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Discuss the five principles of Robert Dahl's traditional democratic theory.

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Dahl's five principles can be found in his work Democracy and Its Critics. According to Dahl, this ideal democracy does not exist anywhere.

The first principle is all citizens must have equal access to the electoral process unless they are not truly a citizen or are not competent to vote.

The second principle is that each citizen's vote will carry and equal amount of weight.

The third principle is that the citizens must have access to enough information in order to make an informed and enlightened decision. This implies that each citizen has access to unbiased information and can make a decision based solely on his/her own personal interests.

The fourth principle is that the citizenship has control in deciding what political matters are placed before the public on the ballot. This places the content of the ballot in the hands of the constituents.

The final principle is that all citizens have a legitimate stake in the electoral process.

This electoral system does not exist, though there are many attempts to make it happen. Through referendums and initiatives, citizens have access to place questions on the ballot. There is a plethora of information about political issues; however, much of it comes wrapped in bias that may hinder voters from making an enlightened decision. Many voters feel turned off by the electoral process when they realize that they do not vote directly for the president or even the candidates in a primary since superdelegates still control much of a party's power.

Dahl's concept of democracy would place power in the hands of the people; however, it remains to be seen if this can be considered a positive effect since, as Plato noted in his Republic, a democracy can turn into anarchy if everyone votes for his own interest without acknowledging the long-term survival of the state.

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Robert Dahl was a renowned Yale professor of Political Science.  He came up wish some stunning theories about democracy, not the least of which is the one you mention:  his traditional democratic theory.  This information can be derived by reading his book written in 1989 called Democracy and Its Critics.  In this book, Dahl admits that democracy is an ideal, not a reality, even for modern countries.  Believing democracy to be an improbability as opposed to an impossibility, Dahl describes the five aspects of democratic criteria.  (The terms are taken directly from Democracy and Its Critics and are, therefore, in quotes:

  1. "Effective participation"
    This term is given in regards to the members, or the citizens, of the democracy.  They must have both the ability and the opportunity to provide questions, give suggestions, provide reasoning, and indicate preferences that can be found on the political agenda. 
  2. "Voting equality at the decisive stage"
    As any and all decisions are about to be made, every member of the democracy must know that each citizen's votes will be counted as equal with the next citizen.  Further, this equality must be a reality and not just a spoken idea.
  3. "Enlightened understanding"
    Instead of being told what is "the best" for them and/or being fed weighted propaganda, there must be ways for the members of the democracy to learn about the different choices provided them.  In this way, each citizen can make a decision as to which idea will best serve his or her interest. There for each citizen is "enlightened" with "understanding" as to what the best decision might be.
  4. "Control of the agenda"
    This takes the first aspect a bit further.  More than just weighing in on the agenda, citizens should have the ability to help form the actual agenda.  In other words, citizens should (somehow) be allowed to indicate both general and specific matters that should be discussed and eventually decided upon.
  5. "Inclusiveness"
    Put simply, the democratic process must be available to every human being, in other words, all citizens within the democratic country or state.

Now let's deal quickly with the idea of the improbability of this democratic idea.  As Dahl admits, a true democracy does not exist. However, Dahl does mention in Democracy and Its Critics that there are countries "advanced" in the political arena.  He describes these countries as "polyarchies."  The United States' balance of power is a good example of why America is a polyarchy according to Dahl.  The power rests on many instead of one, or just a few.  There are varying opinions, freedom of speech and press, rights to participate in the political process, inclusive voting rights, non-corrupted elections, and truly elected officials.  In short, we are on our way; however, fully achieving the five aspects above would be equal to a utopia.

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The five principles are:

1.    Effective participation- everyone has to be able to participate effectively, through unhindered voting or some other way of sharing opinions and making views known.
2.       Voting equality at the decisive stage- once it counts, everyone should have an equal vote.
3.       Enlightened understanding- the populace should be educated and informed.
4.       Control of the agenda- the people need to be able to decide what is going to be decided.
5.       Inclusiveness- no one should be excluded.

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