Is USA a True Democracy? Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:25:56
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United States of America is undoubtedly being praised for standing firmly for democracy in the field of political system. Likewise, in political history, America is regarded as the only country having a strong democratic form of government. Throughout history, America has always played an important role in spreading democracy around the world. Several communist countries have also been converted to democracy through the efforts of America. The obvious reason for adopting democracy within a system of governance is to uphold majority rights rather than of the few.

In addition, the power is concentrated in the hands of the people and not on the few groups of people. Aside from these, the features of democracy guarantee freedom and human rights which are not guaranteed in other forms of government. In the real scenery of a democratic country, the freedom exercised by every citizen is overflowing. In the American setting, several rights were established as new social developments are being experienced. Through case laws, the civil liberties afforded to citizens have been broadened and several classes of people finally enjoyed their rights.

Through time, democracy has been strengthened over the land. However, recently, through issues on national security, terrorism, and other predicaments faced by the country, the spirit of democracy started to diminish. Furthermore, with the strengthening power of the government against its citizens, the essence of democracy has begun to vanish. Hence, despite adherence to the democratic form of government, in real essence, the country is not acting like it is a democratic country. Democracy Democracy, in its political definition refers to a political system based on the participation of the people.

It foresees, among others, the separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislative and the executive authorities, as well as free and regular elections (Spring 91). In its cultural definition: Democracy is a way of living together and an expression of respect for other people; it must be rooted in a genuine democratic culture, a culture of debate and dialogue. A critical attitude should therefore be developed in children and young people towards the institutions that govern a State or regulate life in a given society. (Spring 91)

In its political sense, the main feature of democracy is the direct participation of the people in governing the citizens and the country through election. Aside from this, it reiterates the principle of checks and balances or the existence of independent three fundamental branches of the government namely, the executive, legislative, and judiciary. From its political definition, the political system is only established; however, it is lacking of the rights or benefits guaranteed to the citizens. Hence, political architects have inculcated human rights protection by adding a cultural definition of democracy.

Meanwhile, democracy has primarily rooted from the ancient Greeks. The word democracy was coined from the Greek word demokratia (Cartledge n. p. ). The demos means people while kratos means strength or rule (Cartledge n. p. ).. Hence, the word demokratia literally means people power (Cartledge n. p. ). The literal definition of the democracy is in consonant with the definition of government propounded by Abraham Lincoln in his popular statement, government of the people, by the people, and for the people (The Gettysburg Address).

Development in the Concept of Democracy Through time, the concept of democracy has developed. Aside from being a political concept, democracy has also become a moral concept. As a political concept, democracy provides standard of societal management; while as a moral concept, democracy provides moral principles that should govern the conduct of the citizens as well as the government and its agencies (Kelly, 103). The moral concept of democracy does not stem out from any religious belief or governmental pronouncement; instead, it rooted from the concept of democracy alone (Kelly, 104).

Among the guarantees of democracy in its moral concept includes respect for freedom of every individual in the society (Kelly, 104). It also demands equal treatment of every citizen and encourages them to openly participate in the government either by engaging in governmental affairs, evaluating government actions or taking part in forming public policies. This clearly correlates in the modern understanding that freedom is strictly linked in the democracy. Hence, a democratic country that has no respect on freedom is not democratic at all. Factors that Diminishes Democracy in the Country

After the tragic 9/11 terrorist attack, the threat on democracy began to emerge. The threat to national security has become the license of the government in enacting and adopting laws and policies that have adverse effects on the democracy being enjoyed by the citizens. Through the 9/11 attack, the government has acquired power in order to implement rules and regulations beyond its legal duties. On the part of the government, its acts are justified by the need of the county and the citizens to be safe from further attacks and to fully eliminate any shadows of terrorism.

However, as an effect, civil liberties are compromised. The exercise of freedom has gradually been regulated and limited. Furthermore, several fundamental freedoms exercised in a democratic country have been curtailed. These drastic changes in the lives of the American citizens have been perceived to be incompatible with the democratic principle adhered to by the country. It was reiterated that the laws and governmental systems being implemented today are a clear proof that United States is no longer a democratic country.

It is noteworthy that the government quickly responded to the 9/11 terrorist attack through the enactment of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 or the USA Patriot Act (Scheppler 5). Through the Patriot Act, many remarkable non-democratic government actions and regulations have been imposed. This in turn, is an obvious disrespect to the cultural and moral concept of democracy that has been prevalent in the country throughout the years.

Primarily, the USA Patriot Act aims to provide the law enforcement and intelligence community with tools and legal grounds to eliminate terrorism (ONeal). Through the USA Patriot Act, the federal government has been empowered to intrude into the privacy of a citizen suspected to be a terrorist or corroborating with terrorists. The intrusion to privacy that the Act allows takes in many forms. Title II of the USA Patriot Act laid down the enhancement of the surveillance capabilities of the federal law enforcers. By virtue of the Act, communications, wire, oral and electronic, can be intercepted by the authorities (USA Patriot Act of 2001).

In intercepting communication, the authorities are empowered to trespass into the communication tools of the target or suspect beyond legal boundaries. For example, the authorities can wiretap the phones of a target individual. Through the advancement in technology, roving wiretapping has been allowed by the Act. Traditionally, authorities are required to obtain first a court order to tap the phone (ONeal). However, in roving wiretapping, the authorities can now tap a person or organization by monitoring the calls made and received by the target (ONeal).

In here, it can be observed that the extent of wiretapping that has originally been approved by law has expanded because all calls can be allowed to be monitored. In addition, the pen register and trap-and-trace device have allowed the authorities to collect telephone numbers dialed to and from the communication device used by the suspected terrorist (ONeal). Remarkably, e-mail communications are also covered by the pen/trap provision of the Act because e-mail has been considered today as the most effective and fastest tool being used by the terrorists.

Through these devices, the authorities can look into the Website and IP addresses visited and used by the target. Furthermore, the libraries and other public and private establishments visited by the target can also be intruded by the authorities in order to gather information about the activities done by the former. Through these extended power of the federal government in surveillances in communication, the privacy of the target is put at stake. The Act also enhanced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which was focused on foreign investigations (Bidgoli 225).

Through the expanded meaning of terrorism, an alien has been denounced of his constitutional rights as he is considered as an agent of foreign power (Bidgoli 225). Hence, an alien is subjected to the provisions of the USA Patriot Acts. This system also means that information obtained through surveillance can be shared between agencies for further investigation of the target. The surveillance capability of the authorities under the USA Patriot Act also extends to information gathering. Notably, through the Act, the authorities can make searches and seizure against the dwelling place and objects of the target.

The authorities can secretly make searches through the house or office of the target through a search warrant which is secretly obtained from the court. The Fourth Amendment has laid down the requirements of a valid search warrant. Through the precedents, it can be observed that the requirement for probable cause is strict. But the USA Patriot Act has limited such requirement by considering only a significant reason in obtaining a warrant. It is also noteworthy that the proper serving of a warrant is disregarded by the Act.

According to the valid warrant procedure, the person against whom the warrant has been issued should be notified and be present during the search. This is to ensure that the things and areas specified in the warrant are correctly searched and seized. However, in the procedure adopted by the Act, such essential procedure has been denied and clearly violated. Another focus of the Act is the enhancement of the money laundering law. The Act has laid down effective measures in preventing, deterring and prosecuting money laundering. It is believed that the financial needs of terrorists have been backed by money laundering activities.

Few of the measures include monitoring of suspicious bank transactions, seizing illicit funds in foreign banks, and issuing regulations to be adopted by banks in recording account owners and receivers. In addition, the Act also required financial institutions to use networks to facilitate communication between them and the authorities with regard to illicit and suspicious transactions or accounts (USA Patriot Act). These activities have been made possible through the Act requiring the national and international financial institution to cooperate and comply with the policies.

However, such activity has been criticized because of violation of the confidentiality of the bank records of account owners. In addition, immigrants are also covered by the Act because stricter policies have been implemented in airports and in immigration offices. Immigrants are also treated differently as they are scrutinized stringently. Aside from that, the Asians and Arabs are usually subjected to discrimination because they are primarily linked to terrorism because of their racial affiliations.

In accordance with the expanded power of the federal authorities, many fear that such power may be used in focusing in monitoring, harassment, and intimidation of political dissidents and thousands of harmless immigrants rather than concentrating on curtailing terrorism (Etzioni 9). Many civil societies are also alarmed by the governments curtailment on the citizens civil liberties. Meanwhile, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the government as having an insatiable appetite due to its secrecy, lack of transparency, disregard of equality under the law, and disdain and outright removal of checks and balances (Etzioni 9).

All of these changes in the government system after the 9/11 terrorist attack have only led in the diminishing spirit of democracy in the country. The political concept of democracy has also been endangered in the country through the USA Patriot Act. As has been said, one fundamental feature of democracy is the checks and balances. Meanwhile, the principle of checks and balances is understood as the separation of the three branches of the government namely; the executive, legislative, and judiciary. Each of the three branches is bestowed with unique duties and responsibilities.

Having unique duties and separate jurisdiction, the three department works independently from each other. However, each serves as a watchdog for any act of encroachment or violation of the principle committed by any of the branches. In the present setting, the principle of checks and balances is clearly violated by the executive branch, particularly during the administration of George W. Bush. Remarkably, right after the 9/11, America initiated the global war against terrorism which has led to war against Iraq and Afghanistan.

It can be remembered that several human rights violations have been recorded due to the wars. Civilians have suffered the pain more than the real enemies. Although America has been a firm supporter of human rights, the Bush administration refused to be bound by human rights standards (Weiss, Crahan, and Goering 113). During the height of war against terrorism, President Bush had been acting beyond legal constraints as he used the countries foreign policies and executive power to adopt policies that are perceived to require the approval of Congress.

Apart from that, the government wanted to create an international order that places no limits to its actions despite the Constitutional checks and balances premise (Weiss, Crahan, and Goering 113). It has been clear that human rights have been compromised in place of fighting terrorism. The government was seemed so paranoid about the security that it almost forgot that is operated within a democratic country. Clearly, the activities and changes in the country have considerably limited the meaning of freedom.

In addition, security has been used as a license in imposing policies that clearly violate the principle of checks and balances. Having violated both the cultural, moral and political concepts of democracy, it is clear that democracy has been diminishing in the country. Conclusion Generally, democracy is understood as a system of government where citizens have freedom and human rights. In its strictest concept, it is a political system where people have direct participation in the government and checks and balances is observed.

The meaning of democracy was further strengthened by inculcating the freedom and rights of the citizens. As mentioned, democracy means power of the people. Hence, it would be useless of people have power but lack the freedom to enjoy and use such power in a way that the majority will benefit from it. It is also undeniable that since the early days, America has played an important role in spreading democracy and in fighting for human rights. America also initiated the adoption of various laws protecting human rights.

However, because of the threat against its national security, its views about democracy have drastically changed. The imposition of the USA Patriot Act has remarkably limited the freedom enjoyed by the citizens. At the same time, the Act has significantly intervened with the fundamental rights of the citizens. The intrusion into the private dwellings of the citizens has eliminated the legal boundaries that separate the rights of the citizens and of the state. With the remarkable changes in the society and the massive violation of civil liberties, it is clear that democracy has also been gradually diminished in the country.

Works cited

Bidgoli, Hossein. The Internet Encyclopedia. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2004.

Cartledge, Paul. The Democratic Experiment. 01 January 2001. BBC. 16 April 2009 .

Etzioni, Amitai. How Patriotic Is the Patriot Act? Freedom versus Security in the Age of Terrorism. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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