Of course, "democracy" is not a simple concept; and no two systems that claim to be democracies are exactly the same. The "rule of law" is if anything an even more contested concept. For the purposes of this paper, we do not really need to define democracy rigorously. A society with a reasonable dose of freedom of speech and the press, freedom of religion, more or less fair elections, and the customary package of basic human rights, respected (on the whole) by the government, qualifies as a democracy. These will also tend to be societies that respect the rule of law. "Rule of law" is another concept, which is hard to define; the phrase has many possible meanings. For our purposes, however, it simply means a system in which rights and duties can be enforced through an independent and reasonably impartial system of courts. A court system is "independent" when the government or regime has no power or inclination to affect the outcome of cases. There is a critical difference between totalitarian societies, in which a defiant decision can cost a judge his head, or in which higher authorities dictate the results (at least in politically charged cases); and democratic societies, where judges have long tenure or life tenure and are free to disregard what the people in power might want them to decide. Each country has its own distinctive history, of course, and each one has traveled a unique path to its form of democratic rule. But there may be some general paths or patterns on the road to democracy; other paths or patterns might be unique but also uniquely interesting. I want to mention three examples or patterns, without suggesting that they are the only roads that countries have followed in the search for democracy. The United States is one example; Great Britain represents a different path; and Japan a third. Presumably, these different paths have had consequences, politically and otherwise. Still, after I describe the three paths, I intend, in a sense, to take it all back by arguing that the historical paths no longer matter very much in the world we live in today.
Friedman, Lawrence M.
"Roads To Democracy,"
Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce:
1, Article 6.
Available at: http://surface.syr.edu/jilc/vol33/iss1/6