What is democracy?
Democracy is a polysemic word. It is one of the most misleading and confusing terms in political science terminology.
Their meanings are classified into 3 groups:
- Democracy as a method.
- Democracy as a system.
- Democracy as a doctrine.
Democracy as a method:
It is to make a vote with “Universal Suffrage” to adopt a decision.
“Universal Suffrage” means that all persons formally authorized to do so must be able to participate in the vote.
Voting may require the conditions that the vote is: secret or not, manifest or not, in person or not, effective or not, mandatory or not.
If the result of that vote must be unique, the “Majority Rule” applies.
The “Majority Rule” is to make the decision chosen by the Majority. That Majority can be “Relative” (or 1st Minority), “Absolute” (greater than 50%), “Qualified” (greater than a certain% greater than 50%). The percentages can be calculated based on the total number of people authorized to vote or based on the total number of effective votes.
If the result of that vote is multiple (for example: the election of electors or representatives) a formula is applied (for example: D’hondt, Droop Ratio, Hagenbach-Bischoff Quota, Major Rest, Sainte-Laguë, Imperiali, Subtractive Vote).
Democracy as a system:
They are all those Government Systems of a society as a whole that use the “Democracy Method” in some way. These systems can be classified into 3 large groups: Direct Democracies, Participatory Democracies, Indirect Democracies.
Direct Democracies are all those systems in which all decisions are made with the Democracy Method. Its variations depend on the type of “Majority Rule” that is used and which sector of society is entitled to vote.
Indirect Democracies are all those systems in which the “Democracy Method” is used to elect authorities and representatives. Citizens do not deliberate or govern, but through their representatives and authorities. Representatives make decisions among themselves (for example, approval of laws) applying the Democracy Method. Citizens can petition the authorities and representatives (through demonstrations in the streets, in the media, etc.), without the different authorities or representatives having a binding commitment to these requests.
Participative Democracies are intermediate systems between Direct and Indirect Democracies. Citizens can have different degrees of participation applying the “Democratic Method”. For example: they can present laws, they can vote to approve laws, they can have the power to veto certain laws or decisions of the authorities, binding plebiscites, dismissals or revocation of mandate, etc.
Democracy as a doctrine:
The meaning of Democracy as a doctrine is diffuse and undefined. It depends on the country and the year in which it is used, on the ideology of the person or group that uses it and on the characteristics of the people who have to listen or read it.
Some of the interpretations of Democracy as a doctrine are:
- Democracy is the government of the people. People are a portion of the total population. Generally does not include minors, the unborn, the elderly, foreigners, criminals, slaves, the mentally ill. Sometimes it does not include, for example, members of the Security Forces, those who do not pay taxes, those of the upper class, those of the lower class, women, people of minority races, the illiterate.
- Democracy is the empire of Liberty and Equality.
- Democracy is all the good that can happen to a society.
- Democracy is the interpretation of the Popular Will.
- Democracy is doing what is convenient for the most humble sectors regardless of their will or not.
- Democracy is Constitutionalism put into practice. This implies: Declare a supreme law (→ Constitution), Guarantee the rights of citizens (→ Rule of law), Divide the Power of the State (→ Republic), Legitimize the Power of the State through the sovereignty of citizens.
- Democracy is what is also known as Democratic Polyarchy.
- Democracy is what is also known as the Democratic Republic (not including the governments considered by some to be totalitarian, such as the German Democratic Republic).
- Democracy is the “Government of consensus”.
- Democracy is the “Tyranny of the Majority”.
- Democracy is the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”.
- Democracy is the “Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie”.
- Democracy is not a political form, but only one of the political principles or elements that can concur in a political form.
- Democracy is the failure of reason. It is a solution when you cannot find a rational method to decide.
- True Democracy is purely and exclusively “Direct Democracy”.
Alternative to Democracies
The Optocracy is a system of government that contemplates the sovereignty of all citizens. (Know what the Optocracy is here)