Democracy Then and Now Essay

In modern conversation, when people hear the word democracy, most people immediately think of the late 1700’s when a group of people in what is today the United States of America, separated themselves from a tyrannical king in England, declared their independence from his rule, and fought a war to defend their right to be free. Many people associate the type of Government these brave American’s created as a new idea of democracy. But was it really a new idea?

The word “democracy” is derived from Greek roots, demos meaning people and kratos meaning strength/rule, rule by the people. The idea of democracy has roots much earlier than most people believe. Actually more than 2000 years earlier. In 508 B. C. the people of Athens Greece instituted a rule by the people form of government after ousting a tyrannical ruler by the name of Hippias. Hippias was known to kill or exile other aristocrats that would not go along with his ideas and principles.

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Once he banished the condescending individual, he would usually take a member of that person’s family hostage and hold them as a slave to shore up loyalty. The people of Athens finally had enough of this tyrant Hippias, and they led a revolt with the help of the legendary military state of Sparta to overthrow him. Hippias somehow escaped from Athens and lived in exile in Persia. The people of Athens were fed up with living under the rule of one supreme leader.

They divided the city into ten wards and selected 50 men from each ward (a total of 500) to serve on a council for 36 days. Athens convened 10 councils a year, and no man was allowed to serve on a council more than twice in his lifetime. This essentially eliminated the possibility of any one man or family from gaining enough power to become a ruler. When our founding fathers established the US Constitution, they devised term limits for our President for this very same reason.

They were fearful that if term limits were not imposed, it would be possible that one man or group of men could get too powerful and essentially rule as a dictator. Many Americans today feel that term limits should also be placed on members of Congress and Supreme Court Justices because modern day application leaves many feeling that their freedoms and liberties are held at bay by many of these long time sitting individuals. The democracy we have ere in America is nowhere near the true democracy that the people of 508 B. C. Athens enjoyed. As Nathan Gill of the U. S. A. Today points out, our President is not necessarily even the guy that gets the most votes from the people. In the November 2000, Presidential Primary, Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore received more votes from the American People, but lost the election to Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush after a supreme court ruling on the results of the Florida primary. “How can the U.

S. call itself a democracy, yet not select its officials on the basis of majority rule? ”(Gill, 2012). While we may not enjoy a pure democracy here in America, our form of government allows the people more leverage and input into our government than most anywhere else on the planet today. Although we have our own issues and leaders that tend to run around imposing “I know better than you do” type rules, many people from other countries still recognize the freedom and opportunity we do enjoy comparatively speaking.