Sunday, August 14, 2011

Democracy, and What It Means to Us

Before starting our discussion, it might be good to define a few terms so we are all coming from a common understanding.  Let's start with "democracy."

What is Democracy?
While there may not be any universally held definition of democracy, there are some commonly-held definitions that can be found in many authoritative sources. Here are five representative examples:
  1. Government by the people, a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

  2. Government by the people; especially: rule of the majority

  3. A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives .

  4. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.

  5. U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.
I have boldfaced the text that I perceive as being the most important portion of the various definitions, that is to say – democracy is government by the people. It is not government by monarchy, dictatorship, aristocracy, theocracy, oligarchy, or plutocracy, but by the people.

People Power.  The word democracy itself comes from the Greek: δῆμος (dêmos) "people" and κράτος (Kratos) "power," and thus its true meaning: “people power,” or, as emphasized above, “government by the people.” Ultimate power originates from and resides in the people. Whenever this power is usurped, democracy fails to exist.

A New Nation, Conceived in Liberty.  Our founding fathers and their fathers before them were subjects who bowed before monarchies, aristocracies, and theocracies.  Their new nation was based upon the power of the people, which required the transformation of subjects into citizens.

Are We Citizens?  A citizen within a democracy is endowed with certain inalienable rights, including the right to self-governance. A citizen is allowed to participate freely and fully in the process of governance. This, however, can be a two-edged sword, inasmuch as it is both a right and a responsibility.

Or Are We Subjects?  Subjects have little or no power or control over their government and sometimes even over their personal lives. They are subject to a higher power, be it a monarchy, an aristocracy, a theocracy, a dictatorship, or any other form of government that subjugates its people to their authority and treats them more as property than as people. Subjects have few rights and virtually no voice in their government.

Democracy and the Constitution.  Our founding fathers decided that their new country would be a democracy, or more specifically a democratic republic,  in which ultimate power for governance rested in its people.  Do you feel that is how things are today?  If you do, you need to read on.

Related Topics:   
       Democracy: From Definition to the Constitution
Are We a Democratic Republic or a Plutocracy?

Major Threats to Our Democratic System

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