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Representative democracy

Representative democracy (also indirect democracy, representative government or psephocracy) is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. Nearly all modern Western-style democracies are types of representative democracies; for example, the United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy, France is a unitary semi-presidential republic, and the United States is a federal presidential republic.

It is an element of both the parliamentary and the presidential systems of government and is typically used in a lower chamber such as the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, Lok Sabha of India, and may be curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber. It has been described by some political theorists including Robert A. Dahl, Gregory Houston and Ian Liebenberg as polyarchy. In it the power is in the hands of the representatives who are elected by the people. Political parties are often central to this form of democracy because electoral systems require voters to vote for political parties as opposed to individual representatives.

The Roman Republic was the first known government in the western world to have a representative government, despite taking the form of a direct government in the Roman assemblies. The Roman model of governance inspired many political thinkers over the centuries, and today's modern representative democracies imitate more the Roman than the Greek models because it was a state in which supreme power was held by the people and their elected representatives, and which had an elected or nominated leader. Representative democracy is a form of democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives as opposed to a direct democracy, a form of democracy in which people vote on policy initiatives directly. A European medieval tradition of selecting representatives from the various estates (classes, but not as we know them today) to advise/control monarchs led to relatively wide familiarity with representative systems inspired by Roman systems.

In Britain, Simon de Montfort is remembered as one of the fathers of representative government for holding two famous parliaments. The first, in 1258, stripped the King of unlimited authority and the second, in 1265, included ordinary citizens from the towns. Later, in the 17th century, the Parliament of England pioneered some of the ideas and systems of liberal democracy culminating in the Glorious Revolution and passage of the Bill of Rights 1689.

The American Revolution led to the creation of a new Constitution of the United States in 1787, with a national legislature based partly on direct elections of representatives every two years, and thus responsible to the electorate for continuance in office. Senators were not directly elected by the people until the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. Women, men who owned no property, and blacks, and others not originally given voting rights in most states eventually gained the vote through changes in state and federal law in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. Until it was repealed by the Fourteenth Amendment following the Civil War, the Three-Fifths Compromise gave a disproportionate representation of slave states in the House of Representatives relative to the voters in free states.

Separate but related, and very large, bodies of research in political philosophy and social science investigate how and how well elected representatives, such as legislators, represent the interests or preferences of one or another constituency.

The system of stochocracy has been proposed as an improved system compared to the system of representative democracy, where representatives are elected. Stochocracy aims to at least reduce this degradation by having all representatives appointed by lottery instead of by voting. Therefore, this system is also called lottocracy. The system was proposed by the writer Roger de Sizif in 1998 in his book La Stochocratie. Choosing officeholders by lot was also the standard practice in ancient Athenian democracy. The rationale behind this practice was to avoid lobbying and electioneering by economic oligarchs.

The system of deliberative democracy is a mix between a majority ruled system and a consensus-based system. It allows for representative democracies or direct democracies to coexist with its system of governance, providing an initial advantage.