Politics in Minutes (2016)

Of, by and for the people

The idea that the people of a society should have the power to determine the way it is governed is the basis for all democratic systems. However, based on the wishes of the majority of the people, it may ignore or even contradict the wishes and rights of the minority, and may result in what Marx and Engels described as the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. It could also be argued that the majority of people are not qualified to make important decisions of government.

Advocates of representative democracy counter that we can elect the most able to govern on our behalf. Power of government, although granted to a minority, can only be granted by the people, to whom those elected representatives are accountable. The British socialist politician Tony Benn neatly encapsulated the essence of representative democracy in five questions for those in power: What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interest do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? How can we get rid of you?