Liberal democracy

Liberal democracy

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Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive. Political pluralism is usually defined as the presence of multiple and distinct political parties
Political Parties
Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy is a book by sociologist Robert Michels, published in 1911 , and first introducing the concept of iron law of oligarchy...

.

A liberal democracy may take various constitutional forms: it may be a constitutional republic
Constitutional republic
A constitutional republic is a state in which the head of state and other officials are representatives of the people and must govern according to existing constitutional law that limits the government's power over all of its citizens...

, such as the France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, or United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, or a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

, such as the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, or United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It may have a presidential system
Presidential system
A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

 (Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

), Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, a semi-presidential system
Semi-presidential system
The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

 (Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Taiwan
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

), or a parliamentary system
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

 (Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

).

Structure



The Liberal democracies usually have universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

, granting all adult
Adult
An adult is a human being or living organism that is of relatively mature age, typically associated with sexual maturity and the attainment of reproductive age....

 citizens the right to vote regardless of race, gender or property ownership. Historically, however, some countries regarded as liberal democracies have had a more limited franchise, and some do not have secret ballot
Secret ballot
The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. The system is one means of achieving the goal of...

s. There may also be qualifications such as voters being required to register before being allowed to vote. The decisions made through elections are made not by all of the citizens, but rather by those who choose to participate by voting.

The liberal democratic constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 defines the democratic character of the state. The purpose of a constitution is often seen as a limit on the authority of the government. Liberal democracy emphasises the separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

, an independent judiciary, and a system of checks and balances between branches of government. Liberal democracies are likely to emphasise the importance of the state being a Rechtsstaat
Rechtsstaat
Rechtsstaat is a concept in continental European legal thinking, originally borrowed from German jurisprudence, which can be translated as "legal state", "state of law", "state of justice", or "state of rights"...

 that follows the principle of rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

. Governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedure. Many democracies use federalism
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

—also known as vertical separation of powers—in order to prevent abuse and increase public input by dividing governing powers between municipal, provincial and national governments.


Rights and freedoms


In practice, democracies do have specific limits on specific freedoms. There are various legal limitations such as copyright
Copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 and laws against defamation. There may be limits on anti-democratic speech, on attempts to undermine human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

, and on the promotion or justification of terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

. In the United States more than in Europe, during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, such restrictions applied to Communists
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. Now they are more commonly applied to organizations perceived as promoting terrorism or the incitement of group hatred. Examples include anti-terrorism legislation
Anti-terrorism legislation
Anti-terrorism legislation designs various types of laws passed in the aim of fighting terrorism. They usually, if not always, follow specific bombings or assassinations...

, the shutting down of Hezbollah satellite broadcasts, and some laws against hate speech
Hate speech
Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic....

. Critics claim that these limitations may go too far and that there may be no due and fair judicial process.

The common justification for these limits is that they are necessary to guarantee the existence of democracy, or the existence of the freedoms themselves. For example, allowing free speech for those advocating mass murder undermines the right to life and security. Opinion is divided on how far democracy can extend to include the enemies of democracy in the democratic process. If relatively small numbers of people are excluded from such freedoms for these reasons, a country may still be seen as a liberal democracy. Some argue that this is only quantitatively (not qualitatively) different from autocracies that persecute opponents, since only a small number of people are affected and the restrictions are less severe. Others emphasize that democracies are different. At least in theory, opponents of democracy are also allowed due process under the rule of law. In principle, democracies allow criticism and change of the leaders and the political and economic system itself; it is only attempts to do so violently and the promotion of such violence that is prohibited.

However, many governments considered to be democratic have restrictions upon expressions considered anti-democratic, such as Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial is the act of denying the genocide of Jews in World War II, usually referred to as the Holocaust. The key claims of Holocaust denial are: the German Nazi government had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews, Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas...

and hate speech
Hate speech
Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic....

. Members of political organizations with connections to prior totalitarianism (typically communist
Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

, fascist
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

, and Nazi) parties prohibited and current or former members of such organizations may be deprived of the vote and the privilege of holding certain jobs. Discriminatory
Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

 behavior may be prohibited, such as refusal by owners of public accommodations to serve persons on grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. For example, in Canada, a printer who refused to print materials for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives was fined $5,000, incurred $100,000 in legal fees, and was ordered to pay a further $40,000 of his opponents' legal fees by the Human Rights Tribunal.

Other rights considered fundamental in one country may be foreign to other governments. For instance, the constitutions of Canada, India, Israel, Mexico and the United States guarantee freedom from double jeopardy
Double jeopardy
Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same, or similar charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction...

, a right not provided in other legal systems. Similarly, many Americans consider gun rights
Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights.In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two Second...

 to be important, while other countries do not recognize them as fundamental rights.

Preconditions


Although they are not part of the system of government as such, a modicum of individual
Individual rights
Group rights are rights held by a group rather than by its members separately, or rights held only by individuals within the specified group; in contrast, individual rights are rights held by individual people regardless of their group membership or lack thereof...

 and economic freedom
Economic freedom
Economic freedom is a term used in economic and policy debates. As with freedom generally, there are various definitions, but no universally accepted concept of economic freedom...

s, which result in the formation of a significant middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 and a broad and flourishing civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

, are often seen as pre-conditions for liberal democracy.

For countries without a strong tradition of democratic majority rule, the introduction of free elections alone has rarely been sufficient to achieve a transition from dictatorship to democracy; a wider shift in the political culture and gradual formation of the institutions of democratic government are needed. There are various examples—for instance, in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

—of countries that were able to sustain democracy only temporarily or in a limited fashion until wider cultural changes established the conditions under which democracy could flourish.

One of the key aspects of democratic culture is the concept of a "loyal opposition
Loyal opposition
In parliamentary systems of government, the term loyal opposition is applied to the opposition parties in the legislature to indicate that the non-governing parties may oppose the actions of the sitting cabinet typically comprising parliamentarians from the party with the most seats in the elected...

". This is an especially difficult cultural shift to achieve in nations where transitions of power have historically taken place through violence. The term means, in essence, that all sides in a democracy share a common commitment to its basic values. Political competitors may disagree, but they must tolerate one another and acknowledge the legitimate and important roles that each play. The ground rules of the society must encourage tolerance and civility in public debate. In such a society, the losers accept the judgment of the voters when the election is over, and allow for the peaceful transfer of power. The losers are safe in the knowledge that they will neither lose their lives nor their liberty, and will continue to participate in public life. They are loyal not to the specific policies of the government, but to the fundamental legitimacy of the state and to the democratic process itself.

Origins



Liberal democracy traces its origins—and its name—to the Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an 18th century, also known as the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

. At the time, the vast majority of European states were monarchies
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, with political power held either by the monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 or the aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

. The possibility of democracy had not been seriously considered by political theory since classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, and the widely held belief was that democracies would be inherently unstable and chaotic in their policies due to the changing whims of the people. It was further believed that democracy was contrary to human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

, as human beings were seen to be inherently evil, violent and in need of a strong leader to restrain their destructive impulses. Many European monarchs held that their power had been ordained by God
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

, and that questioning their right to rule was tantamount to blasphemy
Blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

.

These conventional views were challenged at first by a relatively small group of Enlightenment intellectual
Intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

s, who believed that human affairs should be guided by reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 and principles of liberty and equality. They argued that all people are created equal, and therefore political authority cannot be justified on the basis of "noble blood", a supposed privileged connection to God, or any other characteristic that is alleged to make one person superior to others. They further argued that governments exist to serve the people, not vice versa, and that laws should apply to those who govern as well as to the governed (a concept known as rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

).

Near the end of the 18th century, these ideas inspired the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 and the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, which gave birth to the ideology of liberalism
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 and instituted forms of government that attempted to apply the principles of the Enlightenment philosophers into practice. Neither of these forms of government was precisely what we would call a liberal democracy we know today (the most significant difference being that voting rights were still restricted to a minority of the population), and the French attempt turned out to be short-lived, but they were the prototypes from which liberal democracy later grew. Since the supporters of these forms of government were known as liberals, the governments themselves came to be known as liberal democracies.

When the first prototypical liberal democracies were founded, the liberals themselves were viewed as an extreme and rather dangerous fringe group that threatened international peace and stability. The conservative monarchists
Monarchism
Monarchism is the advocacy of the establishment, preservation, or restoration of a monarchy as a form of government in a nation. A monarchist is an individual who supports this form of government out of principle, independent from the person, the Monarch.In this system, the Monarch may be the...

 who opposed liberalism and democracy saw themselves as defenders of traditional values and the natural order of things, and their criticism of democracy seemed vindicated when Napoleon Bonaparte took control of the young French Republic
French First Republic
The French First Republic was founded on 22 September 1792, by the newly established National Convention. The First Republic lasted until the declaration of the First French Empire in 1804 under Napoleon I...

, reorganized it into the first French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 and proceeded to conquer most of Europe. Napoleon was eventually defeated and the Holy Alliance
Holy Alliance
The Holy Alliance was a coalition of Russia, Austria and Prussia created in 1815 at the behest of Czar Alexander I of Russia, signed by the three powers in Paris on September 26, 1815, in the Congress of Vienna after the defeat of Napoleon.Ostensibly it was to instill the Christian values of...

 was formed in Europe to prevent any further spread of liberalism or democracy. However, liberal democratic ideals soon became widespread among the general population, and, over the 19th century, traditional monarchy was forced on a continuous defensive and withdrawal.

The dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 became laboratories for liberal democracy from the mid 19th century onward. In Canada, responsible government began in the 1840s and in Australia and New Zealand, parliamentary government elected by male suffrage and secret ballot
Secret ballot
The secret ballot is a voting method in which a voter's choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. The key aim is to ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery. The system is one means of achieving the goal of...

 was established from the 1850s and female suffrage achieved from the 1890s.

Reforms and revolutions helped move most European countries towards liberal democracy. Liberalism ceased being a fringe opinion and joined the political mainstream. At the same time, a number of non-liberal ideologies developed that took the concept of liberal democracy and made it their own. The political spectrum changed; traditional monarchy became more and more a fringe view and liberal democracy became more and more mainstream. By the end of the 19th century, liberal democracy was no longer only a "liberal" idea, but an idea supported by many different ideologies. After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and especially after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, liberal democracy achieved a dominant position among theories of government and is now endorsed by the vast majority of the political spectrum.

Although liberal democracy was originally put forward by Enlightenment liberals, the relationship between democracy and liberalism has been controversial since the beginning. The ideology of liberalism—particularly in its classical
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 form—is highly individualistic
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

 and concerns itself with limiting the power of the state over the individual. In contrast, democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 is seen by some as a collectivist
Collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...

 ideal, concerned with empowering the masses. Thus, liberal democracy may be seen as a compromise between liberal individualism and democratic collectivism. Those who hold this view sometimes point to the existence of illiberal democracy
Illiberal democracy
An illiberal democracy, also called a pseudo democracy, partial democracy, low intensity democracy, empty democracy, hybrid regime or delegative democracy, is a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise...

 and liberal autocracy
Liberal autocracy
A liberal autocracy is a non-democratic government that follows the principles of liberalism. Until the twentieth century, "most countries in Western Europe were liberal autocracies, or at best, semi-democracies." One example of a "classic liberal autocracy" was the Austro-Hungarian Empire...

 as evidence that constitutional liberalism and democratic government are not necessarily interconnected. On the other hand, there is the view that constitutional liberalism and democratic government are not only compatible but necessary for the true existence of each other, both arising from the underlying concept of political equality. The research institute Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 today simply defines liberal democracy as an electoral democracy also protecting civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

.

Liberal democracies around the world





Several organisations and political scientists maintain lists of free and unfree states, both in the present and going back a couple centuries. Of these, the best known may be the Polity Data Set and that produced by Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

.

There is agreement amongst several intellectuals and organizations such as Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 that the states of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 are liberal democracies, with Canada having the largest land area and India currently having the largest population among the democracies in the world.

Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 considers many of the officially democratic governments in Africa and the former Soviet Union to be undemocratic in practice, usually because the sitting government has a strong influence over election outcomes. Many of these countries are in a state of considerable flux.

Officially non-democratic forms of government, such as single-party states and dictatorships are more common in East Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Proportional vs. plurality representation


Plurality voting system
Plurality voting system
The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

 award seats according to regional majorities. The political party or individual candidate who receives the most votes, wins the seat which represents that locality. There are other democratic electoral systems, such as the various forms of proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

, which award seats according to the proportion of individual votes that a party receives nation-wide or in a particular region.

One of the main points of contention between these two systems, is whether to have representatives who are able to effectively represent specific regions in a country, or to have all citizens' vote count the same, regardless of where in the country they happen to live.

Some countries such as Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, address the conflict between these two forms of representation, by having two categories of seats in the lower house of their national legislative bodies. The first category of seats is appointed according to regional popularity, and the remainder are awarded to give the parties a proportion of seats that is equal—or as equal as practicable—to their proportion of nation-wide votes. This system is commonly called mixed member proportional representation
Mixed member proportional representation
Mixed-member proportional representation, also termed mixed-member proportional voting and commonly abbreviated to MMP, is a voting system originally used to elect representatives to the German Bundestag, and nowadays adopted by numerous legislatures around the world...

.

Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 incorporates both systems in having the preferential voting
Preferential voting
Preferential voting is a type of ballot structure used in several electoral systems in which voters rank candidates in order of relative preference. For example, the voter may select their first choice as '1', their second preference a '2', and so on...

 system applicable to the lower house
Australian House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is one of the two houses of the Parliament of Australia; it is the lower house; the upper house is the Senate. Members of Parliament serve for terms of approximately three years....

 and proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 by state in the upper house
Australian Senate
The Senate is the upper house of the bicameral Parliament of Australia, the lower house being the House of Representatives. Senators are popularly elected under a system of proportional representation. Senators are elected for a term that is usually six years; after a double dissolution, however,...

. This system is argued to result in a more stable government, while having a better diversity of parties to review its actions.

Presidential vs. parliamentary systems


A presidential system
Presidential system
A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

 is a system of government of a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 in which the executive branch
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 is elected separately from the legislative
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

. A parliamentary system
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

 is distinguished by the executive branch of government being dependent on the direct or indirect support of the parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

, often expressed through a vote of confidence.

The presidential system of democratic government has become popular in Latin America, Africa, and parts of the former Soviet Union, largely by the example of the United States. Constitutional monarchies (dominated by elected parliaments) are popular in Northern Europe and some former colonies which peacefully separated, such as Australia and Canada. Others have also arisen in Spain, East Asia, and a variety of small nations around the world. Former British territories such as South Africa, India, Ireland, and the United States opted for different forms at the time of independence. The parliamentary system is popular in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 and neighboring countries.

Lacking direct democracy


Liberal democracies (also see representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

) do not respect will of the majority
Majority rule
Majority rule is a decision rule that selects alternatives which have a majority, that is, more than half the votes. It is the binary decision rule used most often in influential decision-making bodies, including the legislatures of democratic nations...

 except when electing representatives. This effectively means that a small number of elected representatives make decisions and policies about how a nation is governed, the laws that govern the lives of its citizens, and so on. In addition to the electoral process, the will of the majority is also restricted by the constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 or precedent
Precedent
In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a legal case that a court or other judicial body may apply when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts...

 decided by previous generations. The real power is actually held by a relatively small representative body and also minority interests. Thus, some argue that liberal democracy is merely a decoration over an oligarchy
Oligarchy
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...

, a plutocracy
Plutocracy
Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy. The word plutocracy is derived from the Ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth and kratos, meaning to rule or to govern.-Usage:The term plutocracy is generally...

, or a plutarchy; political theorist, Robert A. Dahl
Robert A. Dahl
Robert Alan Dahl , is the Sterling Professor emeritus of political science at Yale University, where he earned his Ph.D. in political science in 1940. He is past president of the American Political Science Association...

, has described liberal democracies as polyarchies
Polyarchy
In modern political science, the term polyarchy was introduced by Robert A. Dahl, now emeritus professor at Yale University, to describe a form of government in which power is vested in three or more persons. This form of government was first implemented in the United States and was gradually...

. For these reasons and others, opponents support other, more direct forms of governance such as direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

, or consensus
Consensus decision-making
Consensus decision-making is a group decision making process that seeks the consent, not necessarily the agreement, of participants and the resolution of objections. Consensus is defined by Merriam-Webster as, first, general agreement, and second, group solidarity of belief or sentiment. It has its...

.

It has generally been argued by those who support liberal democracy or representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 that minority interests and individual liberties must be protected from the majority; for instance in Federalist No. 10
Federalist No. 10
Federalist No. 10 is an essay written by James Madison and the tenth of the Federalist Papers, a series arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution. It was published on Friday, November 22, 1787, under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were...

 James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 states, "the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society". In order to prevent a minority, in this case, land owners, from being marginalized by a majority, in this case non-land owners, it prescribes what it calls a republic. Unmoderated majority rule could, in this view, lead to an oppression of minorities (see Majoritarianism
Majoritarianism
Majoritarianism is a traditional political philosophy or agenda which asserts that a majority of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society...

 below.) Another argument is that the elected leaders may be more interested and able than the average voter. A third is that it takes much effort and time if everyone should gather information, discuss, and vote on most issues. Direct democracy proponents in turn have counter-arguments, see the Direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

. Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 is a functioning example of direct democracy.

Many democracies have elements of direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

 such as referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

s, plebiscite, and models of "Deliberative democracy
Deliberative democracy
Deliberative democracy is a form of democracy in which public deliberation is central to legitimate lawmaking. It adopts elements of both consensus decision-making and majority rule. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere...

". For example, Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

n president Hugo Chávez
Hugo Chávez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the 56th and current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela...

 has recently allowed referendums on important aspects of the government. Also, several states in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 have functional aspects that are directly democratic. Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

 is another example. Many other countries have referendums to a lesser degree in their political system.

Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie


Some Marxists
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, socialists
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and left-wing anarchists
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

, argue that liberal democracy is an integral part of the capitalist system
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

, is class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

-based and not democratic or participatory
Participatory democracy
Participatory Democracy, also known as Deliberative Democracy, Direct Democracy and Real Democracy , is a process where political decisions are made directly by regular people...

. It is bourgeois democracy because ultimately politicians fight only for the rights of the bourgeoisie. According to Marx, representation of the interests of different groups is proportional to the amount of money they are able to spend on financing the campaigns of nominees during elections, and is also proportional to their financial ability to lobby during a political term. For this reason in decision-making the public interest is distorted according to the weight of the wealth of the represented groups and individuals. Because of this multi-party democracy under a capitalist system is seen as distorted and undemocratic, operating in a way that facilitates the interest of the wealthy owners of the means of production, whose interest according to Marx is to be obligated to share less of their fortune and economic power with their employees, which means their interest is the exploitation of the lower-class. According to Marx, parliamentary elections are an opportunity citizens of a country get every few years to decide who among the ruling classes will misrepresent them in parliament.

The cost of political campaigning in representative democracies favors the rich, a form of plutocracy
Plutocracy
Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy. The word plutocracy is derived from the Ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth and kratos, meaning to rule or to govern.-Usage:The term plutocracy is generally...

 who are a very small minority of the voters. In Athenian democracy, some public offices were randomly allocated to citizens, in order to inhibit the effects of plutocracy. Aristotle described the law courts in Athens which were selected by lot as democratic and described elections as oligarchic.

Liberal democracy has also been attacked by some socialists
Democratic socialism
Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements and organizations to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation...

 as a dishonest farce used to keep the masses from realizing that their will is irrelevant in the political process, while at the same time a conspiracy
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

 for making them restless for some political agenda. Some contend that it encourages candidates to make deals with wealthy supporters, offering favorable legislation if the candidate is elected—perpetuating conspiracies
Conspiracy (political)
In a political sense, conspiracy refers to a group of persons united in the goal of usurping or overthrowing an established political power. Typically, the final goal is to gain power through a revolutionary coup d'état or through assassination....

 for monopolization
Monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 of key areas. Campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform is the common term for the political effort in the United States to change the involvement of money in politics, primarily in political campaigns....

 is an attempt to correct this perceived problem. In response to these claims, United States economist Steven Levitt
Steven Levitt
Steven David "Steve" Levitt is an American economist known for his work in the field of crime, in particular on the link between legalized abortion and crime rates. Winner of the 2004 John Bates Clark Medal, he is currently the William B...

 argues in his book Freakonomics
Freakonomics
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything is a 2005 non-fiction book by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner. The book has been described as melding pop culture with economics, but has also been described as...

 that campaign spending is no guarantee of electoral success. He compared electoral success of the same pair of candidates running against one another repeatedly for the same job, as often happens in United States Congressional elections, where spending levels varied. He concludes:
"A winning candidate can cut his spending in half and lose only 1 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, a losing candidate who doubles his spending can expect to shift the vote in his favor by only that same 1 percent."

Media


Critics of the role of the media in liberal democracies allege that concentration of media ownership
Concentration of media ownership
Concentration of media ownership refers to a process whereby progressively fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of the mass media...

 leads to major distortions of democratic processes. They argue that the corporate media limits the availability of contesting views, and following the Propaganda Model
Propaganda model
The propaganda model is a conceptual model in political economy advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that states how propaganda, including systemic biases, function in mass media...

 of Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman is an American economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media. He is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also teaches at Annenberg School for...

 and Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

, argue this creates a narrow spectrum of elite opinion. This is a natural consequence, they say, of the close ties between powerful corporation
Corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

s and the media and not due to any explicit conspiracy. Systemic bias shapes the content of the media outlets to correspond with corporate interests. Although freedom of speech is secured and protected by the state, only those that adhere to that limited spectrum of opinion are granted significant and consistent access to the major media outlets.

Media commentators also point out that the influential early champions of the media industry held fundamentally anti-democratic views, opposing the general population's involvement in creating policy. Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War...

, for example, sought to "put the public in its place" so that those in power would be "free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd," while Edward Bernays
Edward Bernays
Edward Louis Bernays , was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda along with Ivy Lee, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations"...

 sought to "regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies." They also say that even though law ensures the right to free speech, the ability to spread information to large numbers of people is limited to only those who can afford it.

Proponents claim that constitutionally protected freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

 makes it possible for both for-profit and non-profit organizations to debate the issues. They argue that media coverage in democracies simply reflects public preferences, and does not entail censorship. Especially with new forms of media such as the Internet, it is not expensive to reach a wide audience, if there is an interest for the ideas presented.

Limited voter turnout



Low voter turnout, whether the cause is disenchantment, indifference or contentment with the status quo, may be seen as a problem, especially if disproportionate in particular segments of the population. Although turnout levels vary greatly among modern democratic countries, and in various types and levels of elections within countries, at some point low turnout may prompt questions as to whether the results reflect the will of the people, whether the causes may be indicative of concerns to the society in question, or in extreme cases the legitimacy
Legitimacy (political science)
In political science, legitimacy is the popular acceptance of a governing law or régime as an authority. Whereas “authority” denotes a specific position in an established government, the term “legitimacy” denotes a system of government — wherein “government” denotes “sphere of influence”...

 of the electoral system.

Get out the vote
Get out the vote
"Get out the vote" are terms used to describe two categories of political activity, both aimed at increasing the number of votes cast in one or more elections.- Non-partisan contexts :...

 campaigns, either by governments or private groups, may increase voter turnout, but distinctions must be made between general campaigns to raise the turnout rate and partisan efforts to aid a particular candidate, party or cause.

Several nations have forms of compulsory voting
Compulsory voting
Compulsory voting is a system in which electors are obliged to vote in elections or attend a polling place on voting day. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, he or she may be subject to punitive measures such as fines, community service, or perhaps imprisonment if fines are unpaid...

, with various degrees of enforcement. Proponents argue that this increases the legitimacy, and thus also popular acceptance, of the elections and ensures political participation by all those affected by the political process, and reduces the costs associated with encouraging voting. Arguments against include restriction of freedom, economic costs of enforcement, increased number of invalid and blank votes, and random voting.

Other alternatives include increased use of absentee ballots, or other measures to ease or improve the ability to vote, including Electronic voting
Electronic voting
Electronic voting is a term encompassing several different types of voting, embracing both electronic means of casting a vote and electronic means of counting votes....

.

Ethnic and religious conflicts


For historical reasons, many states are not culturally and ethnically homogeneous. There may be sharp ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural divisions. In fact, some groups may be actively hostile to each other. A democracy, which by definition allows mass participation in decision-making theoretically also allows the use of the political process against 'enemy' groups.

The collapse of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and the partial democratisation of Soviet bloc states was followed by wars and civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 in the former Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

, in the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, and in Moldova
Moldova
Moldova , officially the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the West and Ukraine to the North, East and South. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, as part...

. Nevertheless, statistical research shows that the fall of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 and the increase in the number of democratic states were accompanied by a sudden and dramatic decline in total warfare, interstate wars, ethnic wars, revolutionary
Revolutionary
A revolutionary is a person who either actively participates in, or advocates revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term revolutionary refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor.-Definition:...

 wars, and the number of refugees and displaced people (worldwide, not in the countries of the former sovietic bloc). This trend, however, can be attributed to the end of cold war and the natural exhaustion of said conflicts, many of which were fueled by the USA and the USSR See also the section below on Majoritarianism and Democratic peace theory.

In her book World on Fire
World on Fire
World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability is a 2002 book published by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua...

, Yale Law School
Yale Law School
Yale Law School, or YLS, is the law school of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Established in 1824, it offers the J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. and M.S.L. degrees in law. It also hosts visiting scholars, visiting researchers and a number of legal research centers...

 professor Amy Chua
Amy Chua
Amy L. Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She joined the Yale faculty in 2001 after teaching at Duke Law School. Prior to starting her teaching career, she was a corporate law associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton...

 posits that "when free market democracy is pursued in the presence of a market-dominant minority, the almost invariable result is backlash. This backlash typically takes one of three forms. The first is a backlash against markets, targeting the market-dominant minority's wealth. The second is a backlash against democracy by forces favorable to the market-dominant minority. The third is violence, sometimes genocidal, directed against the market-dominant minority itself.".

Bureaucracy


A persistent libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 and monarchist
Monarchism
Monarchism is the advocacy of the establishment, preservation, or restoration of a monarchy as a form of government in a nation. A monarchist is an individual who supports this form of government out of principle, independent from the person, the Monarch.In this system, the Monarch may be the...

 critique of democracy is the claim that it encourages the elected representatives to change the law without necessity, and in particular to pour forth a flood of new laws. This is seen as pernicious in several ways. New laws constrict the scope of what were previously private liberties. Rapidly changing laws make it difficult for a willing non-specialist to remain law-abiding. This may be an invitation for law-enforcement agencies to misuse power. The claimed continual complication of the law may be contrary to a claimed simple and eternal natural law
Natural law
Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

—although there is no consensus on what this natural law is, even among advocates. Supporters of democracy point to the complex bureaucracy and regulations that has occurred in dictatorships, like many of the former Communist states.

The bureaucracy in Liberal democracies is often criticized for a claimed slowness and complexity of their decision-making. The term "Red Tape
Red Tape
Red Tape is an album by American southern rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section, released in 1976. .-Track listing:#"Jukin'/San Antonio Rose" – 3:43#"Mixed Emotions" – 3:20...

" is a synonym of slow bureaucratic functioning that hinders quick results in a liberal democracy.

Short-term focus


Modern liberal democracies, by definition, allow for regular changes of government. That has led to a common criticism of their short-term focus. In four or five years the government will face a new election, and it must think of how it will win that election. That would encourage a preference for policies that will bring short term benefits to the electorate (or to self-interested politicians) before the next election, rather than unpopular policy with longer term benefits. This criticism assumes that it is possible to make long term predictions for a society, something Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

 has criticized as historicism
Historicism
Historicism is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledges such as empiricism and rationalism, which neglect the role of...

.

Besides the regular review of governing entities, short-term focus in a democracy could also be the result of collective short-term thinking. For example, consider a campaign for policies aimed at reducing environmental damage while causing temporary increase in unemployment. However, this risk applies also to other political systems.

Anarcho-capitalist Hans-Herman Hoppe explained short-termism of the democratic governments by the rational choice of currently ruling group to over exploit temporarily accessible resources, thus deriving maximal economic advantage to the members of this group. (He contrasted this with hereditary monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, in which a monarch has an interest in preserving the long-term capital value of his property (i.e. the country he owns) counter-balancing his desire to extract immediate revenue. He argues that the historical record of levels of taxation in certain monarchies (5–8%) and certain liberal democracies (40–60%) seems to confirm this contention. On the other hand, in modern hereditary autocracy of North Korea the state controls the whole economy while many liberal democratic states score very high on rankings of economic freedom
Economic freedom
Economic freedom is a term used in economic and policy debates. As with freedom generally, there are various definitions, but no universally accepted concept of economic freedom...

.

Public choice theory


Public choice theory
Public choice theory
In economics, public choice theory is the use of modern economic tools to study problems that traditionally are in the province of political science...

 is a branch of economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 that studies the decision-making behavior of voters, politicians and government officials from the perspective of economic theory. One studied problem is that each voter has little influence and may therefore have a rational ignorance
Rational ignorance
Rational ignorance occurs when the cost of educating oneself on an issue exceeds the potential benefit that the knowledge would provide.Ignorance about an issue is said to be "rational" when the cost of educating oneself about the issue sufficiently to make an informed decision can outweigh any...

 regarding political issues. This may allow special interest groups
Advocacy group
Advocacy groups use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion and/or policy; they have played and continue to play an important part in the development of political and social systems...

 to gain subsidies
Subsidy
A subsidy is an assistance paid to a business or economic sector. Most subsidies are made by the government to producers or distributors in an industry to prevent the decline of that industry or an increase in the prices of its products or simply to encourage it to hire more labor A subsidy (also...

 and regulations beneficial to them but harmful to society. However, special interest groups may be equally or more influential in nondemocracies.

Majoritarianism


The tyranny of the majority
Tyranny of the majority
The phrase "tyranny of the majority" , used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a dissenting individual's interest that the individual would be...

 is the fear that a direct democratic government, reflecting the majority view, can take action that oppresses a particular minority; for instance a minority holding wealth, property ownership, or power (see Federalist No. 10
Federalist No. 10
Federalist No. 10 is an essay written by James Madison and the tenth of the Federalist Papers, a series arguing for the ratification of the United States Constitution. It was published on Friday, November 22, 1787, under the pseudonym Publius, the name under which all the Federalist Papers were...

). Theoretically, the majority is a majority of all citizens. If citizens are not compelled by law to vote it is usually a majority of those who choose to vote. If such of group constitutes a minority then it is possible that a minority could, in theory, oppress another minority in the name of the majority. However, such an argument could apply to both direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

 or representative democracy
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

. In comparison to a direct democracy where every citizen is forced to vote, under liberal democracies the wealth and power is usually concentrated in the hands of a small privileged class who have significant power over the political process (See inverted totalitarianism
Inverted totalitarianism
Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe an "ideal type" government. Wolin uses the term to describe the government of the United States as it has evolved since World War II...

). It is argued by some that in representative democracies this minority makes the majority of the policies and potentially oppresses the minority or even the majority in the name of the majority (See Silent majority
Silent majority
The silent majority is an unspecified large majority of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly. The term was popularized by U.S...

). Several de facto dictatorships also have compulsory, but not "free and fair", voting in order to try to increase the legitimacy of the regime.

Possible examples of a minority being oppressed by or in the name of the majority:
  • Those potentially subject to conscription
    Conscription
    Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

     are a minority possibly because of socioeconomic reasons.
  • The minority who are wealthy often use their money and influence to manipulate the political process against the interests of the rest of the population, who are the minority in terms of income and access.
  • Several European countries have introduced bans on personal religious symbols in state schools. Opponents see this as a violation of rights to freedom of religion. Supporters see it as following from the separation of state and religious activities.
  • Prohibition of pornography
    Pornography
    Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

     is typically determined by what the majority is prepared to accept.
  • Recreational drug, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol use
    Recreational drug use
    Recreational drug use is the use of a drug, usually psychoactive, with the intention of creating or enhancing recreational experience. Such use is controversial, however, often being considered to be also drug abuse, and it is often illegal...

     is too often criminalized
    War on Drugs
    The War on Drugs is a campaign of prohibition and foreign military aid and military intervention being undertaken by the United States government, with the assistance of participating countries, intended to both define and reduce the illegal drug trade...

     or otherwise suppressed by majorities, originally for racist, classist, religious or paternalistic motives.
  • Society's treatment of homosexuals
    Homosexuality
    Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

     is also cited in this context. Homosexual acts were widely criminalised in democracies until several decades ago; in some democracies they still are, reflecting the religious or sexual mores of the majority.
  • The Athenian democracy and the early United States had slavery
    Slavery
    Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

    .
  • The majority often taxes the minority who are wealthy at progressively higher rates
    Progressive tax
    A progressive tax is a tax by which the tax rate increases as the taxable base amount increases. "Progressive" describes a distribution effect on income or expenditure, referring to the way the rate progresses from low to high, where the average tax rate is less than the marginal tax rate...

    , with the intention that the wealthy will incur a larger tax burden for social purposes.
  • In prosperous western representative democracies, the poor form a minority of the population, and may not have the power to use the state to initiate redistribution when a majority of the electorate opposes such designs. When the poor form a distinct underclass
    Underclass
    The term underclass refers to a segment of the population that occupies the lowest possible position in a class hierarchy, below the core body of the working class. The general idea that a class system includes a population under the working class has a long tradition in the social sciences...

    , the majority may use the democratic process to, in effect, withdraw the protection of the state
    State (polity)
    A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

    .
  • An often quoted example of the 'tyranny of the majority' is that Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

     came to power by legitimate democratic procedures. The Nazi
    Nazism
    Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

     party gained the largest share of votes in the democratic Weimar republic
    Weimar Republic
    The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

     in 1933. Some might consider this an example of "tyranny of a minority" since he never gained a majority vote, but it is common for a plurality
    Plurality voting system
    The plurality voting system is a single-winner voting system often used to elect executive officers or to elect members of a legislative assembly which is based on single-member constituencies...

     to exercise power in democracies, so the rise of Hitler cannot be considered irrelevant. However, his regime's large-scale human rights violations took place after the democratic system had been abolished. Also, the Weimar constitution in an "emergency" allowed dictatorial powers and suspension of the essentials of the constitution itself without any vote or election.


Proponents of democracy make a number of defenses concerning 'tyranny of the majority'. One is to argue that the presence of a constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 protecting the rights of all citizens in many democratic countries acts as a safeguard. Generally, changes in these constitutions require the agreement of a supermajority
Supermajority
A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority . In some jurisdictions, for example, parliamentary procedure requires that any action that may alter the rights of the minority has a supermajority...

 of the elected representatives, or require a judge and jury to agree that evidentiary and procedural standards have been fulfilled by the state, or two different votes by the representatives separated by an election, or, sometimes, a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

. These requirements are often combined. The separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

 into legislative branch, executive branch, judicial branch also makes it more difficult for a small majority to impose their will. This means a majority can still legitimately coerce a minority (which is still ethically questionable), but such a minority would be very small and, as a practical matter, it is harder to get a larger proportion of the people to agree to such actions.

Another argument is that majorities and minorities can take a markedly different shape on different issues. People often agree with the majority view on some issues and agree with a minority view on other issues. One's view may also change. Thus, the members of a majority may limit oppression of a minority since they may well in the future themselves be in a minority.

A third common argument is that, despite the risks, majority rule is preferable to other systems, and the tyranny of the majority is in any case an improvement on a tyranny of a minority. All the possible problems mentioned above can also occur in nondemocracies with the added problem that a minority can oppress the majority. Proponents of democracy argue that empirical statistical evidence strongly shows that more democracy leads to less internal violence and mass murder by the government. This is sometimes formulated as Rummel's Law, which states that the less democratic freedom a people have, the more likely their rulers are to murder them.

Political stability


One argument for democracy is that by creating a system where the public can remove administrations, without changing the legal basis for government, democracy aims at reducing political uncertainty and instability, and assuring citizens that however much they may disagree with present policies, they will be given a regular chance to change those who are in power, or change policies with which they disagree. This is preferable to a system where political change takes place through violence.

Some think that political stability may be considered as excessive when the group in power remains the same for an extended period of time. On the other hand, this is more common in nondemocracies.

One notable feature of liberal democracies is that their opponents (those groups who wish to abolish liberal democracy) rarely win elections. Advocates use this as an argument to support their view that liberal democracy is inherently stable and can usually only be overthrown by external force, while opponents argue that the system is inherently stacked against them despite its claims to impartiality. In the past, it was feared that democracy could be easily exploited by leaders with dictatorial aspirations, who could get themselves elected into power. However, the actual number of liberal democracies that have elected dictators into power is low. When it has occurred, it is usually after a major crisis have caused many people to doubt the system or in young/poorly functioning democracies. Some possible examples include Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 during the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and Napoleon III who become first President of the young Second French Republic and later Emperor.

Effective response in wartime


A liberal democracy, by definition, implies that power is not concentrated. One criticism is that this could be a disadvantage for a state in war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

time, when a fast and unified response is necessary. The legislature usually must give consent before the start of an offensive military operation, although sometimes the executive can do this on its own while keeping the legislature informed. If the democracy is attacked, then no consent is usually required for defensive operations. The people may vote against a conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 army.

However, actual research shows that democracies are more likely to win wars than non-democracies. One explanation attributes this primarily to "the transparency of the polities
Polity
Polity is a form of government Aristotle developed in his search for a government that could be most easily incorporated and used by the largest amount of people groups, or states...

, and the stability of their preferences, once determined, democracies are better able to cooperate with their partners in the conduct of wars". Other research attributes this to superior mobilization of resources or selection of wars that the democratic states have a high chance of winning.

Stam and Reiter
Dan Reiter
Dan Reiter is an American political scientist. He is currently a Professor and Chair at the Department of Political Science at Emory University.-Education:...

 also note that the emphasis on individuality within democratic societies means that their soldiers fight with greater initiative and superior leadership. Officers in dictatorships are often selected for political loyalty rather than military ability. They may be exclusively selected from a small class or religious/ethnic group that support the regime. The leaders in nondemocracies may respond violently to any perceived criticisms or disobedience. This may make the soldiers and officers afraid to raise any objections or do anything without explicit authorisation. The lack of initiative may be particularly detrimental in modern warfare. Enemy soldiers may more easily surrender to democracies since they can expect comparatively good treatment. Nazi Germany killed almost 2/3 of the captured Soviet soldiers. 38% of the American soldiers captured by North Korea in the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 were killed.

Better information on and corrections of problems


A democratic system may provide better information for policy decisions. Undesirable information may more easily be ignored in dictatorships, even if this undesirable or contrarian information provides early warning of problems. The democratic system also provides a way to replace inefficient leaders and policies. Thus, problems may continue longer and crises of all kinds may be more common in autocracies.

Corruption


Research by the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

 suggests that political institutions are extremely important in determining the prevalence of corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

: (long term) democracy, parliamentary systems, political stability, and freedom of the press are all associated with lower corruption. Freedom of information legislation
Freedom of information legislation
Freedom of information legislation comprises laws that guarantee access to data held by the state. They establish a "right-to-know" legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions...

 is important for accountability
Accountability
Accountability is a concept in ethics and governance with several meanings. It is often used synonymously with such concepts as responsibility, answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving...

 and transparency
Transparency (humanities)
Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in a social context more generally, implies openness, communication, and accountability. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed...

. The Indian Right to Information Act
Right to Information Act
The Right to Information Act 2005 is an Act of the Parliament of India "to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens." The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has its own act...

 "has already engendered mass movements in the country that is bringing the lethargic, often corrupt bureaucracy to its knees and changing power equations completely."

Terrorism


Several studies have concluded that terrorism is most common in nations with intermediate political freedom; meaning countries transitioning from autocratic governance to democracy. Nations with strong autocratic governments and governments that allow for more political freedom experience less terrorism.

Economic growth and financial crises


Statistically, more democracy correlates with a higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

However, there is disagreement regarding how much credit the democratic system can take for this. One observation is that democracy became widespread only after the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 and the introduction of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

. On the other hand, the industrial revolution started in England which was one of the most democratic nations for its time within its own borders. (But this democracy was very limited and did not apply to the colonies which contributed significantly to the wealth.)

Several statistical studies support the theory that more capitalism, measured for example with one the several Indices of Economic Freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
The Index of Economic Freedom is a series of 10 economic measurements created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Its stated objective is to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations....

 which has been used in hundreds of studies by independent researchers, increases economic growth
Economic growth
In economics, economic growth is defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of goods and services of the members of society. Economic growth is enabled by increases in productivity, which lowers the inputs for a given amount of output. Lowered costs increase demand...

 and that this in turn increases general prosperity, reduces poverty, and causes democratization
Democratization
Democratization is the transition to a more democratic political regime. It may be the transition from an authoritarian regime to a full democracy, a transition from an authoritarian political system to a semi-democracy or transition from a semi-authoritarian political system to a democratic...

. This is a statistical tendency, and there are individual exceptions like Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, which is ranked as "Free" by Freedom House
Freedom House
Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights...

 but is a Least Developed Country, or Qatar
Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

, which has arguably the highest GDP per capita in the world but has never been democratic. There are also other studies suggesting that more democracy increases economic freedom although a few find no or even a small negative effect. One objection might be that nations like Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 today score just below nations like Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 on economic freedom but that Sweden and Canada today have a higher GDP per capita. However, this is a misunderstanding, the studies indicate effect on economic growth and thus that future GDP per capita will be higher with higher economic freedom. Also, according to the index, Sweden and Canada are among the world's most capitalist nations, due to factors such as strong rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

, strong property rights, and few restrictions against free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

. Critics might argue that the Index of Economic Freedom and other methods used does not measure the degree of capitalism, preferring some other definition.

Some argue that economic growth due to its empowerment of citizens, will ensure a transition to democracy in countries such as Cuba. However, other dispute this. Even if economic growth has caused democratization in the past, it may not do so in the future. Dictators may now have learned how to have economic growth without this causing more political freedom.

A high degree of oil or mineral exports is strongly associated with nondemocratic rule. This effect applies worldwide and not only to the Middle East. Dictators who have this form of wealth can spend more on their security apparatus and provide benefits which lessen public unrest. Also, such wealth is not followed by the social and cultural changes that may transform societies with ordinary economic growth.

A recent meta-analysis finds that democracy has no direct effect on economic growth. However, it has a strong and significant indirect effects which contribute to growth. Democracy is associated with higher human capital accumulation, lower inflation
Inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

, lower political instability, and higher economic freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
The Index of Economic Freedom is a series of 10 economic measurements created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Its stated objective is to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations....

. There is also some evidence that it is associated with larger governments and more restrictions on international trade.

If leaving out East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

, then during the last forty-five years poor democracies have grown their economies 50% more rapidly than nondemocracies. Poor democracies such as the Baltic countries, Botswana, Costa Rica, Ghana, and Senegal have grown more rapidly than nondemocracies such as Angola, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe.

Of the eighty worst financial catastrophes during the last four decades, only five were in democracies. Similarly, poor democracies are half likely as nondemocracies to experience a 10 percent decline in GDP per capita over the course of a single year.

Famines and refugees


A prominent economist, Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen, CH is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory, and for his interest in the problems of society's poorest members...

, has noted that no functioning democracy has ever suffered a large scale famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

.
Refugee crises almost always occur in nondemocracies. Looking at the volume of refugee flows for the last twenty years, the first eighty-seven cases occurred in autocracies.

Human development


Democracy correlates with a higher score on the human development index
Human Development Index
The Human Development Index is a composite statistic used to rank countries by level of "human development" and separate "very high human development", "high human development", "medium human development", and "low human development" countries...

 and a lower score on the human poverty index.

Democracies have the potential to put in place better education, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, access to drinking water, and better health care than dictatorships. This is not due to higher levels of foreign assistance or spending a larger percentage of GDP on health and education. Instead, the available resources are managed better.

Several health indicators (life expectancy and infant and maternal mortality) have a stronger and more significant association with democracy than they have with GDP per capita, size of the public sector, or income inequality.

In the post-Communist nations, after an initial decline, those that are the most democratic have achieved the greatest gains in life expectancy.

Democratic peace theory


Numerous studies using many different kinds of data, definitions, and statistical analyzes have found support for the democratic peace theory. The original finding was that liberal democracies have never made war with one another. More recent research has extended the theory and finds that democracies have few Militarized Interstate Disputes
Militarized Interstate Disputes
Militarized Interstate Disputes are conflicts between states that do not involve a full scale war. A conflict is described as an MID if it causes fewer than 1000 deaths, and some military force is used. This can be nothing more than a military display of force with no deaths...

 causing less than 1000 battle deaths with one another, that those MIDs that have occurred between democracies have caused few deaths, and that democracies have few civil wars. There are various criticisms of the theory, including specific historic wars and that correlation is not causation.

Mass murder by government


Research shows that the more democratic nations have much less democide
Democide
Democide is a term revived and redefined by the political scientist R. J. Rummel as "the murder of any person or people by a government, including genocide, politicide, and mass murder." Rummel created the term as an extended concept to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the...

 or murder by government. Similarly, they have less genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 and politicide
Politicide
Politicide has three related but distinct meanings. It can mean a gradual but systematic attempt to cause the annihilation of an independent political and social entity. For example the destruction of the apartheid system in South Africa...

.

Freedoms and rights


The freedoms and rights of the citizens in liberal democracies are usually seen as beneficial.

See also


  • Democratic Ideals
    Democratic Ideals
    Democratic Ideals is a rhetorical phrase used to denote either personal qualities or standards of government behavior that are felt to be essential for the continuation of a democratic policy...

  • History of democracy
    History of democracy
    The history of democracy traces back to Athens to its re-emergence and rise from the 17th century to the present day. According to one definition, democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power...

  • Illiberal democracy
    Illiberal democracy
    An illiberal democracy, also called a pseudo democracy, partial democracy, low intensity democracy, empty democracy, hybrid regime or delegative democracy, is a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise...

  • Inverted totalitarianism
    Inverted totalitarianism
    Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe an "ideal type" government. Wolin uses the term to describe the government of the United States as it has evolved since World War II...

  • Jeffersonian democracy
    Jeffersonian democracy
    Jeffersonian Democracy, so named after its leading advocate Thomas Jefferson, is a term used to describe one of two dominant political outlooks and movements in the United States from the 1790s to the 1820s. The term was commonly used to refer to the Democratic-Republican Party which Jefferson...

  • List of politics-related topics
  • Republicanism
    Republicanism
    Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

  • Social democracy
    Social democracy
    Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

  • Totalitarian democracy
    Totalitarian democracy
    Totalitarian democracy is a term made famous by Israeli historian J. L. Talmon to refer to a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the...



Further reading

  • Willard, Charles Arthur (1996). Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-89845-8, ISBN 0-226-89846-6. .

External links