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US Government


What is a democracy?

A democracy is a government run by the people. Each citizen has a say (or vote) in how the government is run. This is different from a monarchy or dictatorship where one person (the king or dictator) has all the power.

Types of Democracy

There are two main types of democracies: direct and representative.

Direct - A direct democracy is one in which every citizen votes on all important decisions. One of the first direct democracies was in Athens, Greece. All of the citizens would gather to vote in the main square on major issues. A direct democracy becomes difficult when the population grows. Imagine the 300 million people of the United States trying to get together in one place to decide an issue. It would be impossible.

Representative - The other type of democracy is a representative democracy. This is where the people elect representatives to run the government. Another name for this type of democracy is a democratic republic. The United States is a representative democracy. The citizens elect representatives such as the president, members of congress, and senators to run the government.

What characteristics make up a democracy?

Most democratic governments today have certain characteristics in common. We list a few of the major ones below:

Citizens rule - We've already discussed this in the definition of democracy. The power of the government must rest in the hands of the citizens either directly or through elected representatives.

Free elections - Democracies conduct free and fair elections where all citizens are allowed to vote how they want.

Majority rule with Individual rights - In a democracy, the majority of the people will rule, but the rights of the individual are protected. While the majority may make the decisions, each individual has certain rights such as free speech, freedom of religion, and protection under the law.

Limitations on Lawmakers - In a democracy there are limits placed on the elected officials such as the president and the congress. They only have certain powers and also have term limits where they are only in office for so long.

Citizen participation - The citizens of a democracy must participate for it to work. They must understand the issues and vote. Also, in most democracies today, all citizens are allowed to vote. There are no restrictions on race, gender, or wealth as there was in the past.

Democracies in Reality

While democracy may sound like the perfect form of government, like all governments, it has its issues in reality. Some criticisms of democracies include: However, despite the issues of democracy, it has proven to be one of the fairest and most efficient forms of modern government in the world today. People living in democratic governments tend to have more freedoms, protections, and a higher standard of living than in other forms of government.

Is the United States a Democracy?

The United States is an indirect democracy or a republic. While each citizen only has a small say, they do have some say in how the government is run and who runs the government.

Interesting Facts about Democracy Activities To learn more about the United States government:

Branches of Government
Executive Branch
President's Cabinet
US Presidents

Legislative Branch
House of Representatives
How Laws are Made

Judicial Branch
Landmark Cases
Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
John Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
Sonia Sotomayor
United States Constitution
The Constitution
Bill of Rights
Other Constitutional Amendments
First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights

Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office

Works Cited

History >> US Government

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