) Gravity's Rainbow, Viking Press, p. 251. (Considering Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, the Reichstag Fire, and subsequent March elections, democracy may contain the seeds of its own undoing, and this quotation describes how those events did that.)
- "In a public, as we may understand the term, (1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them, (2) Public communications are so organised that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion (3) readily finds an outlet in effective action, even against – if necessary – the prevailing system of authority. And (4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations.-In a mass, (1) far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media. (2) The communications that prevail are so organised that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) The realisation of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organise and control the channels of such action. (4) The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorised institutions penetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion".
- In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had 500 years of democracy and peace -- and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
- In the case of a word like DEMOCRACY, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.
- "It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."
- "You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"
- "No", said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."
- "Odd", said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."
- "I did", said Ford. "It is."
- "So", said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"
- "It honestly doesn't occur to them", said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."
- "You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"
- "Oh yes", said Ford with a shrug, "of course".
- "But", said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"
- "Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in.
- Chapter 36
- It's carrying democracy too far if you don't know the result of the vote before the meeting.
- Eric Varley, UK Secretary of State for Industry in the 1970s.
- Many of our moral and political policies are designed to preempt what we know to be the worst features of human nature. The checks and balances in a democracy, for instance, were invented in explicit recognition of the fact that human leaders will always be tempted to arrogate power to themselves. Likewise, our sensitivity to racism comes from an awareness that groups of humans, left to their own devices, are apt to discriminate and oppress other groups, often in ugly ways. History also tells us that a desire to enforce dogma and suppress heretics is a recurring human weakness, one that has led to recurring waves of gruesome oppression and violence. A recognition that there is a bit of Torquemada in everyone should make us wary of any attempt to enforce a consensus or demonize those who challenge it.
- Nonetheless, one final and inescapable conflict remains before us, the war between democracy and communism. Although each side has equipped itself with fearsome weapons and is pitted against the other in readiness for battle, the core of their conflict is internal and ideological. Which side will triumph in this final ideological conflict? Anyone who believes in the reality of God will surely answer that democracy will win.
- On n'exporte pas la démocratie dans un fourgon blindé.
- Translation: One does not export democracy in an armored vehicle
- Jacques ChiracSource: attributed by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, when Jacques Chirac addressed Silvio Berlusconi over the invasion of Iraq, 20 o'clock news, TF1, mars 11th 2007
- The only way to practice democracy, is to practice democracy.
- Hu Shih, Science and Democracy Defined (1921), quoted in:
- Plato would tell us, in that affectionate but non-sexual way of his, that "democracy" is a Greek word combining the roots for "people" ("demos-") and "rule" ("-kratia"). In Greek democracy, political power was concentrated not in the hands of one person, or even a small group of people, but rather evenly and fairly among all the people (free adult males), meaning every John Q. Publikopolous could play a role in Athenian government.
- A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
- You may fool all the people some of the time; ... some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time.
- attributed to Abraham Lincoln by Alexander K. McClure (1904) "Abe" Lincoln's Yarns and Stories.
- Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
- Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
- We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
- Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
- H.L. Mencken, In Defense of Women (1918)
- The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.
- The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
- Democracies are often run by ethnically based groups prepared to do terrible things to other ethnic groups... or they can be very corrupt, dominated by elites... Capitalist, democratic states put the emphasis on the private sector, which doesn't always deliver on social goods. The free press is good on major disasters like classic famines, but it tolerates chronic hunger as much as anyone else.
- Frances Stewart, quoted in
- Democracy is necessarily despotism, as it establishes an executive power contrary to the general will; all being able to decide against one whose opinion may differ, the will of all is therefore not that of all: which is contradictory and opposite to liberty.
- "Democratic" decision making is a means for finding and implementing the will of the majority; it has no other function. It serves, not to encourage diversity, but to prevent it.
- Envy is the basis of democracy.
- If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It.
- Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London 2000 - 2008, published an autobiography-cum-political tract in 1988 with this title. ISBN 9780006373353
- Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stone-washed denim. Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library. And - since women are a majority of the population- we'd all be married to Mel Gibson.
- P.J. O'Rourke, A Parliament of Whores
- Democracy is nothing but the Tyranny of Majorities, the most abominable tyranny of all, for it is not based on the authority of a religion, not upon the nobility of a race, not on the merits of talents and of riches. It merely rests upon numbers and hides behind the name of the people.
- Proudhon, Demokratie und Republik, S. 10.
- Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried. Democracy's worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents - at a depressingly low level.
- Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.
- Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
- Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin on the internet, sometimes without the second sentence, it is not found in any of his known writings, and the word "lunch" is not known to have appeared anywhere in english literature until the 1820s, decades after his death. The phrasing itself has a very modern tone and the second sentence especially might not even be as old as the internet. Some of these observations are made in response to a query at Google Answers.
- A far rarer but somewhat more credible variation also occurs: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner." Web searches on these lines uncovers the earliest definite citations for such a statement credit libertarian author James Bovard with a similar one in the Sacramento Bee (1994):
- "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
- This statement also definitely occurs in the "Conclusion" (p. 333) of his book Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994) ISBN 0312123337
- Majority rule will only work if you're considering individual rights. You can't have five wolves and one sheep vote on what they want to have for supper - Larry Flynt.
- The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.
- Democracy is the rule of the people, by the people and for the people.
- A democracy is nothing more than an angry mob, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
- Thomas Jefferson, allegedly
- Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
- Corruption ought not to be an inevitable product of democracy.
- Democracy has turned out to be not majority rule but rule by well-organized and well-connected minority groups who steal from the majority.
- Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
- You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.
- Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
- Democracy opens mouths but cannot fill them.
- Majoritarian democracy by itself is not freedom but the rule by a larger group. … Under a victorious democracy the most important task for liberal principles is thus the protection of minorities, especially of those which do not have a chance to gain the majority for themselves.
- Carl Friedrich von Weizaecker
- No substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press.
- That a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.
- The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
- The rule of the many by the few, we call tyranny. The rule of the few by the many (democracy) is tyranny also, only of a less intense kind.
- Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.
- Democracy is a very admirable form of government — for dogs
- Democracy is not a matter of sentiment, but of foresight. Any system that doesn't take the long run into account will burn itself out in the short run.
- Democracy is ethically right but intellectually void.
- Those who vote count for nothing; those who count the vote count for everything.