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A precise definition of democracy might be had by consulting the OED.Democracy is government by the people; a form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them.The Athenian constitution was oligarchical, in every respect. They cultivated the lands of the rich and paid rent.
The best of the thinkers saw a process, -- call it democracy -- by which groups might bloodlessly choose a leader.
That each of the governed should have a say, or least an opportunity to have a say, is a high flying ideal; but any system by which the peace is kept is an admirable system and democracy, such as it has evolved, has proven, in many cases, to be just such a system.
In modern use it vaguely denotes a social state in which all have equal rights, without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege.
Walter Bagehot gave it a more uncelestial definition: "Each man is to have one twelve-millionth share in electing a Parliament; the rich and the wise are not to have, by explicit law, more votes than the poor and stupid; nor are any latent contrivances to give them an influence equivalent to more votes."4 It is from the suffix, "-ocracy" by which we might determine the operative meaning of the larger word, "democracy"; it is the indicator of the dominant, superior, or aspiring class who would rule; it is derived from the Greek word kratos, meaning strength or power.
Putting aside, for the moment, the arguments of Hobbes and Locke, I believe, on the basis of plain historical fact, that governments come about naturally and maintain themselves naturally without the general will of the people; indeed, I believe, with many others I suspect, that our long established democratic governments in the world (the United States and Canada being among them) did not come about by the general will of the people, at all; nor is it necessary that it should it be maintained by the will of the people.3 One should not conclude, therefore, that democracy is necessary for good government: It may not be.
What is necessary for optimum prosperity is a state of acquiescence, which, as it happens, is the hallmark of western democracies.
A man is not permitted to hesitate about its merits, without the suspicion of being a friend to tyranny, that is, of being a foe to mankind?
2 The notions of government and of democracy are independent notions and do not, from what I can see, depend on one another.
Any word might be added to this suffix, which will then indicate the type of rule, such as: plutocracy (rule by the wealthy), ochlocracy (mob-rule), angelocracy (government by angels), etc.
Democracy is the rule by, or the dominion of, the people; it comes from the Greek word, demos. Democracy, historically speaking, is to be compared with monarchy, rule of one; or with aristocracy, rule of the "best-born," or rule of the nobles.