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1.2 Types of Democracy

7 min readfebruary 4, 2023

Annika Tekumulla

Annika Tekumulla

Riya Patel

Riya Patel


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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Introduction

The framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to establish a democratic government that would ensure individual liberties and protect against the concentration of power in any single branch or individual. They believed in a balanced system of government and limited the powers of the government to avoid the abuses of power that they saw in the British monarchy. The different forms of democracy you mentioned, such as participatory democracy, pluralist democracy, and elite democracy, each have their own distinct characteristics, but they all aim to balance the power between the government and the people.

Key Questions

Here are some review questions related to the models of democracy:
  1. What is the main characteristic of participatory democracy?
  2. How does pluralist democracy view society?
  3. Who holds the majority of power and influence in an elite democracy?
  4. Can you provide an example of an interest group in a pluralist democracy?
  5. What role does the media play in a pluralist democracy?
  6. What is the purpose of the judiciary in a pluralist democracy?

Types of Democracy

Direct democracy is a form of government in which citizens directly participate in the decision-making process through direct voting on proposals or laws. This means that every eligible citizen has an equal say in important decisions affecting the community, without intermediaries such as elected representatives. Direct democracies are often found in small communities or local government settings, and are characterized by greater participation and engagement from citizens. However, they can also be logistically challenging in larger societies and may not always be feasible.
Representative democracy is a form of government in which citizens elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf. In a representative democracy, citizens participate in the political process through the election of representatives who serve as intermediaries between the people and the government. The representatives are responsible for making decisions that reflect the will and interests of their constituents. Representative democracies are often characterized by the separation of powers, with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches serving as checks and balances on one another. This form of government is prevalent in many modern states, and is seen as a way to balance the needs of the individual and the community.
Parliamentary democracy is a form of government in which the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch and the head of state is usually a ceremonial figure. In a parliamentary democracy, the legislative branch is the dominant force, and the head of government is typically a Prime Minister who is elected by the majority party or coalition in the legislative branch. The Prime Minister is responsible for leading the executive branch and implementing the laws and policies passed by the legislative branch. The legislative and executive branches work together to govern the country, and the Prime Minister can be removed from office if they lose the support of the legislative branch. This form of government is commonly found in countries with a parliamentary system, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
Presidential democracy is a form of government in which the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch, and the president is both head of state and head of government. In a presidential democracy, the president is elected directly by the people and serves a fixed term, typically four years. The president is responsible for executing the laws passed by the legislative branch, leading the government, and representing the country in foreign affairs. The legislative branch and the executive branch are separate, with their own powers and responsibilities, and the president can veto laws passed by the legislative branch. This form of government is commonly found in the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. Presidential democracies are often characterized by a clear chain of command and a more decisive leadership, but they can also lead to gridlock and a lack of accountability if the two branches have conflicting interests.
Federal democracy is a form of government in which power is divided between a central government and constituent political units such as states or provinces. In a federal democracy, the central government has the power to make laws and regulations that apply to the entire country, while the constituent political units have the power to make their own laws and regulations within their jurisdiction. Federal democracies are characterized by a system of checks and balances, with each level of government having distinct responsibilities and the ability to limit the powers of the other levels. This form of government is commonly found in countries with a federal system, such as the United States, Germany, and Australia. The federal structure allows for a balance of power between the national government and regional governments, and provides a way to address the diverse needs and interests of different regions within a country.

Examples of Each Type

Direct Democracy:
  • Switzerland is often considered an example of a direct democracy, where citizens participate in the decision-making process through regular referendums.
  • Athens, Greece, is considered the birthplace of direct democracy, where citizens would participate in the decision-making process in the town assembly.
Representative Democracy:
  • The United Kingdom and the United States are both examples of representative democracies, where citizens elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf.
  • India is a large and diverse country that operates as a representative democracy, where citizens elect representatives to the Parliament of India to make decisions on their behalf.
Parliamentary Democracy:
  • The United Kingdom and Canada are examples of parliamentary democracies, where the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch and the head of state is usually a ceremonial figure.
  • Germany is a parliamentary democracy, where the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch and the head of state is usually a ceremonial figure.
Presidential Democracy:
  • The United States and Brazil are examples of presidential democracies, where the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch and the president is both head of state and head of government.
  • Russia is a presidential democracy, where the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch and the president is both head of state and head of government.
Federal Democracy:
  • The United States and Australia are examples of federal democracies, where power is divided between a central government and constituent political units such as states or provinces.
  • Brazil is a federal democracy, where power is divided between a central government and constituent political units such as states and federal districts.

Key Required Documents

The Federalist Papers, including Federalist No. 10, and the Anti-Federalist Papers, including Brutus No. 1, are considered some of the most important historical documents in the formation of the United States government. These papers reflected the debates and discussions among the framers of the Constitution regarding the form of government that should be established.
Brutus No. 1 raised concerns about the concentration of power in the national government and the potential for the elected representatives to become an elite class, disconnected from the people they were supposed to represent.
Federalist No. 10, on the other hand, addressed the issue of factions, or interest groups, in a large republic. James Madison argued that a large republic would prevent any single faction from gaining complete control, but also recognized that factions could lead to the suppression of minority opinions.
These debates demonstrate the complexities and challenges of establishing a democratic government, and the importance of balancing the interests of different groups and individuals in society.
🎥 Watch: AP GOPO - Intro to American Government

Key Vocabulary

  • Participatory Democracy: a form of direct democracy in which citizens have a direct and active role in the decision-making process, rather than relying solely on elected representatives.
  • Pluralist Democracy: a form of representative democracy in which power is distributed among many different interest groups, rather than being concentrated in the hands of a few elites.
  • Elite Democracy: a form of representative democracy in which power is held by a small, select group of individuals or institutions, rather than being distributed among a broader cross-section of society.
  • Pluralist Theory: a political theory that emphasizes the importance of balancing the interests of different groups in society, and recognizes that power is distributed among multiple groups and institutions, rather than being held by a single group.
  • Hyper Pluralism: a situation in which the number of interest groups in society becomes so great that it becomes difficult for any one group to effectively wield power.
  • Federalist No. 10: an essay written by James Madison as part of the Federalist Papers, in which he discussed the issue of factions, or interest groups, in a large republic. He argued that a large republic would prevent any single faction from gaining complete control, but also recognized that factions could lead to the suppression of minority opinions.
  • Brutus No. 1: an essay written as part of the Anti-Federalist Papers, in which the author raised concerns about the concentration of power in the national government and the potential for elected representatives to become an elite class, disconnected from the people they were supposed to represent.
  • Constitution: the supreme law of the United States, established in 1787, that outlines the structure and functions of the federal government and sets forth the fundamental rights of citizens.

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