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What Is a Liberal Democracy?

Liberal democracy is a type of representative democracy. In this government system, representatives who have been elected by the people are given the power to decide on laws and political issues, guided of course by the constitution. The constitution, In turn, tends to center around individual rights and freedoms, equality, and due process—which is granted to all citizens, including minorities.

Liberal democracy has its own share of critics. One of the complaints, so to speak, is that the representatives (once elected into the office) are free to make their own decisions without referring to the public opinion. The discussion can get really heated on subjects like constitutional amendment or going to war, which some believe should be cast to vote. In this perspective, democracy is little more than an elected oligarchy, where power is left in the hands of the few.

Another criticism of liberal democracy is that it can only protect individual freedoms. It can not protect minorities from prejudice or oppression, especially if it is an accepted form of behavior for the majority.

Nevertheless, liberal democracy has one of the strongest forms of civil society, where individuals are encouraged to enter public discourse. Some countries also allow the people to overturn the decisions of the representatives, through a system of referenda. One of the best examples of this is in Switzerland. This is considered the best way for a liberal democracy to retain the spirit of “people’s choice/people’s voice” without turning into an elected oligarchy.

Other countries that practice liberal democratic systems are Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States of America.

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