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3) Moral Equality

4) Presumption of Equality

3. Majority Rule, Minority Rights

(The following one-pager is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Principles of Democracy.)

On the surface, the principles of majority rule and the protection of individual and minority rights would seem contradictory. In fact, however, these principles are twin pillars holding up the very foundation of what we mean by democratic government.

• Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual.

• Minorities – whether as a result of ethnic background, religious belief, geographic location, income level, or simply as the losers in elections or political debate – enjoy guaranteed basic human rights that no government, and no majority, elected or not, should remove.

• Minorities need to trust that the government will protect their rights and self-identity. Once this is accomplished, such groups can participate in, and contribute to their country's democratic institutions.

• Among the basic human rights that any democratic government must protect are freedom of speech and expression; freedom of religion and belief; due process and equal protection under the law; and freedom to organize, speak out, dissent, and participate fully in the public life of their society.

Political freedom is the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression. Freedom is commonly known as a state of being free from government oppression.

The opposite of a free society is a totalitarian state, which highly restricts political freedom in order to regulate almost every aspect of behavior. In this sense ‘freedom’ refers solely to the relation of humans to other humans, and the only infringement on it is coercion by humans[1].


The concept of political freedom is very closely allied with the concepts of civil liberties and individual rights, which in most democratic societies is characterized by various freedoms which are afforded the legal protection from the state. Some of these freedoms may include (in alphabetical order):

  • Freedom of assembly

  • Freedom of association

  • Freedom of movement

  • Freedom of religion

  • Freedom of speech

  • Freedom of the press

  • Freedom of thought

  • Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, which is related to freedom of privacy

  • Freedom to bear arms

  • Suffrage

  • Scientific freedom

  • Academic freedom

22. A democratic government and role of the people

Government by the people, usually through elected representatives, such as local councillors or members of a parliamentary government. In the modern world, democracy has developed from the American and French revolutions.

Historical background

Democracy is one of the six classical forms of government described by Aristotle, denoting government by the demos, or populace at large, as opposed to government by a few, or by a single ruler.


A political system can properly be called democratic only if the government in power can be peacefully removed by a majority decision of the people, through fair and open elections. There are few nation states today that do not claim to be democratic, but not all would qualify on the basis of this criterion.

Democratic government

A democracy is a form of government in which the people, either directly or indirectly, take part in governing. However, the term is also sometimes used as a measurement of how much influence a people has over their government, as in how much democracy exists. The word democracy originates from the Greek "demos" meaning "the people" and "kratein" meaning "to rule" or "the people to rule" which meant literally: "Rule by the People."

A modern democracy implies certain rights for citizens:

  • right to elect government through free and fair elections

  • freedom of speech

  • the rule of law

  • human rights

  • freedom of assembly

  • freedom from discrimination

There is much debate on the ability of a democracy to properly represent both the 'will of the people' and to do what is 'right', but to quote Winston Churchill:

'Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.'

This is because there is no system that can ideally order society. Traditionally the purpose of democracy is to prevent tyranny (the accumulation of too much authority in the hands of one or a few). That is, democracy is not intended to give us "good" government, but to put some limits to the abuse of power.

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