Sunday, April 21, 2013

Essential Concepts and Principles of Democracy

For generations the concepts of democracy have been subjects of discussions or debates among legislators, between people in the academia, and the ordinary citizen whose living condition was dictated by a retinue of bureaucrats who ruled according to their whims. Democracy has been so contentious and controversial and it is to this day, because everyone involved in the discussion employs a different interpretation that edge toward a political dispensation unique to his or her thoughts and imaginations. Beginning with the era of the Greeks when they were the only democratic political power in the world, given their understanding of legislative dimensions populated by conflicting philosophical thoughts that was in essence, alien to a compacted world that was struggling to come up with a political solution, democracy and its concepts or principles has never had an agreeable unanimous interpretation capable of relieving humanity from aggravating philosophical quagmires.
According to Prothro and Grigg (1960), “a successful democracy requires the existence of a large measure of consensus in society”. However, to political scientists, there is no general agreement in mind as to the exact proportion of what constitutes consensus in government.  Conversely, for the purpose of constitutional amendment, three-fourths is a good measure to reach an accord. Of the many concepts of democracy, the four unique and guiding principles that I have chosen to highlight are popular sovereignty, equality, elections, and consensus. The major factor that endears people to have a democratic government is for the most part for the protection and promotion of their rights, interests, and welfare. Some important concepts of modern democracy are democracy, constitutionalism, and liberalism.
Popular Sovereignty: In popular sovereignty, the people, meaning citizens, are the ultimate source and authority of government and that it is a fundamental principle of government.
Equality: Going by the old adage “no one is above the law”, equality entails equality of all people before the law regardless of color, creed, religion, sex and gender, religious and political affiliation, and national origin. In liberal democracy, even those regarded as minorities have equal right before the law. If there was no equality in democracy, those enjoying majority rules would govern according to their wishes and thus trample on the inalienable rights of the minority. Thus, it is incumbent upon leaders to uphold the law and ensure the equality of all races and sexes. Stratification and marginalization of a select group of people is unacceptable in a genuine democracy. Equal sharing of the fruits of the nation should apply to all citizens. Giving preference to one religion over the other is undemocratic; likewise, favoring an able-bodied person over a disabled, in any form, is illegal and subject to prosecution before a court of law. An era of political unrest known as the civil rights movement, gripped the U.S. in the sixties mainly because of inequality of races. Likewise, South Africa under the apartheid regime saw proliferation of political and civil rights movements and increased chaos between the white regime and the oppressed black population.
Free Elections: Elections alone, without being free, fair, and frequent, do not fulfill the wishes of the people in electing the government of their choice. Any liberal democracy that wishes to see proper governance has to have a form of genuine representation that evolve out of a free, fair, and frequent electioneering processes by way of the ballot box for the sake of competing and winning popular votes. “Free elections” is meant to give every citizen the right to contest and hold office without encumbrances. “Fair elections” imply fundamentally honest elections that never hinder voters from voting for the right candidate. “Frequent elections” means that there have to be elections now and then so that people can have control of the government. In pseudo-democracies, ruling parties enjoy leverage over the opposition and thus frequently proclaim unanimous garnering of majority votes in major and minor elections at times corresponding to 99.99%. Opposition’s fear of government repression and refusal by the ruling elite to submit to defeat has been harbinger for continuous manipulation in many election processes where the rule of law is mandated by dictatorship.
Consensus: A modern political inclusion or proposition, consensus is a fundamental principle that is essential to democracy and that it implies unanimity or general agreement though we are not told the nature and kind of agreement. Political consensus enables all sides of the political spectrum to agree on an agenda and reach a unifying solution.
John Mill appears to have several democratic tenets that he uses to identify democracy. However, Mill (1860) concurred that Christianity was restricted to Europe and European descendants, a reasonable occurrence that may have transpired during his lifetime. In the last few centuries, Europe and its descendants took their religion to greater heights while at the same propagating democracy far and wide.  His explanation of individuality as being equivalent to development makes sense.
The absence of one democratic concept or principle is cause for democratic failure. All the concepts/principles of democracy are interdependent and inseparable. Taking away one concept is like depriving a human being of one his/her senses: vision, smell, touch, hearing, and so on. Of the many principles of democratic governance in the world today, liberal democracy towers above others when rendering developmental services to the cause of humanity. In utilitarianism, the ideological foundations it cherishes may seem incomprehensible to the wary human intelligence as it has been “flawed” (Stanford, 2007).

Prothro, J.W. & Grigg, C. M. (1960). Fundamental Principles of Democracy: Bases of Agreement and Disagreement. The Journal of Politics, 22, 276-294.

Mill, J.S. (1860). On Liberty, Harvard Classics, Vol. 25.
           Collier & Son, retrieved from
Stanford (2007). Mill’s Moral and Political Philosophy. Retrieved from               

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