Democracy is one of those things that everyone seems to be in favour of. Unfortunately, the glow of approval that surrounds the term can be misleading. This is because, as Bernard Crick once suggested, ‘[d]emocracy is perhaps the most promiscuous word in the world of public affairs’ (1962, p. 56). For example, a person who says that they want more democracy might mean that governments should be more responsive to citizens, that politicians should be more socially representative, that people should have more control over political decisions, or that more institutions should be subject to popular control. Confusingly, however, someone could also oppose any of these things on democratic grounds. For instance, being responsive to popular opinion might neglect the interests of minorities, and a socially representative legislature might need to implement a quota scheme in place of free and open elections. Similarly, empowering people to directly control political decisions might impoverish democratic deliberation by focussing attention on blunt and simplistic referenda questions, and democratising institutions like the workplace might undermine the freedom of employers to run their own businesses. Democracy, then, might be something that nearly everyone favours, but not everyone favours the same kind of democracy.
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