If three friends need to decide between eating pizza or burgers, they could debate and agree or they could put it to vote and go with the majority. Since there are only two options and three people, once the votes are counted, there would be a winner. This is an example of democracy at work.
More specifically, it is an example of what is called a direct democracy. This is a democracy where the voters have a direct say in the decisions made by the group. Imagine if the entire school of 3000 kids had to choose between pizza and burgers. That would be very hard. One way out would be for each class to choose a representative who could then vote on behalf of the entire class. This would be an example of representative democracy.
Similarly, entire countries can also make decisions in this way. People could vote directly for every decision or elect representatives who vote on their behalf. The first would be called direct democracy and the second would be a representative democracy.
Although no country has a completely direct democracy, Switzerland asks its citizens to vote on a variety of issues. For a large country, this would be impossible to do. For example, India, the world’s largest democracy, and the United States, the world’s oldest democracy are both examples of representative democracy. In representative democracies, the representatives make decisions on behalf of the public who voted for them.
Democracy is a way of deciding things that are fair to the members making the decision. It is a concept that is simple when there are only three people involved. Yet it can be used to make decisions for a country with nearly one and a half billion people.
Over the years the idea of a democracy has evolved yet the central principle remains the same. Everyone gets a voice in the way their country is run. The process to do this remains the same across small towns and states, to entire countries. Citizens stand for elections and if they win, they have a say in how the country is run.
Democracy is a way of managing decision-making so that everyone has a say in the matter. It works on every level, from choosing something to eat to choosing what we do as a country.
Unfortunately, until recently, democracy wasn’t for everyone. Till just 100 years ago, women weren’t allowed to vote in the United States, but slowly it expanded to include everyone in most established democracies. Today, out of the 193 countries in the United Nations, 167 of them are democracies (See image below).
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