History of Democracy – Classroom – BTN – ABC News
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September 15th is the International Day of Democracy, which was established by the UN to promote and celebrate democratic government. We take a look at the history of democracy and how it became the world’s most common form of government.
GREEK PERSON: Hey guys, guys, I’ve got a totally radical idea you’re gonna love it. How about, you know, instead of those rulers making decisions, we the people vote and decide on issues that affect us? I know right, great idea.
Ok, so while it might not have gone exactly like that. But most people agree it was the Ancient Greeks who came up with the idea of democracy. In fact, democracy is the combination of two Greek words. Demos which means people and kratos meaning power or rule. Democracy meant everyone would be given a say on big issues, well almost everyone.
GREEK PERSON: Oh, except women shouldn’t get to vote or slaves, obvs, and anyone who doesn’t own land. You know poor people. They don’t get to vote either.
Yeah, while it wasn’t exactly perfect or fair, it was a pretty revolutionary idea for the time. When most nations were ruled by kings and pharaohs and dukes and alike, that were born into their jobs and didn’t really give their subjects much of a say. In Greece’s Democracy people could meet in front of rulers to vote on new laws and voice their opinions.
After the Greeks, the Romans had a go at their own type of democracy which lasted for a few hundred years. But As time went on new rulers took over, things changed and democracy kind of died out for a while. Fast forward to the Middle Ages and Monarchies were all the rage again. You know, that’s where kings and queens rule and the people, well.
POOR PERSON: We don’t get no say, nothing, nada, zilch.
GUARD: What was that.?
POOR PERSON: Oh nothing, I was just admiring the Monarchy sir. So lovely, so fair.
But in England in 1215, a document called Magna Carta came along.
POOR PERSON: What?
Magna Carta. It’s a very important document that basically evened the playing field, a little bit. It meant that even English Kings and Queens had to follow the law. They couldn’t just do whatever they wanted, and it gave a bit of power back to the people.
POOR PERSON: I’m practically a King now aren’t I.
Ah, not that much power.
POOR PERSON: Oh.
Slowly over the next few hundred years the idea of democracy started to take hold again. In the 18th Century America had itself a revolution, drew up a constitution and declared themselves a democracy. And in the centuries that followed democracies of different types popped up all over the world.
Here in Australia, we have a Constitutional Democracy, which means we have a very important document, the constitution, which outlines how the country runs. We’re also a Representative Democracy, which basically means that we don’t meet to vote on laws. Instead, we elect a representative to do that for us. Yep, I’m talking about.
POLITICIAN: Did somebody say politician?
Ah I was about to.
POLITICIAN: Vote for me and you won’t have to say anything at all. I’ll say it for you.
Yep, politicians like, um, well not like this guy. But like these guys. They have the job of representing us in parliament, by listening to their voters and making sure their voices are heard. Today democracy’s the most common form of government around the world and while it’s not totally perfect a lot of people reckon it’s something to celebrate.
POLITICIAN: Stop talking, that’s my job. You just vote ok.
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