Contemporary democratic governments differ from each other in a variety of ways, but they also have a number of institutions in common. Very often, the politicians being elected belong to a political party. Political scientists have used these common institutions to identify a few basic kinds of democratic political system. The first elected parliament was De Montfort's Parliament in England in 1265. In another work, Considerations on Representative Government (1861), he argued passionately that women should have the same right to vote as men. Each citizen has a say (or vote) in how the government is run. “If we look to the laws,” he said. For example, if a party receives 25 percent of the total votes cast in the district, it is assigned 25 percent of the district’s seats in the legislature. They do this by voting, though there are usually rules about who can vote. He identified three kinds of government, which differed according to the number of people allowed to rule—one, few, or many. Because the members of the group do not know what position in society they occupy, they are compelled to choose principles that will ensure that they are treated fairly and that their rights are respected, no matter who they are or where they come from. Someone who does not vote, and who does not give a good reason usually has to pay a fine. The first democracies were in ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago. The party with the most votes then picks the candidates. Because the proportional system does not favor large parties over small ones, in countries that use this system there are almost always three or more parties represented in the legislature. Mill also argued that legal restrictions on the free expression of opinion are always wrong, no matter how false or dangerous the opinion being expressed may seem. Please note: Text within images is not translated, some features may not work properly after translation, and the translation may not accurately convey the intended meaning. Most European countries use the proportional system, as does Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. In a dictatorship one person called a dictator makes all the rules. For some elections, a country may make voting compulsory. The word democracy describes a form of government. They were nominated by the Senate and elected by the military assembly. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.…. In 146 bc, when Athens was conquered by the Romans, the little that remained of Athenian democracy was destroyed. These included the right to participate in their government. Women, children, foreign residents, and slaves were excluded. Britannica does not review the converted text. Instead, the party that wins the largest number of seats in the legislature forms a government, by itself or in coalition with other parties, and its leader becomes prime minister. The most important institution of their government was the Assembly, which met 40 times a year on a hill known as the Pnyx. Not surprisingly, the first important contributions to the “theory of democracy,” as this kind of thinking is sometimes called, were made by the ancient Greeks, and particularly by philosophers and political leaders who were citizens or residents of Athens. Instead, the president is elected by a special body known as the electoral college. Steven Siewert/AP. These freedoms include the freedom to exchange ideas and opinions with others, the freedom to form associations with others to pursue common goals, the freedom to decide one’s own moral values, and the freedom to pursue one’s idea of a “good life,” whatever that may be. By the end of the 19th century, it was widely accepted that parties are an essential institution in any democracy. In a direct democracy, everyone has the right to make laws together. Locke imagined a time before the creation of societies, when human beings lived in a state of perfect equality and freedom, a condition he called the “state of nature.” In the state of nature, people would have certain “natural” rights, including the right to private property. Locke transferred this conclusion from imaginary governments created in the state of nature to the actual governments existing in his own day. The person with the most votes became the leader. Because of the new country’s enormous size, democracy was possible only through representative assemblies, which at the national, or federal, level became the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. Some groups may be excluded, for example prisoners. In addition, there were two high officials called consuls who acted essentially as heads of state. Under Macedonian rule, citizens who did not possess enough wealth were excluded from the Assembly. The governments of the states are organized into similar legislative, executive, and judicial branches. People vote on issues as a group. This kind of government was developed long ago by the ancient Greeks in classical Athens. Many other political theorists came to share these views. Because it is established by the people, such a government would be legitimate only if it did what the people decided it should do. In two-party systems, usually no more than two parties are ever represented in the legislature. Native Americans suffered similar discrimination. After Germany and Austria-Hungary were defeated by the democratic Allies in World War I, their monarchical and aristocratic governments were overthrown, and people ceased to believe that monarchy and aristocracy were legitimate forms of government. The history of democracy can thus be considered from two points of view. Such safeguards could include adding a bill of rights to the constitution, requiring a “supermajority” of votes (such as a majority of two thirds or three quarters instead of one half of the votes plus one) to pass important legislation, establishing a “separation of powers” between the different branches of government so that no single branch acquires too much power, and giving courts the power to nullify laws or policies that they decide are in violation of the constitution. The idea is that unconsolidated democracies suffer from intermittent elections which are not free and fair. The third branch of the federal government, the judicial branch, consists of the Supreme Court together with federal district courts and courts of appeal. The government of the United States is known as a federal system because the Constitution divides power between the central, or national, government and the governments of the states. Less than a year later, the Four Hundred were overthrown and democracy was restored. However, only a few people could actually join in. As the Roman Republic expanded, it granted citizenship to many people within its enlarged boundaries. The word democracy literally means “rule by the people.” It is derived from a Greek word coined from the words demos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century bc as a name for the political system that existed at the time in some of the cities of Greece, notably Athens. Women did not receive equal voting rights until 1928. Direct democracies are not usually used to run countries, because it is hard to get millions of people to get together all the time to make laws and other decisions. Governments usually consist of a coalition in which two or more parties divide important leadership posts (though the job of prime minister is usually held by the leader of the largest party in the coalition). About a century later, the philosopher Aristotle (384–322 bc) devised a classification of political systems that would influence political thinkers for the next 2,000 years. One of the first recorded defenses of democracy is a speech by the Athenian leader Pericles (495?–429 bc), which he gave at a funeral held in 430 bc for Athenians who had been killed in the Peloponnesian War with Sparta. Usually, the people being elected need to meet certain conditions: They need to have a certain age or a government body needs to determine that they are suitably qualified to perform the job. This was the view of most of the delegates to the United States Constitutional Convention, where the Constitution was drafted in 1787. Second, history was then thought to show that the existence of factions undermines democratic governments. The word comes from two Greek words that mean “rule by the people.” In a democracy the people have a say in how the government is run. Choose a language from the menu above to view a computer-translated version of this page. In the late 1st century bc, even as they ruled over the largest empire on Earth, the Romans continued to govern themselves in assemblies, which they held in the Forum, a large open area between two of the city’s seven hills. It is first of all the history of the different kinds of democratic government that have been created throughout the world since the time of the ancient Greeks. After a discussion open to all members, the Assembly voted on the question before it, with a simple majority determining the result. In A Theory of Justice (1971), he tried to defend the democratic values of fairness, equality, and individual rights using the concept of a social contract, which had been largely neglected in philosophy since the 18th century. Locke’s influence on the Declaration is evident in the very first paragraph: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. He identified the corrupt form of government by the many as democracy, which he associated with lawlessness and mob rule. By the 1600s and 1700s some people began to think that all people had certain rights. This is a much more common kind of democracy. The Romans, who spoke Latin, called their system respublica (“republic”), meaning “the thing that belongs to the people.” Roman democracy lasted until roughly the end of the 1st century bc, when it was replaced by a monarchy headed by an emperor. Therefore, from behind this “veil of ignorance,” they would choose principles like the following: Most of the philosophers and political leaders discussed above believed that democracy is a good form of government, if not the best. Thus they began to practice a form of representative democracy. In fact, most later criticisms of democracy were simply variations on what Plato said. It is also a way of life in which people cooperate with each other to solve their common problems in a rational way and in a spirit of mutual respect and goodwill. Other countries kept their kings or queens but still became democracies. They do this by voting, though there are usually rules about who can vote. We’ve been busy, working hard to bring you new features and an updated design. This system is used in the United States but is extremely rare in the rest of the world. Please note: Text within images is not translated, some features may not work properly after translation, and the translation may not accurately convey the intended meaning. This fear of majority tyranny gradually disappeared, as political leaders in various democratic countries realized that the rights and interests of the wealthy, as well as those of other minorities, could be protected by introducing safeguards into the country’s constitution. Parliament was chosen by only a few percent of the people (in 1780, fewer than 3% of people joined in). At the same time, the growing prosperity of the general population and especially the development of a middle class created demands for increased economic freedom and greater democracy. Therefore the goals it pursues will be inconsistent with the common good at least some of the time.