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Representative Democracy

Representative Democracy

Various political philosophies are studied in political science research paper. The United States is a representative democracy and therefore, it is studied frequently. Have Paper Masters outline the elements of a representative democracy for you in a custom written research project.

Representative democracy: A form of government in which persons are elected and serve as sovereign powers for a period of time in which they exercise the will of the nation. At the national level the United States has a representative democracy. While it appears that this form of government is the most democratic form of government possible, given the large number of individuals in the United States, a government which allowed all American citizens to vote on legislation-i.e. a direct democracy-would be more democratic than a representative democracy. Under the representative democracy, citizens do not make legislation; they merely influence its creation.

One of the basic political values of the U.S. government is that the opinions of the people should be equally represented among the elected officials. However, when the bicameral legislature was first created, each state, regardless of size was only give one vote for passing legislation. Many politicians believed that this system did not give fair representation to all of a state's constituents. As such, the system was restructured and now all states are given the same number of votes in the Senate (2) and the number of votes given to a state in the House is dependent upon the number of residents in a particular state. Identifying a current gap in political ideologies with reality, it is clear that special interests often dictate how legislation is developed. The government could ban all contributions from special interests to ensure that votes are based on the issues rather than special interests.

Various Types of Political Philosophies

Political philosophies are the principle theories that form the basis, or foundation for the form of government that rules over a body of people. There are different types of political philosophies:

  • Monarchy
  • Autocracy (dictatorship)
  • Oligarchy (rule by the few)
  • Plutocracy (rule by the wealthy)
  • Aristocracy (rule by the upper class, or privileged minority)
  • Anarchy (complete absence of governmental rule)
  • Patriarchy (complete rule by the men)
  • Democracy

A representative democracy is the form of government in which the people hold the ruling power either directly or through representatives elected by the people. The essence of a democracy lies in the equality and freedom of choice by the people in governing who will establish the laws that prevail over them.

But not all forms of democracy are pure in form and practice. For example, the nation of Mexico struggled for over 100 years in political revolution in order to free itself from the oppressive rule of both autocratic, tyrannical despots and plutocracy to emerge with a "hybrid" form, or mixture, of democracy under a dictator with autocratic, military power. So, a discussion of democratic rule can and should take into account several different aspects of variation that occur in actual, historical reality.

The word democracy stems from the ancient Greek terms demos, "the people," and kratein, "to rule." The first and most complete form of democracy known occurred in Athens as a check on the powers of the oligarchs. This period of history, known as the Age of Athens, was the first recorded democratic state in human history.

The "rule by the people" in Greek democracies was not a representative form, but a government operated by all of the free, male citizens. All slaves, foreigners, and women were not allowed to be part of the Greek democracy. Therefore, in concept, the Greek democracy more closely resembled a mixture of oligarchy and patriarchy.

It is interesting to note that the major Greek philosophers did not approve of a democracy as the most correct form of governmental rule. In The Republic, Plato asserted that democracy would allow its members to succumb more to passions or drives than to order and control. Aristotle claimed that a democracy allowed competing interests to cause chaos instead of creating wise and deliberate choices of action. The Greek historian, Thucydides, also voiced disapproval of democracy.
Historically, in Europe, England began its pursuit of a hybrid form of democracy mixed with monarchy in 1642 with rebellion and the execution of King Charles I. Other Democratic countries would follow this pattern of dismantling autocracies followed by the replacement and establishment of more democratic forms of government. Limits were placed on the power of the Crown, and Constitutions were adopted that gave more political power to the people. French political philosophers Montesquieu and Rousseau exerted a great deal of influence. Pious relates that:

In many of these countries, a representative legislature modeled on British Parliament was instituted. British politics was then possibly the greatest single influence on the organization of world democracies, although the French Revolution exerted a powerful influence. Later, the success of democratic institutions in the United States served as a model for many peoples.

What exactly determines if a particular regime is democratic or not? Is there a governmental system today (including America) that is purely democratic? Richard Hooker elaborates:
"Democracy, like so many other human institutions, is a difficult concept to define accurately. In human political structures, ‘democracy' takes on many forms, many of which seem unrelated to the concept itself. For instance, the Soviet Union consistently maintained that it was a democracy; were they lying? Probably not. The issue is only answerable if you examine the Soviet concept of democracy. Is the United States a democracy? Probably not. In the strictest sense of the word, American representative government comes closer to what the Greeks would call an aristocracy (‘rule by the best') rather than a democracy (‘rule by the people')."

But the modern interpretation of a democracy has come to mean much more than just an equal voice in decisions of voting for representation. The U.S. Declaration of Independence asserts that all citizens have "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Should this be included in our definition a democracy? If so, then it follows that the term "democracy" has been broadened in its scope. "Rule by the people" becomes inclusive of equal rights and liberties for all.

If so, then there must, of necessity, be equality before the law. The institutions of a democratic nation would then need to ensure this protection through the creation of a fair and impartial legal system.

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