To most people liberal democracy denotes a particular regime type, exemplified by the countries of Europe, Canada, and the United States and marked by certain features: free elections, universal suffrage, the rule of law, separation of powers, wide political and civil liberties, and juridical equality, to name a few. Since many regard this regime type as both coherent and broadly appealing, few regard the idea of liberal democracy as problematic.
But however stable such regimes may be in fact, liberal democracy brings together two disparate ideals reflecting different normative concerns. The idea of democracy specifies that those affected by decisions should have an equal say in determining them. In representative democracies this concern gets worked out differently than in ancient direct models, but in both cases democracy is a thesis about the source and control of common laws and governing institutions. To call a regime liberal, in contrast, is in the main to assert that citizens...
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