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Liberal democracy

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Liberal Democracy is the type of representative (indirect) democracy operated in the United Kingdom and much of the Western World.

It has a variety of features:

Firstly, it encourages political, social and economic competition between political parties and pressure groups. The Government gets its legitimacy from the people through regular elections, in which most adults can vote, with good choice of candidates and a secret ballot. That government should be accountable to the people for what it does, with Parliament holding it accountable.There should be a free press, free speech and in most countries a written Bill of rights that prioritises the rights of the individual. A central aim of liberal democracy as a system is that it tries to limit the power of the main branches of government over the individual.

Liberal democracy was developed from the ideas of ideological thinkers such as Adam Smith, who felt that individuals should have reasonable freedom, particularly in trade and business. Meanwhile, John Locke believed that the people should be able to remove governments from power should they be abusing it.

Liberal democracy in the UK developed towards the end of the 19th century saw the further development of the UK’s liberal democracy, with all citizens claiming certain civil rights and most adults participating in politics.

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