The word “democracy” gets thrown around in many conversation, but no one truly knows what it really means. Robert A. Dahl, states in his article, Polyarchy, “that a key characteristic of democracy is the contenting responsiveness of the government to the preference of its citizens, considered as political equals” (Dahl, 1). In order for democracy to exist, it must have, 1. elected officials, 2. free and fair elections, 3. the right to vote, 4. the right to run for office, 5. freedom of expression, 6. alternative sources of information, and 7. the right to join and form organizations. Philippe C. Schmitter, and Terry Lynn Karl states in their article, What Democracy is… and is Not, that democracy is a regime or a system of governance, that depends on the presence of a ruler, the public, and most importantly the citizens.
I prefer Schmitter and Karl’s definition of democracy because like non-democracies, they have competitions, elections, and representatives. But “since no single set of actual institutions, practices, or values embodies democracy, polities moving away from authoritarian rule can mix different components to produce different democracies” (Schmitter and Karl, 83). One example would be that they do not believe having free and fair elections results in a democracy, unlike Dahl. Not all countries who have free and fair elections have a democratic government. Take Venezuela for example, their voting system is known to be the most comprehensive in the world but, they do not have a democratic government, rather they are ruled under the dictatorship of Chavez. Former President, Jimmy Carter even said, “the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world”. Just because a country may have traits of what a democracy should have, it does not always mean that they have a democratic government. To include the specific traits Dahl included in his definition, would be assuming that the American polity is the universal model of all democratic governments in the world.