Comparison of direct and representative democracy

  • Advantages of direct democracy: it is the purest form of democracy, avoids decisions being made by representatives purely in their own interests, people are becoming increasingly informed and educated so can make their own judgements.
  • When there is disillusionment with representative institutions, people prefer to make decisions for themselves, decisions made directly by the people may now carry more authority.
  • Advantages of representative democracy: elected representatives may use superior knowledge and judgement. This avoids hasty and emotional decisions made directly by the people.
  • Representatives and parties are able to mediate between the interests of different sections of society. Direct democracy means the will of the majority always prevails, making minorities very vulnerable.
  • Issues which involve such conflicting interests require complex solutions. Direct democracy tends to reduce all questions to over-simplified answers.
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  • Demands made directly by the people are often incoherent and illogical. Representative democracy can make better sense of these demands and convert them into political programmes.

Is Britain a liberal democracy?

  • A liberal democracy is where: - government is accountable to the people, there are free and fair elections, there is a peaceful, orderly transfer of power, losing parties accept the democratic legitimacy of winning parties.
  • Information is freely available to the citizenry, the rights and liberties of citizens are taken into account and protected.
  • The powers of government are controlled and limited by law or elected institutions or both.
  • A variety of beliefs, opinions, cultures and lifestyles are tolerated provided they do not threaten the security of the state.
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