About Democracy's Institutions, Traditions and Laws

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Democracy is not just a system of government that is established and can then be left to take care of itself. It is a kind of culture that requires constant nurture and care, and which needs the right conditions, institutions and traditions to maintain its existence. The institutions of democracy are defined by law, while the traditions evolve from history and cultural habits and are harder to define.

Often, some of the institutions and conditions of democracy contradict one another, and it is through these “clashes” that democracy works. For instance, the free press and the government tend to disagree frequently. There may be different and conflicting interests at stake on certain issues, freedom of speech being one example. On the one hand, it is fundamental to a working and healthy democracy that people can speak openly and honestly about anything without fear. On the other hand, it is damaging to a society if that right of free speech is abused and used to promote hate and violence. In that case, civil society starts to fall apart and democracy is threatened.

It is the nature of democracy that we shall never find a final and eternal solution to such dilemmas. Instead we must constantly negotiate the right balance between freedoms and responsibilities among each other and in society as a whole. To help us in this process we have the institutions, traditions and laws of democracy.


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