Essentials of Democracy

A functioning and true Democracy is essentially an interdependent combination of ideas and institutions held together by the commitment and hard work of individuals and groups.  Put another way, Democracy is sustained by Citizenship and Citizenship is sustained by Democracy.  The following are a series of quotes from The Moral Foundation of Democracy (John Hallowell, 1953) that underlies Democracy defined in this way. 

“As a form of government, democracy rests upon the consent of the governed. Now real consent is a positive force arising out of inner conviction. It Is not synonymous with passive acquiescence. It is found as the basis of government in greater proportion to constraint only in nations where there is a community of values and interests, where there is a positive affirmation of certain fundamental values common to the large majority of individuals and groups within the nation. It is, indeed, the existence of this affirmation of fundamental values which makes democratic, parliamentary government possible. (p.35-36)”

“The breakdown of democracy comes when this community of values and interest disintegrates, when common agreements on fundamental principles and purposes no longer exists, when partisans no longer endeavor to work through state but to become the state. (p. 36)”

“The idea of popular sovereignty has an ancient lineage, but it was not until modern times that we discovered institutional means by which that idea might be more fully realized in practice. Because political power now resides in fact as well as in theory in the hands of the great mass of people, democracy is both the greatest opportunity the individual has ever had for determining his own political destiny and also the greatest responsibility. There is both gain andperil in the emergence of modern democratic institutions, and whether the greater gain or peril depends upon how these institutions are conceived and utilized. Never has the individual had greater political freedom, but, by the same token, never as he had placed upon him greater responsibility. We have heard a great deal about the extension of freedom brought about by the development of democratic institutions, but we have heard less said than we should about the responsibilities which that extension of freedom carries with it. (p. 48)”

“Only purpose can unite men, a purpose that transcends interest. It is only when we are willing to modify or sacrifice our particular interests in terms of a larger purpose that we are able to unite with other men in a common endeavor. It is some conception of the “good life” that animates us to sacrifice our interests when we do, and it is only in terms of some agreement upon the principle of what “the good life” consists that we are able to unite with other men” (p.55)”

“If democracy survives as a form of government, it will be not simply because it has become strong enough in a military and economic sense to resist the threat of aggression and annihilation but because it is essential to the political implementation of a philosophy of life which demands it. (p.66)”

“Liberty will be saved by its union with the truth - it cannot be saved by indifference to truth. Freedom means not only freedom of choice, but choice itself”…(Nikolai Berdyaey, The fate of man in the modern world, 1935) (p. 67)

"True freedom requires both knowledge of the good and the will to choose the good when known.  The denial of either is a denial of freedom, and the denial of freedom is the rejection of the moral agency in man which characterizes his humanity” (p.112)”

The Moral Foundation of Democracy
By John H. Hallowell