Democracy is a form of government in which the citizens of a given country are given equal say in determining policy. In the United States, this is done through the election of leaders to serve as legislators and executives. Democracy was first observed in ancient Greek city-states, most notably Athens, and has since become the dominant political system on the globe.
Pro: Reflects the Will of the People
A major impetus for the adoption of a democratic system has been the people's demand for government accurately representing their wishes. In a democracy, support for a given philosophy comes from the bottom up and, consequently, the will of the people is represented in creating and enforcing laws. In history, the seemingly arbitrary rule of monarchs or dictators has been heavily criticized in the lead-up to various pro-democratic revolutions.
Pro: Decentralization of Power
Another advantage of democracy is that it, in theory, decentralizes power and prevents a small ruling elite from controlling the entire political apparatus. Contemporary liberal democracies, like those found in North America and Europe, are designed so it is extremely difficult for one political party to monopolize the law-making process -- either by the separation of powers or the limits of a constitution.
A major drawback of democracy, as opposed to more centralized systems, is the speed political wheels turn. Considerable time may pass between the time a population decides a given measure is necessary and when it formally becomes law. In the United States, for example, a bill must pass through both houses of Congress and be signed by the president. In times of national emergency, this process can restrict the ability of leaders to adapt to changing circumstances.
Con: Tyranny of the Majority
The Greek philosopher Plato loathed democracy for its populism, which he deemed to be nothing more than mob-rule. Nothing in a pure democracy prevents the majority from punishing an undesirable minority. While modern democracies have protections in place to prevent these abuses, they are not always adequate. The internment of Japanese and descendants during World War II in both the United States and Canada is an example of how unwarranted fear among the population can precipitate unjust policy.
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