"Government is an unnecessary evil. Human beings, when
accustomed to taking responsibility for their own behavior, can
cooperate on a basis of mutual trust and helpfulness."
Even as Fred Woodworth declares the government an unnecessary evil, its
existence is truth of the modern world. Be it any place on the planet, the
government exists in one form or the other. And the place where it is not present
either had it in some point of time in history, and a common consensus would
prefer to have one still running the show there or are those where only polar bears
or penguins make the population.
A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political
institutions by which a government of a state is organized in order to exert its
powers over a body politic.
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There have been many forms of government which have ruled and/or served the
people of their respective states. The reason of classification in the type of
government is the difference in ideologies and preferences that these governments
in various part of world have employed in time. The various types of government
that exist in the world today are very much different from one another. Some of
them, for e.g., do not give any citizen the right to own property and consider the
complete state as government's property available for the people's use, while
others practise no such law. Where some of the government think that market
should be given adequate freedom to operate, others may not and do not think the
same way. While some of them may say that deciding the prices and other
important decision must be in the hands of the government others may share the
view of allowing competition do the task. What ever may be the type of
government the bottom line remains that they exist for the people and their wellbeing,
an objective that many of them failed to have live up to.
FORMS OF GOVERNANCE
Democracy is a system of government in which either the actual governing is
carried out by the people governed (direct democracy), or the power to do so is
granted by them (as in representative democracy). The term is derived from the
Greek in the middle of the fifth-fourth century BC to denote the political systems
then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular
uprising in 508 BC.
In political theory, democracy describes a small number of related forms of
government and also a political philosophy. Even though there is no specific,
universally accepted definition of 'democracy', there are two principles that any
definition of democracy includes, equality and freedom. These principles are
reflected by all citizens being equal before the law, and having equal access to
power. Additionally, all citizens are able to enjoy legitimized freedoms and
liberties, which are usually protected by a constitution.
There are several varieties of democracy, some of which provide better
representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others. However, if any
democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political
power with balances, such as the separation of powers, then a branch of the system
of rule could accumulate power and become harmful to the democracy itself.
The "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but
without responsible government or constitutional protections of individual liberties
from democratic power it is possible for dissenting individuals to be oppressed by
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the "tyranny of the majority". An essential process in representative democracies is
competitive elections that are fair both substantively and procedurally.
Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of
the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their
Popular sovereignty is common but not a universal motivating philosophy for
establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the
philosophical principle of equal rights. Many people use the term "democracy" as
shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as
political pluralism, equality before the law, the right to petition elected officials for
redress of grievances, due process, civil liberties, human rights, and elements of
civil society outside the government.
In the United States, separation of powers is often cited as a supporting attribute,
but in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the dominant philosophy is
parliamentary sovereignty (though in practice judicial independence is generally
maintained). In other cases, "democracy" is used to mean direct democracy.
Though the term "democracy" is typically used in the context of a political state,
the principles are also applicable to private organizations and other groups.
Democracy has its origins in Ancient Greece. However other cultures have
significantly contributed to the evolution of democracy such as Ancient Rome,
Europe, and North and South America. Democracy has been called the "last form
of government" and has spread considerably across the globe. The Right to vote
has been expanded in many Jurisdictions over time from relatively narrow groups
(such as wealthy men of a particular ethnic group), with New Zealand the first
nation to grant universal suffrage for all its citizens. Suffrage still remains a
controversial issue with regard to disputed territories, areas with significant
immigration, and countries that exclude certain demographic groups.
Today India is the largest current democracy in the world. 20th century transitions
to liberal democracy have come in successive "waves of democracy," variously
resulting from wars, revolutions, decolonization, religious and economic
circumstances. World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-
Hungarian empires resulted in the creation of new nation-states from Europe, most
of them at least nominally democratic.
In the 1920s democracy flourished, but the Great Depression brought
disenchantment, and most of the countries of Europe, Latin America, and Asia
turned to strong-man rule or dictatorships. Fascism and dictatorships flourished in
Nazi Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as non democratic regimes in the
Baltic, the Balkans, Brazil, Cuba, China, and Japan, among others. World War II
brought a definitive reversal of this trend in Western Europe. The successful
democratization of the American, British, and French sectors of occupied Germany
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(disputed), Austria, Italy, and the occupied Japan served as a model for the later
theory of regime change. However, most of Eastern Europe, including the Soviet
sector of Germany was forced into the non-democratic Soviet bloc. The war was
followed by decolonization, and again most of the new independent states had
nominally democratic constitutions. India emerged as the world's largest
democracy and continues to be so.
In the decades following World War II, most western democratic nations had
mixed economies and developed a welfare state, reflecting a general consensus
among their electorates and political parties. In the 1950s and 1960s, economic
growth was high in both the western and Communist countries; it later declined in
the state-controlled economies. By 1960, the vast majority of nation-states were
nominally democracies, although the majority of the world's populations lived in
nations that experienced sham elections, and other forms of subterfuge (particularly
in Communist nations and the former colonies.)
A subsequent wave of democratization brought substantial gains toward true liberal
democracy for many nations. Spain, Portugal (1974), and several of the military
dictatorships in South America returned to civilian rule in the late 1970s and early
1980s (Argentina in 1983, Bolivia, Uruguay in 1984, Brazil in 1985, and Chile in
the early 1990s). This was followed by nations in East and South Asia by the midto
Economic malaise in the 1980s, along with resentment of communist oppression,
contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the associated end of the Cold War,
and the democratization and liberalization of the former Eastern bloc countries.
The most successful of the new democracies were those geographically and
culturally closest to Western Europe, and they are now members or candidate
members of the European Union.
The liberal trend spread to some nations in Africa in the 1990s, most prominently
in South Africa. Some recent examples of attempts of liberalization include the
Indonesian Revolution of 1998, the Bulldozer Revolution in Yugoslavia, the Rose
Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Cedar Revolution in
Lebanon, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan.
Currently, there are 123 countries that are democratic, and the trend is increasing
(up from 40 in 1972). As such, it has been speculated that this trend may continue
in the future to the point where liberal democratic nation-states become the
universal standard form of human society. This prediction forms the core of
Francis Fukayama's "End of History" controversial theory. These theories are
criticized by those who fear an evolution of liberal democracies to post-democracy,
and other who points out the high number of illiberal democracies.
Today Democracy has taken a number of forms, both in theory and practice. The
following kinds are not exclusive of one another: many specify details of aspects
that are independent of one another and can co-exist in a single system.
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Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by the
people being represented. If the head of state is also democratically elected is also
called a democratic republic. The most common mechanisms involve election of
the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.
Representatives may be elected or become diplomatic representatives by a
particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally
proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some
representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as
referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the
representatives are elected by the people to act in their interest, they retain the
freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.
Parliamentary democracy is where government is appointed by parliamentary
representatives as opposed to a 'presidential rule' wherein the President is both head
of state and the head of government and is elected by the voters. Under a
parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive
ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative
parliament elected by the people.
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A Liberal democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the
elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of
law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the
rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and
on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of
Direct democracy is a political system where the citizens participate in the
decision-making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or
representatives. The supporters of direct democracy argue that democracy is more
than merely a procedural issue (i.e. voting). Most direct democracies to date have
been weak forms, relatively small communities, usually city-states. However, some
see the extensive use of referenda, as in California, as akin to direct democracy in a
very large polity with more than 20 million in California, 1898-1998.
In Switzerland, five million voters decide on national referendums and initiatives
two to four times a year; direct democratic instruments are also well established at
the cantonal and communal level. Vermont towns have been known for their yearly
town meetings, held every March to decide on local issues. No direct democracy is
in existence outside the framework of a different overarching form of government.
A Parpolity or Participatory Polity is a theoretical form of democracy that is ruled
by a Nested Council structure. The guiding philosophy is that people should have
decision making power in proportion to how much they are affected by the
decision. Local councils of 25-50 people are completely autonomous on issues that
affect only them, and these councils send delegates to higher level councils who are
again autonomous regarding issues that affect only the population affected by that
A council court of randomly chosen citizens serves as a check on the tyranny of the
majority, and rules on which body gets to vote on which issue. Delegates can vote
differently than their sending council might wish, but are mandated to
communicate the wishes of their sending council. Delegates are recallable at any
time. Referenda are possible at any time via votes of the majority of lower level
councils, however, not everything is a referendum as this is most likely a waste of
time. A parpolity is meant to work in tandem with a participatory economy.
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"Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and
managed by rich landowners and professional politicians."
Socialist thought has several different views on democracy. Social democracy,
democratic socialism, and the dictatorship of the proletariat (usually exercised
through Soviet democracy) are some examples. Many democratic socialists and
social democrats believe in a form of participatory democracy and workplace
democracy combined with a representative democracy.
Within Marxist orthodoxy there is hostility to what is commonly called "liberal
democracy", which they simply refer to as parliamentary democracy because of its
often centralized nature. Because of their desire to eliminate the political elitism
they see in capitalism, Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyists believe in direct
democracy implemented though a system of communes (which are sometimes
called soviets). This system ultimately manifests itself as council democracy and
begins with workplace democracy.
Anarchists are split in this domain, depending on whether they believe that a
majority-rule is tyrannic or not. The only form of democracy considered acceptable
to many anarchists is direct democracy. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon argued that the
only acceptable form of direct democracy is one in which it is recognized that
majority decisions are not binding on the minority, even when unanimous.
However, anarcho-communist Murray Bookchin criticized individualist anarchists
for opposing democracy, and says "majority rule" is consistent with anarchism.
Some anarcho-communists oppose the majoritarian nature of direct democracy,
feeling that it can impede individual liberty and opt in favour of a non-majoritarian
form of consensus democracy, similar to Proudhon's position on direct democracy.
Some Anarchists such as Murray Rothbard criticize what they see as the dangers of
majority rule, believing that morality should not be dependent on the majority
because, as they see it, history has shown majority rule to be fallible. Henry David
Thoreau, who did not self-identify as an anarchist but argued for "a better
government" and is cited as an inspiration by some anarchists, argued that people
should not be in the position of ruling others or being ruled when there is no
Iroquois society had a form of participatory democracy and representative
democracy. Iroquois government and law was discussed by Benjamin Franklinand
Thomas Jefferson. Though some others disagree, some scholars regard it to have
influenced the formation of American representative democracy.
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Sometimes called "democracy without elections", sortition is the process of
choosing decision makers via a random process. The intention is that those chosen
will be representative of the opinions and interests of the people at large, and be
more fair and impartial than an elected official. The technique was in widespread
use in Athenian Democracy and is still used in modern jury selection.
Consensus democracy requires varying degrees of consensus rather than just a
mere democratic majority. It typically attempts to protect minority rights from
domination by majority rule.
Qualified majority voting (QMV) is designed by the Treaty of Rome to be the
principal method of reaching decisions in the European Council of Ministers. This
system allocates votes to member states in part according to their population, but
heavily weighted in favour of the smaller states. This might be seen as a form of
representative democracy, but representatives to the Council might be appointed
rather than directly elected.
Some might consider the "individuals" being democratically represented to be
states rather than people, as with many other international organizations. European
Parliament members are democratically directly elected on the basis of universal
suffrage, may be seen as an example of a supranational democratic institution.
Cosmopolitan democracy, also known as Global democracy or World Federalism
is a political system in which democracy is implemented on a global scale, either
directly or through representatives. The supporters of cosmopolitan democracy
argue that it is fundamentally different than any form of national or regional
democracy, because in a Cosmopolitan Democracy, decisions are made by people
influenced by them, while in Regional and National Democracies, decisions often
influence people outside the constituency, which by-definition can not vote.
In a globalised world, argue the supporters of Cosmopolitan Democracy, any
attempt to solve global problems would either be undemocratic or have to
implement cosmopolitan democracy. Cosmopolitan Democracy was promoted,
among others, by physicist Albert Einstein, writer Kurt Vonnegut, columnist
George Monbiot, and professor David Held.
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Aside from the public sphere, similar democratic principles and mechanisms of
voting and representation have been used to govern other kinds of communities and
• Many non-governmental organizations decide policy and leadership by voting.
• Most trade unions choose their leadership through democratic elections.
• Cooperatives are enterprises owned and democratically controlled by their
customers or workers.
With so many kinds of government existing in the modern world many people
believe that democracy is not the best form of government. There are varying
views about democracy such as:
Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right
more than half of the time.
- E. B. White
When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule
the majority are wrong. The minority are right.
- Eugene V. Debs
Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we
- George Bernard Shaw
Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia,
Santa Claus, and Heaven.
- H. L. Mencken
Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will
get the blame.
- Laurence J. Peter
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people
may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
- Thomas Jefferson