What is the Defining Right of a Representative Democracy

What is the Defining Right of a Representative Democracy

Essential Principles

“We hold these truths to be self-axiomatic, that all men are created equal, that they

are endowed

by their Creator with sure unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty

and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are


amongst Men, deriving their only Powers from the Consent of the Governed . . .”

Declaration of Independence, Us, 1776

The about fundamental concept of democracy is the idea that authorities exists to secure the rights of the people and must be based on the consent of the governed. Today, the quote to a higher place from the U.S. Proclamation of Independence is considered a proverb of the ideal course of authorities.


The Statue of Liberty, adopted as a symbol for democracy by student protestors in China’southward Tiananmen Foursquare in 1989.

The essential significant of “consent of the governed” can possibly all-time be understood by examining countries where it is defective. China is one case. In the spring of 1989, academy students organized a prolonged serial of protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to need truth, accountability, freedom, and democracy from their regime. They adopted as their symbol a likeness of the Statue of Liberty, calling it the Goddess of Liberty. Millions of people joined the students in Beijing and other cities beyond China to demand a voice in the government that had long been used to deny people’s freedom.

Since the Communist Party had seized ability in 1949, those who dared to oppose its dictates had been subject to abort or worse. The regime’s principal say-so to govern was the Communist principle of “democratic centralism,” meaning that the decisions of the party’south fundamental leadership — and ultimately the party leader — could not exist questioned. The Communist Party’south repressive policies and ideological campaigns caused millions of deaths through famine, execution, and violent political purges.

The Chinese people consented to none of this. The communist regime had been built through revolution and terror; no complimentary election had ever been held in the People’south Republic. And in 1989 the Chinese people demanded democratic change. On June 4, Deng Xiaoping, the acme Communist leader, ordered the apply of strength to put down the demonstrations in Tiananmen Foursquare and throughout Red china. The globe saw students stand before tanks
to resist, simply ultimately they were helpless to preclude the mass killings and arrests that ensued. Virtually 30 years later, the Communist Party remains the supreme authority. The students and workers who sought republic were imprisoned, expelled from school or fired from work, forced into exile, pressured to recant their views, and even denied housing. Until at present, repression of human rights has finer prevented any re-emergence of the popular demand for republic. This is a system based on the opposite of the consent of the governed. (For a more detailed treatment of the People’s Republic of China and the repression of its democracy movement run into Country Studies in
Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Association

Before Consent of the Governed

Until the original thirteen American states asserted the principle of consent of the governed every bit self-evident, it had been applied only rarely in the world’s register. For most of recorded history, people lived under unlike types of dictatorship, usually a form of autocracy, the dominion of a single leader exercising unlimited power. Sometimes, the ruler was the best warrior, able to seize power over a group or nation (such as Genghis Khan in 13th-century Asia). Such leaders oftentimes founded hereditary monarchies, the most common form of autocracy. In almost cases, the monarch was all-powerful, claiming his or her position by “divine right” (equally in Europe) or by the “mandate of sky” (equally in China). The ruler was sovereign, the supreme dominance of a state. The people were not citizens only subjects. They never consented to exist governed, yet owed their total obedience and loyalty to the ruler. Disobedience was punished, often past pain of death. In some countries, kings or emperors agreed to limit their powers in response to the demands of landowners and noblemen who had gained substantial wealth, establishing a arrangement of consent by the elite. England’s Magna Carta (Great Charter) of 1215 is amid the about famous agreements limiting the powers of a king. It guaranteed that the king and his successors would not violate the best-selling rights and privileges of the aristocracy, the clergy, and even more limited property owners in towns (see besides Section iii:
Ramble Limits).

Just even when its powers were express, monarchy meant arbitrary and unrepresentative dominion for most subjects, locking them into a life of servitude. The idea that the people were themselves sovereign was — and in many places remains — revolutionary.


King John of England signing the Magna Carta in 1215.

Consent of the Governed: A Positive Definition

The United states of America was the showtime modern state formed around the principle of consent of the governed. The term implies that the people of a country or territory have the right of self-rule and must consent, either in a straight plebiscite or through elected representatives, to the establishment of their ain government. In most modern cases, the form of the land is a republic, or rule by voting citizens within an agreed-upon ramble and legal framework. But some monarchies also operate with the consent of the governed, as in the Britain, where over fourth dimension the monarch has given up most political and authoritative functions to elected officials and the regime is formed through regular elections.

An original consent of the governed —  the adoption of a new constitution or the formation of a new state — is usually achieved through direct democracy such as a referendum or referendum. But it may too be achieved through elected representative institutions, such as an existing legislature or a special constitutional assembly. In some cases, the institution of a new governmental system requires a “supermajority,” from three-fifths to three-quarters, to convey overwhelming popular assent, but frequently a simple bulk suffices.
(For example, the U.S. Constitution required the approval of ratifying conventions in at least nine of the 13 states for it to take result. An amendment to the constitution must be passed by three-quarters of the states either by a majority vote of their state legislatures or in ratifying land conventions. Yet, many countries have used simple popular majorities in national referenda to establish both national and supranational structures.
What remains stock-still is the principle that the people are sovereign and must provide their key consent to be governed.

The almost common course of democracy is a parliamentary system, in which the executive branch is controlled by the political political party or coalition of political parties that wins a majority of seats in parliament and is able to form a government. Unlike in the American presidential organization, parliamentary systems have few ramble checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches. The arrangement relies heavily on the oversight of the opposition party or parties in parliament. Once a form of democratic government is established, elections are the master vehicle for renewing the consent of the governed. Each election is an opportunity for the people to change their leaders and the policies of the state. When a item authorities loses the people’s confidence, they have the right to supercede it. The legislature may pass laws to reform the arrangement within the bounds of the constitution; if laws are insufficient, the people and their representatives tin choose to modify or replace the constitution itself.

Parliamentary systems provide a more direct consent of the governed through elections, whether in “first past the post” systems like the Britain (where seats in parliament are won by the person with the nearly votes, whether or not it is a majority) or in proportional representation or mixed systems (where almost seats are adamant proporionally according to the national vote by party listing). Oddly, the United states, the world’s oldest continuous commonwealth, does non offer direct but inderect election for its national role through an Electoral College. While the Electoral College vote usually has coincided with the national vote, in 2016, for the second time in 16 years, the national vote winner (by 2.85 million) was denied the role of president in favor of the winner of the electoral college vote, which was achieved by several narrowly won victories in key states.

Consent of the Governed: A Negative Definition

Equally noted above, in defining consent of the governed, information technology is helpful to examine cases where information technology is absent. Modern disciplinarian regimes offer many clear examples of what it means to accept a system without the people’s consent. As is reviewed in the Country Studies of Democracy Web, these regimes have various forms, including autocracy (such as




monarchy (such as


Saudi Arabia), theocracy (such equally the
Islamic Republic of Iran), war machine rule (common to Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s and ‘80s, as in

Republic of bolivia,


Republic of guatemala

and apartheid (or rule by a racial minority as occurred in
South Africa). Simply it is typical for all forms of authoritarian government to deny freedom to the bulk of people, exercise power arbitrarily, and act ruthlessly to keep themselves in ability. A distinct category of dictatorship is totalitarianism, which is based on a comprehensive ideology (such as fascism or communism) and a disciplined party apparatus. These regimes are defined by their total social control over the population, typically achieved through purges of public institutions, general repression, and mass execution. Historical examples include Nazi Frg, the Soviet Union, and the
People’s Democracy of China
nether Mao Zedong. Current examples are


andNorth Korea.

Many modern authoritarian rulers have seized ability by citing the need to safeguard the integrity of the state confronting supposed external threats or to maintain political stability against unruly elements in society. Communist dictatorships purported to reach economical and social rights of the population past exterminating the former ruling elites. What both types of regimes generally achieve is oppression and poverty. Oftentimes such arbitrary rule has led to dearth, war, and even genocide.

Although well-nigh authoritarian rulers seize ability through violent revolution or a coup d’état, they claim to accept the consent of the governed. But they rarely allow free and fair elections or referendums to test their claims — what are called elections are controlled and manipulated by fraud. When a relatively free election or plebiscite has actually been allowed by a dictatorship, the people more often than not vote confronting it (every bit in


in 1988,


in 1989, and Serbia in 2000). At that place are some cases, such as Nazi Deutschland, in which a modern dictatorship has been described every bit coming to power through fair elections. In fact, the Nazi Party won only a parliamentary minority in the elections of 1933. Hitler, one time given office, seized total power through intimidation and thuggery in what amounted to a insurrection d’état (see Country Study of


The Right to Rebellion

Implied in the principle of consent of the governed is the right to withdraw that consent — to overthrow a government that abuses the people through tyrannical, arbitrary, incompetent, or unrepresentative dominion. This was the right that the British philosopher John Locke asserted was intrinsic to a system of natural law (see

), and that the 13 American states invoked against King George 3 in 1776.


King George 3 of England, 1771.

2 centuries later, the people of Eastern Europe rose upward to assert the same right against an oppressive Communist organization. But Locke’s principle is not a full general right of rebellion or revolution; he did non advocate anarchy. The crusade of rebellion — or the withdrawal of consent — must remainder on the violation of the natural rights of citizens, that is, on the establishment of tyranny. Thus, in 1860, President Abraham Lincoln asserted the opposite principle, that a minority of states could not be allowed to insubordinate to preserve slavery (the tyranny of a minority) and thus destroy a ramble organization established on a representative, democratic system of governance. Such a republic had to exist preserved against an anti-constitutional and anti-democratic rebellion.

Today, vehement rebellion has come up to be seen as a concluding resort. In most mod cases of the overthrow of dictatorship, from anticolonial movements to anti-Communist movements, peaceful protest and civic resistance has been a more successful grade of “rebellion” than the violent overthrow of a government, especially for the purpose of establishing a commonwealth based on consent of the governed.

Minorities Withdrawing Consent

What happens when a subjugated minority asserts the right to withdraw its consent to be governed by the will of the majority? This has occurred in a number of places where ethnic or religious minorities desire independence from dominant and usually oppressive ethnic or religious majorities. In general, the globe has recognized the right of self-conclusion for oppressed peoples to form their own cocky-governing regions or independent states, every bit was the case recently in Kosovo and East Timor. As well, in Sweden, Italy and other countries, minorities have gained increased autonomy without demanding independence. Simply for some minorities seeking independence or autonomy, the world has been less supportive of the assertion of the right of self-determination and has failed to prevent the suppression of rebellions, fifty-fifty when the government has resorted to mass killings or genocide. This has been the example in Chechnya and Darfur in the Sudan. Despite several international treaties and documents defining nationality and minority rights, the globe’southward nations have shown little consistency in this surface area (see also
Majority Rule, Minority Rights
Homo Rights).

What is the Defining Right of a Representative Democracy

Source: https://democracyweb.org/consent-of-the-governed-principles

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