Liberalism vs. Democracy
Liberalism, formed in the latter part of the 18th Century from opposition to existing political monarchies in Europe, was based on rights of individuals and the responsibility of government to protect those rights. Liberalism has an ambivalent relationship with democracy, as liberals are against collective power, but support political equality. In the nineteenth century liberals were often opposed to democracy as they saw it as a threat to individual rights - the people are not a single entity but rather a collection of individuals with different opinions and interests, and so it is impossible for every view and opinion to be respected. Since the twentieth century most liberals have come round to the idea of democracy, and support it, but they still have reservations. Liberals defend democracy for a variety of reasons. First of all it ensures public accountability. This gives the people a degree of protection against governments becoming too strong. Liberals believe in limited government, and democracy provides this system, as the government is accountable to the people.
Democracy comes from two Greek words: a noun demos which means, “people” and a verb, kratein, which means “to rule”. Democracy first appeared in Athens towards the beginning of the fifth century B.C. The biggest difference between Athenian democracy and almost all other democracies is that the Athenian version was a direct democracy rather than being representative. Democracy came about in Athens as a result of the growing navel power and the reforms made by leaders such as Cleisthenes and Pericles. The city-state of Athens, 5th century Athens to be precise, is the inventor and first practitioner of democracy. So for 4,000 years men and women lived under forms of government other than democratic. For some 2,500 years now democracy has existed, with varying degrees of consistency of theory and practice. But it all began in the 5th century before Christ in Athens.
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