Direct Democracy and Representative Democracy

Direct Democracy and Representative Democracy :

The term Democracy is derived from two Greek words, demos, meaning people and kratos, meaning rule. These two words form the word democracy which means rule by the people. Aristotle and other ancient Greek political philosophers, used the phrase, the governors are to be the governed or as we have come to know it, rule and be ruled in turn. The two major types of democracy are Representative Democracy and Direct Democracy. Clearly the arguments for and against each form of democracy are plentiful. However, it is my belief that theoretically, Direct Democracy is the superior form of political rule. Due to problems with in the direct democratic system, its use as a practical form of government is not even thinkable. Therefore, in order for any form of democracy to function, Representative Democracy is the superior form of political rule. Jean Jacques Rousseau is considered by many to be the Grandfather of direct the democracy theory. Rousseau's ideal society would be where the citizens were directly involved in the creation of the laws which are to govern their lives. He maintained that, "all citizens should meet together and decide what is best for the community and enact the appropriate laws. Any law which was not directly created by the citizens is not valid, and if those laws are imposed on people, that is equivalent to the people being enslaved.

The citizens of a society must both develop and obey the supreme decision of the general will which is the society's determination of the common good. It is not even thinkable that all citizens will agree on what good is. Rousseau recognized this and accepted a term of majority rule. Those who voted against a policy which is found to be the best for the general must have been thinking of personal gains, rather than the gains of the entire society.

The feature which distinguishes direct democracy from other forms of government is the idea of agreement and the key to agreement is discussion. It is impossible to reach an agreement without discussion, because it is not right to think that everybody will have the same opinion on all matters. But, it is very possible, that through discussion an agreement could be reached by all members. Representation, on the other hand allows a select few to make decisions in their own best interest which is not necessarily the best interest of the society. However, direct democracy is not the perfect method to produce a union of the community. For a direct democracy to work, face to face communication between all members of the community is needed. The only way this is possible is to meet in large groups. Due to the fear of high tension, many citizens will not participate in these large group meeting. So in order for these fearful people to voice their opinions they must get together in smaller, less tensions groups where they are not as timid to say as they wish to see happen. A direct democracy can only work in a small group, so as a form of government for an entire community or country, direct democracy would definitely fail. As the membership increases, people become less involved. Once the membership reaches the size of a country, the participation still exists, but is limited to as low as it can go. Thus in a country, any form of direct democracy is only possible in individual communities.

In order for a committee small enough to operate on direct democracy principles to have any authority at all, it must represent a much larger group. Membership in this larger group is chosen by election, so the people still have a say in the ruling process. Since the rulers are selected by the people, the rulers should represent what the public wants. Thus, out of direct democracy, is born a new form of government, the Representative Democracy.

Representative democracy is not democracy in its purest form. The main argument against representative democracy is that "No one can represent me. I'm the only one who knows what I'm thinking and no one else can represent my views." We have already learned it is also impossible to represent yourself. Through representation, chosen by the people, the hope is that all people will be adequately represented. While everyone may not get all of their views represented all the time, representative democracy should create a situation where most of the views are represented.

Direct democracy is not impossible in all situations, but in order for in to exist the following two characteristics must exist- The organization must be local, (limited in members) and the opinions of the members must be similar to each other. While these conditions are often found in a small organization, when looking at a country, these conditions are impossible to meet.

In a mixed society direct democracy would lead to ineffective management, unwanted inefficiency and political instability. While In a representative democracy, the representatives rely on political compromise to resolve conflicts, and develop policies that are flexible enough to meet shifting circumstances.

The once dominant Greek culture has become out-of-date and along with it went the hope for a direct democracy system of government. The direct democracy theory may have worked in the small Greek towns of 500BC, but in large modern societies, it simply could not work. Which is why the representative democracy was started, which, while providing the citizen with less opportunity for participation, is ideally suited for rule in modern times Thus, clearly a direct democracy is the only true form of democracy. However, if democracy is to be is used in a modern society, it cannot take its purist form.

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