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Five myths about democracy (The W. Post)

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The Washington Post
James Miller is a professor of politics at the New School for Social Research and author of “Can Democracy Work?: A Short History of a Radical Idea from Ancient Athens to Our World.”

September 7

“Democracy” has taken different forms throughout history. In ancient Athens, it was a closed, self-governing community of citizens; in 1790s France, it involved an expansive assertion of popular sovereignty via armed uprisings. For many Americans, democracy suggests self-reliant individuals living under a limited government; for 19th-century European social democrats, it entailed a struggle for social and economic justice that expanded the role of government.

After World War II, democracy emerged as a universal aspiration, memorialized in Article 21 of the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.” Virtually every political regime today claims to embody some form of democracy — and its diverse proponents, and its critics, have propagated many myths about it. Here are five.
MYTH NO. 1
The United States revived
and perfected democracy.

In “Self-Rule: A Cultural History of American Democracy,” Robert H. Wiebe calls democracy America’s “most significant contribution to world history.” President Trump, in his first State of the Union address, described the country at its founding as “home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea: that they could rule themselves. That they could chart their own destiny. And that, together, they could light up the world.”

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