Democratic and Undemocratic Aspects of the American Experience

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On Democracy: Democratic and undemocratic aspects of the American experience "It was the Greeks probably the Athenians who coined the term democracy, or demokratia, from the Greek words demos, the people, and kratos, to rule" (Dahl 2000: 11). In most definitions of the term, democracy has come to mean a rule of the people and by the people. However, what precisely 'the people' means has varied considerably from society to society, as has what is considered to be the best way to allow 'the people' to articulate their voices. "Democracy has meant different things to different people in different times and places: (Dahl 2000: 3). In ancient Athens, all free males had a voice in the small city-state and served in public offices. "The Romans, however, chose to call their system a republic, from res, meaning thing or affair in Latin, and publicus, public: loosely rendered, a republic was the thing that belonged to the people" but was governed by chosen representatives rather than directly by the people (Dahl 2000: 13). Athens is often called a democracy and Rome a republic and the conventional wisdom suggests that America was modeled on the latter. On a practical level, to govern a large, sprawling territorial expanse even one as large as the thirteen colonies would be impractical in a purely democratic fashion, versus as small city-state like Athens. But although the United States is not technically a pure, direct democracy, it considers itself a nation guided by a
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