Democracy in Britain

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Democracy in Britain

The definition of democracy is 'rule by the people', or 'the power of the people'. The 'demos' comes from the ancient Greek, it is the people and 'kratos' is to rule. Democracy today has come to mean the decisions arrived by the majority (or a simple majority), the right of every citizen to vote and hold office, and the duty of all citizens to participate actively in the system. So in an undefined sense, political power is ultimately in the hands of the whole adult population, and no smaller group has the right to rule. But only when democracy is qualified by other words, such as liberal, representative and direct, can it take on a more useful meaning. So to understand democracy, we must look at these different faces of it.

Liberal democracy is most commonly seen in industrialised western countries. It has four main ideas:

· That the government should be limited (the individual should enjoy some protection from arbitrary government), and its purpose should be the removal of obstacles to individual well-being;

· The market should have a paramount role with minimum state interference;

· The state should play the role of 'night-watchman'; the franchise should be steadily extended to encompass men with property to members of the working class.

The overall idea is that there should be a limited government, the individual should enjoy some protection from arbitrary government and that the government should be in some way tied to the will of the people. The central existence of liberal democracy is the existence of civil liberties -- the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom to dissent. In Britain these civil liberties and guaranteed by the 'rule of law' and the separatio...

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...n be only skin deep, while there is actually a ruling class.

There is also the view that power really lies in the economic infrastructure and the capitalist system, where a countries wealth is owned by individuals. The system is not neutral, but manipulates people's views. When problems occur in the economy or there is a national crisis, the government will turn to the use of force to enforce policies, so the ability to use force is the real basis for government and not consensus. This is a strong Marxists idea.

Pluralists acknowledge a 'political elite', which acts within the powerful constraints of regular elections and public opinions, but the élitists and Marxists believe there is a further element of secrecy in democracy. So although Britain has a democracy, it is not strong enough to be able do defend itself against all criticism and opposition.
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