A. S. Hornby’s “A Dialogue of Democracy” is a brief work in which a young couple, Jack and Anne, discuss the different ways in which the word “democracy” can be (and has been) defined. Among those ways are the following:
- The American system of government, with a President and Congress. This system gives the President great powers.
- The British system of government, with a Prime Minister and Parliament. This system limits the power of the Prime Minister.
- The ancient Athenian system of government – a democracy in which free persons nevertheless owned slaves.
- A system, such as that in Britain, in which civil servants seem both powerful and limited in their power.
- A system, such as that in Britain, in which Members of Parliament are elected by the people but are told how to vote by party leaders.
- A system, such as that in Britain, in which the people can replace one government with another if they choose but in which elections can be delayed for years by the party in power.
- A system in which people often vote in their own self-interests, even when they do not understand many issues on which they are voting.
- A system in which at least two parties compete against each other.
- A system involving “People’s Democracies,” in which much property is owned by the state.
- A system in which the people are free to criticize the government.
- A system in which all people can vote but in which various kinds of inequalities still exist.
- A system in which people regard one another as equals and address one another as equals.
As Jack appropriately exclaims in the very last sentence of the work,
How difficult it is to get a definition for this word!