What Are the Five Foundations of Democracy?

The five foundations, or basic principles, of democracy are social equality, majority rule, minority rights, freedom and integrity. All of these have a common basis in the fundamental ethical principle of mutual respect for diversity.

Social equality is a broad subject spanning many spheres of life, from the workplace to the criminal justice system. Fundamental to democracy is the notion that all citizens should have equal access to political participation, although for most people this rarely extends to standing in an election.

While everyone has a voice in a true democracy, only very small democratic societies can truly serve the interests of each and every person at once. Majority rule, therefore, rather than total consensus, is fundamental in practice for large democratic civilizations.

This does not mean that the minorities within society are exempt from mutual respect, however, and a real democracy naturally defends minority rights, whether to religion, expression, assembly or fair legal process.

In theory, democratic freedom should be entirely unfettered, except by legislation to safeguard the ultimate aim of mutual respect. In practice, however, enforcing such legislation tends to require funding and therefore taxation, not to mention varying interpretations of the definition ofmutual respect, all of which can limit freedom.

The fifth principle, integrity, is about honesty and compassion and the absence of corruption. In practice, this principle tends to be the most widely ignored.