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Citizens Characteristics Needed In A Democracy Essay, Research Paper

A democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving free elections that are periodically held. The necessary moral and intellectual characteristics the citizens of a democracy must possess for the survival and the prosperity of such a form of government include: respect for laws, respect for rights, respect for authority, equal mental worth, and opportunity for all citizens. Some other scholars have argued another notion pertaining to the success of a democracy. Those scholars have suggested the presence of certain economic conditions is necessary for a democracy to continue to exist and to flourish. A democracy will go as far as the citizens of that democracy will take it. Therefore, the moral and intellectual characteristics that those citizens possess are pivotal. Moral characteristics are those in which help the citizens set a standard of what is right and good for the country. These include respect for laws, rights, and authority. The citizens must respect the laws for many reasons, mainly for fear of punishment that usually entails a loss of freedom. The citizens must also have a respect for the rights they and others have. This gives each citizen a sense of equality to one and other, they all have the same rights under the law, which allows freedom to be put into action. Besides these characteristics, the citizens of a democracy must have a respect for authority. Those in authority are the ones protecting the laws and the rights of the citizens. If the citizens value their freedom and liberty, then they must respect the protectors of those freedoms and liberties.

Intellectual characteristics are necessary because the citizen’s ability for rational or intelligent thought adds to the prosperity of the democracy. The citizens must be able to, as Tocqueville states, “educate democracy; to put, if possible, new life into its beliefs; to purify its mores; to control its actions; gradually to substitute understanding of statecraft for present inexperience and knowledge of its true interest for blind instincts; to adapt government to the needs of time and place; and to modify it as men and circumstances require.” The citizens of a democracy must see each other as having equal mental worth. All citizens should understand that the opportunity for education should be present. But, the amount of education should not be what is most important: the citizens must understand it’s what you do with the education that matters most. Intellectually everyone is different; some are more educated than others, and others less. The citizens must have the insight to understand that everyone is equal under the law and in the rights that are bestowed upon them. These characteristics are all very important to the survival of a democracy. Theodore Roosevelt explains this best when he stated, “A democracy must consist of men who are intellectually, morally, and materially fit to be their own masters.” There are, however, other scholars who believe that certain economic conditions must be also present for the continued survivability of a democracy.

The characteristics of the citizens are very important to the success of a democracy, but groups of people known as progressives, believe that economic situations in a democracy play just as important of a role. The economic situation that they claim is needed is economic equality. As Franklin Roosevelt, a progressive and former President of the United States, stated, “Our government, formal and informal, political and economic, owes to everyone an avenue to possess himself of a portion of that plenty sufficient for his needs, through his own work.” It is the government’s responsibility to ensure economic equality to all citizens, which is important, because, the prosperity of a democracy depends on the prosperity of its citizens. Theodore Roosevelt, another progressive and President, furthers this notion by contending, “there is no point in having prosperity unless there can be an equitable division of prosperity.” This must therefore be extended to economics: for the democracy to move forward and provide for its citizens, the citizens themselves must have the economic stability. If there were not an equal distribution of prosperity, in the economic sense, the government would have to create programs to “level the playing field.” Examples of these programs are welfare and affirmative action. While these programs are different, they have the same purpose: to help those in need which would, in turn, level the playing field. A democracy is faced with many challenges that it must be able to adjust to, including the economic growth of its citizens and the security of that growth. L.B. Johnson stated, “The challenge of the next half of the century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.” Therefore, for a democracy to survive, that democracy and the citizens of the democracy must have the ability to move forward and shape their own future to assure prosperity and survival. This is the link between the economic and the political.

In conclusion, the citizens of a democracy must possess for it to succeed and survive. Others believe economic conditions affect the prosperity of a democracy. While there are other characteristics that generally impact a democracy, the ones explained are seen as the most important.

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