The very large majority of citizens of the “free world”, if asked the question “What makes you think that you live in a democracy ?”, will answer something along the lines of “Well we have free speech” i.e. we let people say and think what they want and we don't incarcerate and torture political dissidents. They then point to some “non-democratic” country recently in the news that does in fact do all of the above and worse.

Asides from the fact that freedom of speech in the MSM has been seriously eroded over the past two decades or so (I won't bother sourcing this statement: google it if you really have to) and will inevitably begin to deteriorate within the internet itself (net neutrality anyone ? ), “We have free speech” is a damn flimsy statement to base your democratic beliefs upon. Please tell me how you can be 100% certain that citizens in your country are not in fact being incarcerated and tortured for their political beliefs (more on this in a future blog)? Political dissidents in China for example are “terrorists” or “troublemakers” or a combination of the both. Certainly not dissidents ! The majority of Chinese also believe themselves to be free. Rioters in the streets of London are “troublemakers” out to grab some loot. Certainly not economic dissidents !

Traditionally the four pillars of democracy are :
1. A Representative and Independent Legislature
2. A Representative and Independent Executive
3. An Independent Judiciary
4. A Free and Independent Press

But what exactly is the thinking behind the four pillars ?...

Who are the Legislature and Executive supposed to represent and why should they ? You, god dammit ! Because they are supposed to be in service to your (ie the people's) interests.

Why should they be independent ? Well maybe to ensure that they do in fact continue to serve your interests, and not some unrepresentative third parties.

Why must the Judiciary be independent ? Possibly to ensure that outside influences do not dictate who should and should not go to jail (dissidents)?

Why a free and independent press ? Julian Assange says it better than I : “For man to do anything intelligent he has to know what is actually going on.”

So that is democracy in a nut shell. I'll leave you to decide whether you are living in one.