What Democracy is Not

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Many people think that democracy is merely "voting about issues", or that democracy is just a matter of elections, so that whoever is able to get 51% of the votes wins and has the authority to govern. Even in countries with a long tradition of democracy, there are people who think that this is democracy. Formally it is true, of course, that any group with 51% of the votes has the majority, and theoretically it could rule without asking the remaining 49%. But that would not be a true democracy, it would be a tyranny of the majority.

A democracy protects and respects its minorities. Those 49% also have the right to a decent life and to be heard--everybody has the right to a decent life and to be heard!--and it is up to the majority to make decisions which ensure this. It is not democracy, for example, if all brunettes decide that all redheads must pay an extra 20% in taxes, or that the majority can practice their preferred religion, but the minority cannot.

Democracy is about listening to one another and coming up with solutions together through negotiation, even if the majority could force through decisions which one or more minorities were against.

Democracy is a complex phenomenon. It is many things at once, and democracy-handbook.org tries to introduce as many of them as possible.


Next chapter: 14 Definitions of Democracy