On the Intro of The Principles of Representative Government by Manin

Essay by meeluminaCollege, Undergraduate November 2012

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The Principles of Representative Government

In the introduction to The Principles of Representative Government, Bernard Manin discusses how the meaning of the word "democracy" has changed, and how the distinction between direct democracy and representative government is unclear.

Canada is generally labelled as a democracy (that is, a government by the people), as we hold elections and have voting rights for those over the age of majority. More specifically, Canada would be a representative democracy, as we follow Manin's four principles of representative government. We elect people who will then represent us, the decision-making of those who govern us has a "degree of independence", we can express our opinions without them being controlled by those who govern, and we debate public decisions.

However, even though we seem to be a representative democracy, I think that people forget that Canada is technically a constitutional monarchy. Canada is its own independent country, but it is still tied to the British monarch.

The highest-ranking official in our government was not elected by us: rather, it is the Queen, Elizabeth II. Although we consider her a figurehead, a leader without real authority, her presence is represented in our government by our Governor-General. Of course, despite this, Canada is politically independent. The Prime Minister (at the moment, Stephen Harper) is the one who uses executive powers.

I have always thought of Canada as a democracy myself, but have never actually thought about distinguishing between different types of democracy. It is notable that Manin points out that the representative democracy seen in some governments today were, at one point, not considered democratic at all. Another thing I thought about was how we don't really vote for people we think will represent us well in Canada. A lot of people vote for parties instead, and...