Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Democracy Definition:

A form of government in which the people freely govern themselves; where the executive (or administrative) and law-making (or legislative) power is given to persons chosen by the population; the free people.

Related Terms: Monarchy, Republic, Rule of Law, Polyarchy, Theocracy, Oligarchy

In the result, the government is said to be 'representative', as in representative of the people.

As John Adams (1735-1826) said in his 1774 proclamation address:

"As the happiness of the people is the sole end of democracy, so the consent of the people is the only foundation of it."

In Qu v Canada, the Federal Court wrote:

"(D)emocracy is a political system by which the citizens of a country govern themselves.... where their elected representatives make laws; the executive branch administers those laws and is responsible for the way it does so.

"(D)emocratic government, institutions or processes (are) institutions or processes engaged in political governance or the system by which citizens organize and govern themselves in the State; … public authorities elected by and responsible to the constituency; … institutions exercising political (governmental) authority incorporating democratic values as to how citizens operate in organized society."

In Vriend v Alberta, Canada’s Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci wrote:

"(T)he concept of democracy means more than majority rule…. In my view, a democracy requires that legislators take into account the interests of majorities and minorities alike, all of whom will be affected by the decisions they make."

One ought not to be ignorant of these words of Justice L. Brandeis (1856-1941):

"We may have democracy. Or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can't have both."

In the High Court of Justice of Israel offered these words in High Court of Justice of Israel, Pub. Comm. Against Torture v. State of Israel:

"This is the destiny of a democracy - it does not see all means as acceptable, and the ways of its enemies are not always open before it. A democracy must sometimes fight with one hand tied behind its back. Even so, a democracy has the upper hand. The rule of law and the liberty of an individual constitute important components in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit."

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Winston Churchill once said:

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."


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