Direct And Representative Democracy Essay Quotations

Direct Democracy and Representative Democracy




Direct Democracy and Representative Democracy :


The term Democracy is derived from two Greek words, demos, meaning people and kratos, meaning rule. These two words form the word democracy which means rule by the people. Aristotle and other ancient Greek political philosophers, used the phrase, the governors are to be the governed or as we have come to know it, rule and be ruled in turn. The two major types of democracy are Representative Democracy and Direct Democracy. Clearly the arguments for and against each form of democracy are plentiful. However, it is my belief that theoretically, Direct Democracy is the superior form of political rule. Due to problems with in the direct democratic system, its use as a practical form of government is not even thinkable. Therefore, in order for any form of democracy to function, Representative Democracy is the superior form of political rule. Jean Jacques Rousseau is considered by many to be the Grandfather of direct the democracy theory. Rousseau's ideal society would be where the citizens were directly involved in the creation of the laws which are to govern their lives. He maintained that, "all citizens should meet together and decide what is best for the community and enact the appropriate laws. Any law which was not directly created by the citizens is not valid, and if those laws are imposed on people, that is equivalent to the people being enslaved.


The citizens of a society must both develop and obey the supreme decision of the general will which is the society's determination of the common good. It is not even thinkable that all citizens will agree on what good is. Rousseau recognized this and accepted a term of majority rule. Those who voted against a policy which is found to be the best for the general must have been thinking of personal gains, rather than the gains of the entire society.


The feature which distinguishes direct democracy from other forms of government is the idea of agreement and the key to agreement is discussion. It is impossible to reach an agreement without discussion, because it is not right to think that everybody will have the same opinion on all matters. But, it is very possible, that through discussion an agreement could be reached by all members. Representation, on the other hand allows a select few to make decisions in their own best interest which is not necessarily the best interest of the society. However, direct democracy is not the perfect method to produce a union of the community. For a direct democracy to work, face to face communication between all members of the community is needed. The only way this is possible is to meet in large groups. Due to the fear of high tension, many citizens will not participate in these large group meeting. So in order for these fearful people to voice their opinions they must get together in smaller, less tensions groups where they are not as timid to say as they wish to see happen. A direct democracy can only work in a small group, so as a form of government for an entire community or country, direct democracy would definitely fail. As the membership increases, people become less involved. Once the membership reaches the size of a country, the participation still exists, but is limited to as low as it can go. Thus in a country, any form of direct democracy is only possible in individual communities.


In order for a committee small enough to operate on direct democracy principles to have any authority at all, it must represent a much larger group. Membership in this larger group is chosen by election, so the people still have a say in the ruling process. Since the rulers are selected by the people, the rulers should represent what the public wants. Thus, out of direct democracy, is born a new form of government, the Representative Democracy.


Representative democracy is not democracy in its purest form. The main argument against representative democracy is that "No one can represent me. I'm the only one who knows what I'm thinking and no one else can represent my views." We have already learned it is also impossible to represent yourself. Through representation, chosen by the people, the hope is that all people will be adequately represented. While everyone may not get all of their views represented all the time, representative democracy should create a situation where most of the views are represented.


Direct democracy is not impossible in all situations, but in order for in to exist the following two characteristics must exist- The organization must be local, (limited in members) and the opinions of the members must be similar to each other. While these conditions are often found in a small organization, when looking at a country, these conditions are impossible to meet.


In a mixed society direct democracy would lead to ineffective management, unwanted inefficiency and political instability. While In a representative democracy, the representatives rely on political compromise to resolve conflicts, and develop policies that are flexible enough to meet shifting circumstances.


The once dominant Greek culture has become out-of-date and along with it went the hope for a direct democracy system of government. The direct democracy theory may have worked in the small Greek towns of 500BC, but in large modern societies, it simply could not work. Which is why the representative democracy was started, which, while providing the citizen with less opportunity for participation, is ideally suited for rule in modern times Thus, clearly a direct democracy is the only true form of democracy. However, if democracy is to be is used in a modern society, it cannot take its purist form.


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A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.

JAMES MADISON, attributed, Quote Junkie Presidents Edition

I honor the passion for power and rule as little in the people as in a king. It is a vicious principle, exist where it may. If by democracy be meant the exercise of sovereignty by the people under all those provisions and self-imposed restraints which tend most to secure equal laws, and the rights of each and all, then I shall be proud to bear its name. But the unfettered multitude is not dearer to me than the unfettered king.

WILLIAM E. CHANNING, Thoughts

The future is best decided by ballots, not bullets.

RONALD REAGAN, State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 1984

Democracy's worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents.

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, Stranger in a Strange Land

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.

JOHN ADAMS, letter to John Taylor, 1814

A marvel that has nothing to offer, democracy is at once a nation's paradise and its tomb.

EMIL CIORAN, History & Utopia

Though it is disguised by the illusion that a bureaucracy accountable to a majority of voters, and susceptible to the pressure of organized minorities, is not exercising compulsion, it is evident that the more varied and comprehensive the regulation becomes, the more the state becomes a despotic power as against the individual. For the fragment of control over the government which he exercises through his vote is in no effective sense proportionate to the authority exercised over him by the government.

WALTER LIPPMANN, Good Society

A government held together by the bands of reason only, requires much compromise of opinion; that things even salutary should not be crammed down the throats of dissenting brethren, especially when they may be put into a form to be willingly swallowed, and that a great deal of indulgence is necessary to strengthen habits of harmony and fraternity.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to Edward Livingston, Apr. 4, 1824

When threatened, the first thing a democracy gives up is democracy.

MIGNON MCLAUGHLIN, The Complete Neurotic's Notebook

Democracy depends on citizens being informed, and since our media, especially television (which is the most important source of news for most Americans) reports mostly what the people in power do, and repeats what the people in power say, the public is badly informed, and it means we cannot really say we have a functioning democracy.

HOWARD ZINN, Huffington Post, Jan. 28, 2010

Democracy is timelessly human, and timelessness always implies a certain amount of potential youthfulness.

THOMAS MANN, The Coming Victory of Democracy

The idea of representative democracy will change. Today, we claim we don't use direct democracy because it would be impractical to poll everybody on every issue. The truth is that we use representative democracy because we want to get an above-average group to think through problems and make choices that, in the short term, might not be obvious--even if they are to everybody's benefit over the long term.

BILL GATES, Playboy, Jul. 1994

What we call a democratic society might be defined for certain purposes as one in which the majority is always prepared to put down a revolutionary minority.

WALTER LIPPMANN, Men of Destiny

Democracy has become, unless I mistake, a kind of test or shibboleth, by which we try men and measures; and this is the same as to say that it is merely a word which is powerful with us, and not the wide and true notion of what the word means. But we must define the true import of words, and not be slaves to syllables; for democracy in form is not necessarily people-power in fact, but power perhaps of a few, who cajole the many and so lead and use the people for their own ends.

JAMES VILA BLAKE, Essays

The only distinction that democracies reward is a high degree of conformity.

AMBROSE BIERCE, "Epigrams of a Cynic"

A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.

BILL CLINTON, speech at the Lincoln Memorial on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 2013

If in a democratic country nothing can be permanently achieved save through the masses of the people, it will be impossible to establish a higher political life than the people themselves crave.

JANE ADDAMS, Twenty Years at Hull-House

The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.

EDWARD ABBEY, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

It is the life of democracy to favor equality.

CHRISTIAN NESTELL BOVEE, Intuitions and Summaries of Thought

The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history. It is human history.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, Third Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1941

In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist. It is against natural order that the great number should govern and that the few should be governed.

JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU, The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.

LORD ACTON, The History of Freedom in Antiquity

The identification with the common lot which is the essential idea of Democracy becomes the source and expression of social ethics. It is as though we thirsted to drink at the great wells of human experience, because we knew that a daintier or less potent draught would not carry us to the end of the journey, going forward as we must in the heat and jostle of the crowd.

JANE ADDAMS, Democracy and Social Ethics

Democracy is alive, and like any other living thing it either flourishes and grows or withers and dies. There is no in-between. It is freedom and life or dictatorship and death.

SAUL ALINSKY, Reveille for Radicals

All those hints and glimpses of a larger and more satisfying democracy, which literature and our own hopes supply, have a tendency to slip away from us and to leave us sadly unguided and perplexed when we attempt to act upon them.

JANE ADDAMS, Democracy and Social Ethics

Does this mean that I am an opponent of democracy? Not at all. Fiction for fiction, it is the least harmful. But it is well not to confound its promises with realities. The fiction consists in the postulate of all democratic government, that the great majority of the electors in a state are enlightened, free, honest, and patriotic--whereas such a postulate is a mere chimera. The majority in any state is necessarily composed of the most ignorant, the poorest, and the least capable; the state is therefore at the mercy of accident and passion, and it always ends by succumbing at one time or another to the rash conditions which have been made for its existence. A man who condemns himself to live upon the tight-rope must inevitably fall; one has no need to be a prophet to foresee such a result.

HENRI-FREDERIC AMIEL, Journal Intime

Democracy is also a single ideology, and, like all such templates, it has its limits. what works in a legislature might not work in a corporation.

FAREED ZAKARIA, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad

Education in democracy must be carried on within the Party so that members can understand the meaning of democratic life, the meaning of the relationship between democracy and centralism, and the way in which democratic centralism should be put into practice. Only in this way can we really extend democracy within the Party and at the same time avoid ultra-democracy and the laissez-faire that destroys discipline.

MAO ZEDONG, "The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War", Oct. 1938

To view the opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy. To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI, Letters From Burma

I submit to you that when in each man the dream of personal greatness dies, democracy loses the real source of its future strength.

EDWIN H. LAND, address at MIT, "Generation of Greatness: The Idea of a University in an Age of Science", May 22, 1957

Democracy is a form of the state, it represents, on the one hand, the organized, systematic use of force against persons; but, on the other hand, it signifies the formal recognition of equality of citizens, the equal right of all to determine the structure of, and to administer, the state.

VLADIMIR LENIN, The State and Revolution

Democracy is a difficult art of government, demanding of its citizens high ratios of courage and literacy, and at the moment we lack both the necessary habits of mind and a sphere of common reference.

LEWIS H. LAPHAM, Lights, Camera, Democracy!

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, "Definition of Democracy", August 1, 1858

Ironic, isn't it Smithers. This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That's democracy for you!

MR. BURNS, "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish", The Simpsons

The generation you consult will be more democratic and better instructed than our own; for the progress of democracy, though not constant, is certain, and the progress of knowledge is both constant and certain.

LORD ACTON, letter to Mary Gladstone, December 14, 1880

Democracy is a system that gives people a chance to elect rascals of their own choice.

DOUG LARSON, attributed, Great Sayings and Quotations

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