What Is Representative Democracy?


Representative democracy is the most widely used form of democracy in which the public vote for representatives to govern the country on their behalf, as citizens of the United Kingdom did in the General Election of 2010. These representatives are chosen in regular elections based on the principle of universal suffrage.   Our representatives are PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS who are made ACCOUNTABLE to the public in a General Election.   In a representative democracy our representatives should listen to the views of the electorate, but, as EDMUND BURKE pointed out, they do not slavishly need to follow their opinions.  


The main advantages of representative democracy are that government is carried out by professional and responsible politicians who understand how government operates, are more likely to make informed decisions than the broad mass of the public and are made accountable for what they have done in regular elections.   Thus, in a representative democracy, professional politicians appreciate that legislation is a complicated issue, rather than a simple knee-jerk reaction, and they know how to work with civil servants in order to draft appropriate bills.   Ministers will often possess the sort of specialist knowledge necessary to make informed decisions; for example the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, is a very experienced lawyer.   Our representatives also relieve the public of the burden of governing themselves.   Not all of us want to be continually making decisions about issues that we may not actually know very much about and their expertise saves us from making hasty political judgements. Indeed, with over 40 million voters in the UK it would be a recipe for disaster if we were to be expected to make political decisions ourselves; unlike the inhabitants of Ancient Athens our democracy is too enormous, and the issues are too complicated, for us to have the...