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A representative democracy is a system where citizens of a country vote for government representatives to handle legislation and ruling the country on their behalf. It is the opposite of direct democracy, where the public gets to vote on laws to be passed and other issues; and autocracy, where a dictator has absolute power and the people have no say in how a country is governed.

representative democracy

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How Does a Representative Democracy Work?

The U.S., Britain and India are all examples of this type of democracy (and many other countries worldwide follow this model.) Most representative democracies have multi-party elections. The power representatives have in a liberal representative democracy needs to be balanced, which is why most of them have some form of measure in place:

  • A constitution, which specifies how much power representatives may claim
  • An independent judiciary, such as a supreme court or constitutional court, with the authority to declare something the representative government decides on to be unconstitutional.
  • An “upper house” such as the British House of Lords or the Canadian Senate.

What Are the Benefits Of This Representative Approach?

According to constitutionus.com:

Some important benefits show why the representative democracy method remains in place. There are benefits in having state senators taking care of business for their citizens. Voters have the chance to put their preferred representative in charge and then not have to worry about ballots until major elections. They can still write to officials and campaign, but there is no pressure to vote on everything that has major national implications.

State representatives should be able to vote based on the will of the people and do what is best for their area. They should also have the knowledge and influence to keep the process in motion.

What Are The Disadvantages Of The Representative Approach?

Although a representative democracy works, it isn’t perfect. The biggest problem is that these officials aren’t legally obligated to reflect the will of the people. They can say they will do one thing and then do another. Political influence, monetary gain, and other corrupt factors can damage the integrity of the office. An additional issue here is that this disconnect from political processes can cause voter apathy. If citizens believe their views don’t matter, where is the incentive to vote?

This article is part of our larger resource on the Colonial America culture, society, economics, and warfare. Click here for our comprehensive article on Colonial America.

Cite This Article
"What is a Representative Democracy and How Does It Work?" History on the Net
© 2000-2024, Salem Media.
July 13, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/what-is-a-representative-democracy>
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