Democracy and Democratic Values Essay
Democracy is very crucial for success of any nation in the 21st century as it empowers all citizens to participate fully in governance. Citizens’ feeling of full participation in government gives them a sense of ownership and belonging to that particular state. Consequently, it makes them to devote much of their time and resources for developing it. It also results in harmony among citizens and cultivates peace through equality. This is very important for increased economic productivity. This paper will look into the history and importance of democracy. Additionally, the structures and various forms of democracy in use today will be discussed. Finally, the paper will look into democratic values and how governments can cultivate and nurture democracy in every citizen’s mind.
The History of Democracy
Democracy is a form of government, in which the whole population and especially the citizens participate fully in the governance either directly or through fair representation. Democracy also describes a system of making decisions in a group of people, where all members equally share power. Such system has its origin in ancient Greece. Although some historians argue that there could have been other democratic forms of governments before the Greek, they all agree that the available evidence concludes there was a democratic form of government in ancient Greek at round 600 BC.
- The Ancient Greek
Ancient Greece consisted of a group of cities that were called Poleis and Sparta is considered to be the first of them to adopt a form of democracy. Sparta was ruled by a group of people rather than one person and there was fairer representation compared to earlier forms. The Spartan government was headed by two kings to dilute the powers of the position. It also had a council of elders, a group of representatives and the Spartan assembly.
In 507 BC Cleisthenes became a great reformer of Greece. He was an Athenian leader who overhauled the Greek ruling structure. His set of reforms was given a name demokratia, in which people would participate actively in leadership. His government system had three institutions, which were the ekklesia, the boule and dikasteria, which were similar to the modern executive, the legislature and the judiciary respectively. Such system was used for approximately 200 leading the sate to prosperity. Anyway, after that period the system was eliminated.
- The Romans
Roman Empire existed as a city state that had greatly expanded through conquering and annexation of cities. From the early beginning, the empire was keen to incorporate people’s ideas in governance and people went in city squares to give their views in forums that were known as demos. The forums could not accommodate everyone due to space limitation and their location in the urban areas. For this reason, people in the rural areas did not take part in them. The Roman Empire also wrote a secular constitution that increased freedom space for citizens. Afterwards, the empire developed a complex democratic system with a senate and four chambers or representation according to its four regions. Some emperors ignored the systems but the Roman Empire made a great contribution to modern democracy. After the elimination of the system, cities such as Venice and Florence continued implementing the legacy of fair representation through elections.
- England – Magna Carta
England as a kingdom could not be classified as a democracy before the early thirteenth century. The king ruled according to his will and no representation of any significance was seen. However, it changed in 1215 when a constitution was signed. The king had rejected any negotiations with the barons of England who assembled an army to force him to sign the Magna Carta that was a form of constitution, which had to put an end to the abuse caused by the pseudo law. The document had approximately 63 articles enlisting rights of citizens among others. The provisions in the document later became the foundation of the legal system. The document also required the king to seek advice and consent in the significant issues concerning the state. For instance, the king would have to consult a body representing all citizens before affecting any tax increases. The body representing all citizens would later become the parliament. Other kings after King John chose to ignore the Magna Carta. Anyway, the glorious revolution of 1688 became a clear message that citizens needed constitutional right and a representative government system. As a result of the revolution, the king had to yield. It initiated an inclusive process that took approximately 100 years, over which the parliament became a fair representative for all people and the state became a constitutional monarchy.
- America’s Great Experiment with Democracy
America was a pioneer of the modern democracy. Establishing democratic institutions was a difficult task regarding the fact that the early white inhabitants came from the monarchical Europe. The strict observance of representation is originated from the Protestants culture of the early immigrants, where people had to elect elders to govern church affairs. People wanted to participate actively in the decision making process, which made them seek effective representation. Since the independence in 1776, the country embarked on a serious effort to fairly represent all citizens and encourage participation in governance. Institutions, such as executive, the judiciary and the legislature were created and power was clearly separated between them. Significant actions for cultivation of people’s rights, liberties and equality between the Americans of all origins were developed over time. The system established independent and fair election that were cyclic and regular to ensure the government always represented the will of citizens.
The Structure of Democracy
Freedom House recognizes the importance of free and fair elections that are done frequently as a basis for democracy. It is very crucial for ensuring fair representation. On the other hand, the World Bank, the UN and Freedom House point out to a clear separation of power between independent institutions as another basic factor for democracy. Another organization, the international broadcasting bureau, focuses on the empowerment of people so that they could check the government and its representatives. It recognizes that the represented citizens must be empowered. All the organizations agree that a democratic structure should have institutions, such as the executive, the judiciary and the legislature which should be free, and must provide rights of citizens which should be enforced through the laws. Most importantly the whole system should allow legitimate ascent and retention of power by the leaders and a change of leadership according to citizens’ will.
Citizenship is a legal or a social concept that describes a state of belonging to country. Democracy requires every citizen to be involved either directly or through a representative in the decision-making process. Representation of democracy requires the elected representatives to work in the best interest of the citizens. Multiple parties in democracies are very important and offer states with alternative leadership choices. It offers the citizens opportunity to choose the leadership that suits them best. The opposition parties offer effective checks to the government and also enrich the leadership discourse with more ideas making it desirable. Free and fair elections are very vital in any democracy. They ensure that citizens change the leadership and their representation on regular basis. This is a way of keeping the elected representatives and the whole government accountable. Independent judicially enables judges to interpret the law impartially. Consequently, such actions foster equality in democracy. Independent judiciary also helps check other arms of government ensuring effective participation and representation.
Types of Modern Democracies
a) Parliamentary Democracies
In the parliamentary democracies, the head of the state is not the prime minister but a monarch or an emperor, such as the emperor of Japan or the King of Spain. Citizens elect legislatures: the leader of the party or a coalition of parties that captures the maximum number of legislatures becomes the prime minister. The parliament elects and can disband the government, which is headed by the prime minister. Examples of such type of democracy include Spain, the UK and Italy. Nevertheless, Italy has certain peculiarities: the citizens elect the head of state, while the government is headed by the prime minister.
Republics assume that the sovereign power belongs to the people who directly elect the head of the government - the president- and the legislature. The president appoints the government that is approved by the parliament through majority. A good example of such system may be France, one of the republics in Russian federation or the US. There is clear separation of powers and responsibility between the government (the executive) and the legislature and the electorate to elect all of them.
The parliaments and the republics are the embodiment of modern day democracy. They have similarities in that they both represent clear separation of power between the judiciary and other arms of government. The differences include the fact that the parliamentary democracies have a head of state that is not the head of government. In republics, the head of the state is also the head of government. The other difference is that there lacks a clear separation between government and the parliament in the parliamentary democracies. It is caused by the fact that the government (ministers and the prime minister) are elected from the parliament. On the other hand, the presidents of republics appoint the government (ministers) who are approved by the parliament. Both parliamentary and presidential democracies enjoy relative peace and development and avails an opportunity for legitimate accent of power by the popular leaders.
There are several values of democracy; however, liberty, equality and justice are the key factors, which ensure that the will of the majority is adhered to in governance. Liberty ensures that the basic rights of all citizens are defended by constitution. It contrasts with autocratic forms of government and deals with justice where all the people are supposed to be treated fairly by the law and justice. Moreover, the equality forms a crucial base for democracy in ensuring that every individual has equal rights.
Democracy is nurtured in citizens’ minds through empowering them to know their rights, privileges and responsibilities towards their country. Citizens should learn that they need to participate in governance. Moreover, they also need to learn that it’s their responsibility to elect their leaders and representatives accordingly. On the other hand, the government has to ensure that the voice of people is heard through ensuring that all democratic processes, such as elections and referenda are free, fair and that their outcome is respected.
Structures of democracy are inefficient if the people and the government have no will to support them. The government should empower its citizens through education and establishment of strong independent structures, such as the judiciary, in a way that the government and people’s representatives are accountable. It is pivotal in helping citizens to achieve democracy effectively. Equality, dignity and justice for all people enable meaningful participation of people in governance.