What are the key features and limitations of a liberal democratic state?

Essay by somastrokesA-, March 2003

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Democracy is a frequently used word but its meaning is rarely fully understood. A democratic political system is one in which the ultimate political authority is vested in the people. The word democracy comes from the Greek words "demos" which means the people and "kratos" which means authority. Democracy first flourished in the ancient polis of Athens, where huge gatherings were held in order to vote on certain issues.

Liberalism is a political view that seeks to change the political, economic or social quo to foster the development and well-being of the individual. Liberalism is more concerned with process, with the method of solving problems, than with a specific programme.

As a political system, democracy starts with the assumption of popular sovereignty, vesting ultimate power in the people. It presupposes that people can control their destiny and that they can make moral judgements and practical decisions in their day lives.

In implies a continuing search for truth in the sense of humanity's pursuit of improved ways of building social institutions and ordering human relations. Democracy requires a decision-making system based on majority rule, with minority rights protected.

Effective guarantees of freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, petition and of equality before the law are indispensable to a democratic system of government. Politics, parties and politicians are the catalytic agents that make democracy workable.

There are two forms of democracy. The first and most basic of the two is Direct democracy. A perfect example of Direct democracy is the modern referendum, when the public is asked to vote on a single issue. However, with liberal democracy, the term 'Representative democracy' is employed. This entails electing individuals to represent us in Parliament and other assemblies. In the modern pluralistic democratic state, power typically is exercised in groups or institutions in a...