(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, USA Democracy in Brief.)
Democracy, which derives from the Greek word “demos,” or “people,” is defined, basically, as government in which the supreme power is vested in the people. In some forms, democracy can be exercised directly by the people; in large societies, it is by the people through their elected agents. Or, in the memorable phrase of President Abraham Lincoln, democracy is government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. Democracy is the institutionalization of freedom.
In the end, people living in a democratic society must serve as the ultimate guardians of their own freedom and must forge their own path toward the ideals set forth in the preamble to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”
Read more: http://www.america.gov/st/democracy-english/2008/May/20080619223145eaifas0.5311657.html#ixzz2IXVzYSIe