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1.1 Ideals of Democracy

5 min readfebruary 1, 2023

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

Annika Tekumulla

Annika Tekumulla


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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Introduction

The United States government is based on the principle of limited government, which is enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution sets limits on the power of the government and protects the individual rights of citizens through the Bill of Rights. The principles of natural rights, popular sovereignty, republicanism, and social contract also play a significant role in shaping the U.S. system of government and serve as the foundation for the protection of individual rights and liberties.
Natural rights refer to the idea that all individuals have certain inherent rights, such as life, liberty, and property, that cannot be taken away by the government. Popular sovereignty is the idea that the ultimate source of political power in a society is the people, who delegate that power to the government through a social contract. Republicanism is a form of government in which power is held by the people, either directly or through elected representatives. The social contract refers to the agreement between the government and the people, in which the government agrees to protect the rights and freedoms of the people in exchange for their obedience to the laws and regulations established by the government.
These concepts and principles are at the heart of the American system of government and provide the foundation for the protection of individual rights and freedoms in the United States.

Key Ideals of Democracy

  • Equality: All citizens are equal under the law and have the right to participate in the political process.
    • Example: In the United States, the principle of equality is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens.
  • Freedom: Citizens have the freedom to express their opinions, participate in the political process, and make decisions about their own lives.
    • Example: In many democracies, freedom of speech and press is protected by law, allowing citizens to express their opinions and engage in political debate.
  • Representation: citizens elect representatives who make decisions on their behalf and are accountable to the people.
    • Example: In the United States, citizens elect representatives to the Senate and House of Representatives who make decisions on their behalf in the legislative branch of government.
  • Majority rule and minority rights: decisions are made by the majority of citizens, but the rights of minorities are protected and minority opinions are taken into consideration.
    • Example: In a democratic system, decisions are made by the majority of citizens through the election of representatives. However, minority rights and opinions are also protected through the protection of individual rights and freedoms.
  • Accountability: elected officials and government institutions are accountable to the people and can be held responsible for their actions.
    • Example: Elected officials are held accountable to the people through regular elections and through their accountability to the legislative branch of government.
  • Transparency: government decisions and actions are open and accessible to the public.
    • Example: In a democratic system, government decisions and actions are open and accessible to the public through various mechanisms such as open meetings, public records, and freedom of information laws.
  • Rule of law: all citizens and government institutions are subject to the law and the justice system.
    • Example: In a democratic system, all citizens and government institutions are subject to the law, and the justice system ensures that the law is applied fairly and impartially.
  • Responsiveness: government is responsive to the needs and interests of the citizens and is able to adapt to changing circumstances.
    • Example: Governments in democratic societies are responsive to the needs and interests of the citizens, and are able to adapt to changing circumstances through the political process and by making changes to laws and policies.
These ideals of democracy serve as the foundation for democratic societies and provide a framework for the protection of individual rights and freedoms, the promotion of equality and justice, and the representation of the people.

Key Founding Documents

The Declaration of Independence served as a statement of the colonies' grievances against Great Britain and established the idea of popular sovereignty, or the idea that the ultimate source of political power in a society is the people. The Declaration has been influential not only in the United States but also in other countries around the world, serving as a model for other nations when declaring their independence.
The U.S. Constitution was indeed drafted at the Philadelphia Convention and established the framework for the political democracy in the United States. The Constitution was created to replace the Articles of Confederation, which had proven to be insufficient in providing a strong central government. The Philadelphia Convention was headed by George Washington and included important contributions from James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and other key figures in American history.
The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times since its creation and remains the supreme law of the land. It sets out the structure of the federal government, defines the powers and responsibilities of each branch of government, and protects the individual rights and freedoms of American citizens through the Bill of Rights and other amendments. The Constitution continues to play a central role in shaping American democracy and protecting the rights and freedoms of the American people.
https://image.shutterstock.com/image-photo/united-states-constitution-rolled-scroll-260nw-1103285504.jpg

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Principles of the American Government

Natural rights are inherent rights that are believed to be necessary for all humans and include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, which enshrines individual freedoms such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press.
Popular sovereignty is the idea that the power of a government is derived from the consent of its people and is expressed through the election of representatives. This concept was promoted by Enlightenment philosophers, who believed that the power of the government should come from the people and not from a monarch or other authority figure.
Republicanism is a form of government in which the power is held by the people, either directly or through elected representatives. This is expressed in the U.S. government through the election of the president and members of Congress, who serve as representatives of the people and make decisions on their behalf.
The social contract refers to the agreement between the government and the people, in which the people give up some rights in exchange for the protection of their individual freedoms and safety. The social contract is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and debates over privacy versus safety are a reflection of the ongoing negotiation of the terms of this agreement.
In conclusion, the principles of natural rights, popular sovereignty, republicanism, and social contract play a central role in shaping the U.S. system of government and protecting the rights and freedoms of American citizens.

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