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What is a Liberal Democracy?

Liberal Democracy:  A form of democracy that places the legal protection human rights, civil liberties and economic liberties as the highest level of law.  This form of democracy is a practical implementation of the principles of classical liberalism.  A liberal democracy strives to attain a balance of power, separating government into 'branches', each of which have limited power and all of which have powers to restrain or limit the other branches.  No branch of government in a liberal democracy has the power, or mandate, to violate these principles as inalienable rights cannot be surrendered in the 'social contract'.


In most liberal democracies, these principles are recorded in a constitution or charter.  In British Common Law, most charters have been absorbed into statute law and the protection of 'life, liberty and property' is recorded in a repository of legal or judicial precedent.

The primary difference between a 'liberal' democracy and a 'pure' democracy is this legal restriction of government.  In a 'pure' democracy, 51% of the population may vote to enslave the other 49%.  This is referred to as a 'tyranny of the majority'.  

The two main forms of liberal democracy are the 'Constitutional Republic' and the 'Constitutional Monarchy'.  In both cases, the three branches of government, the 'Executive/Crown', the 'Legislative' and the 'Judicial' are formally separated and all subject to constitutional or charter law.  The details of this separation and the limiting mechanisms vary, but the principle remains broadly similar.

Reading list:

'The Two Treatises of Government' - John Locke

'On Liberty' - John Stuart Mill

'Considerations on Representative Government' - John Stuart Mill

'The Constitution of the United States'

Edited: 24 Dec 18

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