Democracies

Report
Civics Studies 11
MUNDY 2007
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Dictatorship occurs when one person or small
group holds all power in a government
Dictators decide upon their own rules for the
country’s people and businesses
People are not given chance for elections to
change government
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Dictators do not allow criticism or dissent,
frequently using country’s military and courts
to control anyone who objects
“Rule of law” not followed – dictator is above
law
Dictators often justify their rule by
persuading people that they are doing this for
the benefit of the people’s wealth, safety
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Dictators have appeared throughout history
in a variety of countries across the political
spectrum (left to right):
Benito Mussolini
Italy - Fascist
Julius Caesar
Rome
Joseph Stalin
Russia –
Communist
Idi Amin
Uganda –
Nationalist
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Dictators take power either by coup d’etat,
revolution or through general support of
people
Many dictators enjoy popular support initially
due to poor economic or political chaos –
people want tough leader to bring order to
country
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Termed by Greek philosopher Aristotle to
mean rule of a country by a few priviledged
individuals as a group
Aristotle felt that rule by a few of the best
and brightest would be ideal form of
government, what he called ARISTOCRACY
If a government, however, was ruled only by
wealthy group, this was PLUTOCRACY
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The ruling members of an oligarchy can be
made up of people of similar:
◦ Race (South Africa – white rule)
◦ Wealth (Upper Canada – “Family Compact”)
◦ Family (Kazakhstan – Nazarbayev)
◦ Religion (Saudi Arabia – Wahhabism, now monarchy)
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Oligarchies are very similar in their control
over their country’s people:
◦ Stifling freedom of press
◦ Authoritarian control through army/police
◦ Lack of independent judiciary (courts)
◦ Banning opposition parties in elections
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Purpose of oligarchies is to spread wealth and
privileges amongst the rulers and those they
wish to include
Example: South Africa allowed businesses,
civil rights and legal benefits for white people
only, barring black majority populace from
these liberties
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“democracy” comes from Greek word “demos”
meaning ‘people’
Democracy means people hold the power in a
country; power over their legislators and their
overall government.
This is typically called “majority rule” through
elections in which the government is chosen
by the majority of people.
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First instance of democracy was in Ancient
India in 11th Century BCE, later organized as
sabha (assembly, primarily chieftains) and
samiti (a meeting of people in tribe), who
kept control over a king by voting on matters
Second instance is in the 5th Century BCE
Mesopotamia (now Iraq), where kings
required consent from senate and “men of
the town” (assembly) to go to war
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Greek government was a DIRECT
DEMOCRACY
DIRECT DEMOCRACY involves all citizens in a
country in its decision making (bills, laws,
etc.) by having them meet and decide in
person
In Greece, all adults (18 and up) who were
born within the country and not slaves were
expected to participate in public dialogue on
issues
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Greek leader Pericles, first to
endorse direct democracy in
Greece:
◦ “Our system of government does
not copy the systems of our
neighbors: we are a model to
them, not them to us. Our
constitution is called a
democracy, because power rests
not in the hands of the few but of
the many... We differ from other
states in regarding the man who
keeps aloof from public life not
as “private” but as useless”
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In Greece, citizens met at the Pnyx, near the
Acropolis in Athens, to debate issues
important to the welfare of the country
The speaker’s
Corner at Pnyx
Athens, Greece
Citizens were able to express their concerns
and directly vote on laws and policies that
mattered to them
One pitfall of the direct democracy process was
the emergence of DEMAGOGUES
Demagogues use lies to prey on people’s fears
and prejudices in order to manipulate them
into voting for their policies
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H.L. Mencken, political critic and humorist,
wrote that demagogues, “will preach
doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he
knows to be idiots.”
Yes, demagogues
exist even today!
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Today’s democracies are known as
REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACIES
Representative Democracies differ from
Direct Democracies in that they allow its
citizens to vote not directly on the proposed
laws and policies, but for officials who will
represent them in parliaments when deciding
upon new laws.
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Any country using a democratic form of
government can be seen as either:
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FULL DEMOCRACY
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PARTIAL DEMOCRACY
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EMERGING DEMOCRACY
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Countries with FULL DEMOCRACIES have the
following characteristics:
◦ A constitution that guarantees individual rights and
freedoms
◦ Majority rule
◦ Protection of minority rights
◦ Rule of law
◦ Choice of political parties
◦ Free and fair elections
◦ Independent judiciary
◦ Civilian control over armed forces
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Tony Benn video on Democracy
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With PARTIAL or EMERGING DEMOCRACIES,
any range of elements of a FULL DEMOCRACY
are weak or not present, such as:
◦ A judiciary (courts) that is influenced by a leader or
the wealthy (corrupt)
◦ Only one political party allowed to campaign in
elections
◦ Press and media (TV, internet news) are censored
by government
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EMERGING DEMOCRACIES differ from PARTIAL
DEMOCRACIES in that:
EMERGING DEMOCRACIES are attempting to
reform their country’s government to
incorporate more democratic elements to
reach FULL DEMOCRACY
Whereas PARTIAL DEMOCRACIES have
governments who wish for no changes
towards FULL DEMOCRACIES

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