Many of us like to complain about politics and the politicians who hold positions in government, but a great deal of thought has gone into the creation of our form of representative democracy. This week we will explore the evolution of democracy since its inception.In doing so, we will also examine the original application of democratic theory in Athens as a means of understanding the changes made to it in the attempt to make it a stable and reliable form of government. Furthermore, we will examine how Great Britain and other democracies represents its people.
????When people read political philosophy from the ancient world, they find a decidedly negative evaluation of democracy. We have become so accustomed to our modern image of democracy that the ancient world’s adverse view might seem strange. What could someone possibly have against rule by the people?In the ancient world, specifically the Greek city-state of Athens, democracy was “rule by the people” in the most direct sense. Political assemblies involved meetings of every single citizen, which at the time included only men with a certain standing in society. Attendance at these meetings would number in the hundreds, and everyone would be involved in the decision-making process. You can imagine how chaotic this might have been! Just picture one of the presidential debates with no moderators or television end time. These assemblies would last all day, and would often erupt in great debates and disorganized talking. The leaders of these assemblies would simply be the individuals who could speak more articulately and persuasively than the others and convince others what to do. In retrospect, many of the decisions made by such assemblies were not wise. This led many of the philosophers at the time, most notably Plato and Aristotle, to be suspicious of the merits of democracy. Based in part on the criticisms of pure democracy in the ancient world, when the first democracies began to emerge in the modern world, many believed that the only way to have a stable democracy was through representatives being elected by the people. After the American Revolution, the U.S. founders were interested in creating a government that would be well ordered to prevent chaos and instability. The notion behind this new form of government was that every person would have a vote, but that this vote would be communicated to the government through an elected representative. This representative would have the primary responsibility of setting public policy and would remain faithful to the will of the people through regular elections. This representative form of government is referred to as republican democracy.The representative form of democracy in the modern world is also combined with the enlightenment ideal of individual liberty. This idea, which evolves from an expanding acceptance of human reason and equality, suggests that governments should be primarily responsible for ensuring that individual liberties are respected and that the basic needs of citizens are met. Thus, in a liberal sense, government is intended to be limited to the role of protector, a role that might be needed among a population. Representatives elected according to liberal democratic principles are responsible for providing for the national defense and ensuring that everyone’s liberty is preserved.