Democracy, the Threshold of Freedom

Democracy, the Threshold of Freedom

Democracy, the Threshold of Freedom

Democracy, the Threshold of Freedom

Excerpt

This book has grown out of many years of teaching, research, and active participation in government. In his courses on politics, elections, comparative government, and introductory political science the author has been unable to find the materials on suffrage and representative government that he needed. The present book has been written to fill this gap.

The first part of the book is on suffrage, which is regarded as the right of an individual to have his choices taken into account in the resolution of important decisions on issues of state. Most of the discussions of suffrage hitherto written have been purely descriptive and historical. Here the sociological implications of various extensions are considered. An attempt is made to evaluate the effectiveness of the suffrage in changing the position of newly enfranchised groups, and an analysis is made, in turn, of the results of the extension of the vote to special groups.

The thesis is here maintained that only when a group in a democratic country possesses suffrage can it guard its political position. The exact difference which suffrage makes in the status of a group is difficult to determine, since the group must achieve a position of some power before it can win the right to vote. An effort will be made to show that the ballot may be used as a means for advancing group interests.

Another proposition developed here is that suffrage is a beginning, a goal, an opportunity, the use of which depends upon the individuals concerned. Such persons must learn how to employ this right in order to secure a fair share of the benefits conferred by the state.

The second part of the book is concerned with the nature of representation and the operation of representative government. After setting forth some theoretical considerations, the evolution of representative institutions is discussed. In view of the prevalence of the representative principle in various societies, it is assumed that there are many different origins of representative assemblies. Consideration is also given to the effects of different devices of representation.

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