Democracy and totalitarianism are types of federal government that offer different ways of making decisions on behalf of the people they govern. Yet, they share some similarities. While one focuses on oppression, the other embraces the differences of the people.
All of the people in a democracy, in theory, are considered equal before the law and are able to voice their opinions during the legislative process. Furthermore, the rights and liberties of a democracy are ensured by an agreed upon constitution. The chief characteristic of a democracy focuses on allowing citizens to have a say in decisions that would affect their lives. It involves participation from the collection of citizens to develop and pass legislation into law. Without a secured constitution, the system can easily be corrupted by the tyranny of the majority. When the larger group sets out to destroy or oppress the smaller group, the system of equality quickly deteriorates.
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are also considered to be staples of a democracy. This allows for those unhappy with the current regime to express their concerns without fear of repercussion. Ultimately, a democracy is the ability for citizens to have a level of control over their daily lives.
A totalitarian government carries no limits on its authority and attempts to control every aspect of private and personal life. These regimes retain power by flooding the populace with propaganda designed to ensure popularity and public favor. A totalitarian government can also use terror and speech restriction to keep its populace under complete control. According to World War II era dictator Benito Mussolini of Italy, totalitarian rule is beneficial since it keeps "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."
Both forms of government have the potential to oppress its people. While a democracy typically does not follow this pattern, it is possible that a majority of people could empower a single party that would oppress the minority. This larger group can overtake and corrupt the system of equality. Once in power, the larger group can then disrupt the original system for one that will only allow it to stay in power.
The irrational voter can be a stepping stone towards a totalitarian type of democracy. Under certain conditions, voters might select a candidate that would improve their lives at the cost of others. When given too much power, the party elected may abuse it and eventually come to control the entire state.
The two forms of government differ significantly when it comes to freedom for the people. While a totalitarian state controls all aspects of the media and speech, a democracy is supposed to embrace the basic freedoms of the people. With multiple candidates representing a variety of people, a democracy attempts to equalize every individual. The single-party system of the totalitarian government, however, only gives power to those already in power, as well as those who strongly support the system. Essentially, a democracy allows for the public voice to be heard and represented, whereas a totalitarian government silences the people through oppression.
- "The Economist"; Tyranny of the Majority; December 2009
- Merrian-Webster: Democracy Definition
- Merrian-Webster: Totalitarianism Definition
- "The Origins of Totalitarianism"; Hannah Arendt; 1958
- "On Democracy"; Robert A. Dahl; 2000
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