Why Is Democracy Considered Good?
Democracy is considered good because it recognizes the rights of the individual and strives to maintain and protect those rights, for instance freedom of speech and religion. The word democracy comes from the Greek “demokration”, from “demos”, the people, and “kratos”, rule. The concept of rule by the people for the people undoubtedly goes back to prehistoric times but, in western political tradition, we associate it with the city-states of ancient Greece.
There it was a form of government known as direct democracy. Decision was made by the whole body of citizens, acting under the procedure of majority rule. However, we must remember that not everyone was a citizen. Women were not allowed to vote and there were many slaves who had no rights at all.
It is easy to see how difficult this system would be to organize in a large-country and indeed there was a gap of about 2,000 years before the idea of representative democracy arose. This is a form of government where the citizens exercise the same rights as in direct democracy, but through representatives chosen by and responsible to them.
According to political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
Democracy contrasts with forms of government where power is either held by an individual, as in an absolute monarchy, or where power is held by a small number of individuals, as in an oligarchy. Nevertheless, these oppositions, inherited from Greek philosophy, are now ambiguous because contemporary governments have mixed democratic, oligarchic, and monarchic elements. Karl Popper defined democracy in contrast to dictatorship or tyranny, thus focusing on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution.
Nowadays, most countries in the world are democracies, in name at least. That is, they claim a form of government, elected by the people, whose powers are limited by a constitution. Theoretically this means that although the majorities are in power, they are bound by law to guarantee individual and collective rights to those who are in the minority.
But in many countries theory does not always conform with practice. We also use the word democratic to describe any political or social system which is attempting to bring about equality among the people, especially in the distribution of private property.