What is Democracy?
In this article, I will argue that democracy is “the rule of the people,” by which I mean a form of government characterized by constitutional direct representation.
In its purest form, democracy demands three things: First, that the people, that is, all willing members of the community, rule; second, that no powers be separated and no hierarchies established; and third, that in order to protect the minority from oppression, community members govern under the guidance of a constitution. Therefore, democracy must be defined in the following manner: A method of government characterized by a single representative body, populated by every willing member of the community, lacking separation of powers and organizational hierarchy and guided by principles handed down in the form of a constitution.
Let me first address the claim that democracy must consist of a single governing body populated by every willing member of the community (“willing member of the community” shall be defined as any member of the community willing to take part in the legislative process and capable of mature, independent thought).
Democracy denotes “the rule of the people.” Simply put, it is a method of government in which the people rule. In this case, semantics is key. Democracy is “the rule of the people,” not “the rule of those elected by the people.” This point is crucial. The election of representative officers replaces “the rule of the people” with “the rule of the people on election day.” To rule, one must do just that: rule. In “representative governments,” the people do not rule. They choose who rules them. For that reason, “the rule of the people” can only exist when community members represent themselves – that is, it can only exist when they rule, casting votes, writing laws, and debating policy.
Further, democracy is incompatible with the separation of powers and organizational hierarchy (i.e. Speaker of the House), as both presuppose elections. Democracy cannot support elections, for elections necessarily remove the people from the act of ruling, contradicting the essence of democratic government (“the rule of the people”). Thus, to sum up my claims so far, democracy must consist of the following: a single governing body, populated by every willing member of the community, lacking separation of powers and organizational hierarchy.
Now let me move on to my final contention – that is, that the aforementioned representative body must operate under the guidance of a constitution. Democracy is “the rule of the people.” It is not, as some suppose, “the rule of the majority.” Hence, democracy demands that the minority be protected. Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the ability to filibuster legislative acts adequately fulfill that demand. These rights form the foundation of democracy, shielding the minority from the oppression of the majority. Accordingly, to protect them from abuse and substantially complicate the process of revocation, these rights must be enshrined in a constitution.
At this point, I feel obliged to acknowledge that democracy cannot survive in much of the modern world. Direct representation, for example, is only feasible in small, autonomous communities. Further, human nature demands structure. That structure comes in the form of hierarchy, an idea I have shown to contradict the notion of democratic rule. Hence, my definition of democracy exists as a philosophical ideal, to be strived for but never realized.
To conclude, a true democracy must consist of a single governing body, populated by all willing members of the community, lacking separation of powers and organizational hierarchy and guided by constitutional principles. These characteristics embody the essence of democracy: “the rule of the people.”