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Introduction to Government by the People

Discuss about the Government by the People for Politics & International Relations.

Over 150 years ago, “the government by the people” term| came along as the then President Abraham Lincoln addressed an audience of over 15000 citizens. The term just meant that the primary government interest was to safeguard all the interests and demands of their citizens. This concept meant that citizens, elected government officials that would represent all their issues and guarantee their ultimate survival. Government by the people was founded under the principles of democracy where each citizen had a right, responsibility and their problems were the main agenda as they were the government because there would be no government without the citizens (Nun, 2009, p. 56).

The concept of government being owned by the people revolves about handing the power to the subject individuals and citizens. Peoples power is significantly exercised through the electoral system where they elect their representatives to present them and their demands on all levels of administration. Social, political and economic issues affecting the citizens are taken by these representative leaders or agents and addressed at the policy making level. Democracy falls under two descriptions, namely direct and representative, where direct democracies are where people ideas, suggestions, complaints and demands are represented by non-elected individuals who all sit together to solve the issues at hand.

The modern representative way is provided for in most of the world constitutions where citizens have elected intermediaries who represent them. Direct systems have faded as a result of new complexities of society both in populations and issues. Thus representatives are the only way. The representative formation is expected to carry out the demands of the people as they are elected by the electorates and given the power to make legislation, administration and political decision for the betterment of their societies (Bulley, & Sokhi-Bulley, 2014).

People’s government is deeply explained for in the constitutions as it provides them with their rights and responsibilities. The powers and the responsibility of the government toward their citizens are clearly stipulated in the same document. Complex aspects of the laws simply explain how the majority have their rulings while minority rights are safeguarded by laws. People majority rule is visible during electoral processes such as referendums and political position elections. Numbers and percentage of the people voting particular direction will determine the results thus proving that the  citizens have the power.

The Role of Citizens and Elected Officials

Minority and vulnerable sections of the citizens are well protected by the constitution thus meaning that they are protected against discrimination on the basis of their statuses or condition (Petriwskyj, & Cuthill, 2017). Law experts have extensively explained that the government by the people phenomena can only be accomplished through the above ways where the government’s powers are significantly limited and reduced while the people’s rights and powers are promoted. Regardless of the land or country if the Constitution is based and followed on the principles of “we the people” and there is control of government powers, then the Abraham Lincoln ideology would prevail. 


People’s freedom and government control is not limited to individual rights but also extend to legal groups and organizations that are protected by the constitution. While a government is making a decision, it is likely to consider this organizations as they are part of the people who elected them and are well protected for in the constitution. The main difference between people’s government and a totalitarian government is based on freedom and political understanding that people should be given the right to control their lives, as totalitarian culture promotes obedience and apathy (Qvortrup 2002, p. 67).

Civilization was the mother of democracy; however, civilisation would not be accomplished if people are ignorant. Education is a fundamental principle of ensuring that people are taught about their rights and powers toward the government. Dictatorship seeks to develop acceptance attitudes and limit citizens questioning by suppressing information and education systems that would enlighten the masses. The government is the people’s servant; however, this will all be in vain if people are not empowered to ask questions to their leaders.

In this 21st century, most of the governments in the world are based on democratic principles and foundations that hand over the power to those respective principles and its subject. Several questions have been asked whether this “power to the people” is just a saying or implemented ideology along all departments and levels of the government. When the foundations of these principles were formed, the complexities of our societies was not as it is today. Environmental regulations were not there because the population was not huge as it is, slavery was still legal, labour transgressions were not present, food and water security were a nonissue. However, this has changed due to the massive increase in populations while civilization has reached every corner of the globe. Economic concepts are beginning to be more dynamic and complicated thus raising of new laws that may conflict with fundamental values of people's government and freedom. These complexities were obviously not present during the days of the familiar “Gettysburg Address.” Social freedoms such as sexualities free will were  not critical issues to be addressed then ,since the social culture had not evolved as now (Nu'uhiwa 2013, p. 78).

The Electoral System


Modern governments around the world have promised their citizens a government run by their wills and not of the few intrest and thoughts. United Kingdom citizens were given a chance to vote whether to remain or exit the European Union in a referendum. This act in itself shows that the government recognizes that their citizens are the primary and core stakeholders of their government. However, democracy and will of the people are contradicted when several reports and experts say that the citizens of this country were given contradictory and misleading information about the referendum repucurssions. The leaders have been given a role in educating and presenting all credible material facts to their citizens so as to inform them on decisions that they are about to make and their consequences. Such a case present a conflict because wrong or misleading information may have influenced the decision making of the voters thus limiting free will values. (Pretorius 2006, p. 78).

Several countries in the world are practicing nuclear and war malpractices, but many would ask if these leaders are apparently representing the will of the people or theirs. Government overthrows and coups are happening at an alarming rate in Africa and Asia where leaders elected by the masses are ousted by military powers. These states rise under these foundations are usually questioned about their loyalties, whether it lies in their interest or to their citizens .The ideology of “people's government” is almost insignificant in some republics  as there have been reported cases all over the world where leaders are voted out by people but refuse to hand over their offices.

Economic crisis all over the world due to corrupt and exploiting leaders is becoming usual and rampant. People are forced to go on demonstrations to have their demands heard and dealt with as their systems of administrations are not working for their betterment. Chaos, protest, and complaints of ordinary citizens all over the world have raised many questions whether their governments still remember that their  the utmost priority is their electorates.


Epstein (2011) has argued that modern USA systems are not based on democracy and the will of United States citizens. He has stated that conflict of people's will and the government will have been relevant in the voting systems where referendum process are limiting people's power to control and check their states. Epstein has stated that contrary to the basic understanding of government run by citizens, now citizens are accorded individual rights and protection other than being treated as a group. He has argued that “we the people” term has been restrained of its power by the courts so as to promote the powers of the arms of government thus limiting people’s voice. Epstein is indicating that the modern governments are using strategic legal moves such as referendums so as to limit the power handed over to the people. Referendum creates a dilemma where voter’s rights are exercised, but for democracy to take place these rights has to be limited so as to limit the laws that reduce the power of the people for the sake of the government.

The Concept of People's Government in the Constitution

A perfect example of how judiciary as an arm of government limited people’s power was in 2008. California state constituents had overwhelmingly passed the vote to legalize gay couples, but judges there disagreed with the case because the state attorney general could not explain and defend the decision made by the California state citizens. This was a clear indication that the ideas and beliefs of Abraham Lincoln about people having the final say were at risk from the government administration system.

Founders of democracy stressed out that people were to given power to dictate both their economic, social and political independence and freedom. The freedom in question would only be achieved if the people were given the right to vote and elect political leaders, who would present their ideas and issues by forming administration arms that would run affairs of the country (Tierney, 2015). The leaders were also given the legal power to formulate and amend laws governing the citizens, but this has proved inefficient as these leaders are occasionally seen passing legislation that explicitly undermines people will. The developed administration arms of the government posed a significant threat to will and the power of the people thus raising the need to form ways to control and check the powers of these arms to safeguard the majority interest.

Democracies go deeper than giving citizens the right to vote leaders and referendums. There are unexplained entanglements in laws and freedoms that average ordinary citizens are not aware, this gives them a right to vote but limits their powers as they have been robbed of the right to understand and information about what they are voting for or against (Spicker, 2008). The percentage of Americans turning out for election is becoming less, as tight social-economic constraints force them to forego the political process for other personal activities, thus influencing electoral  outcomes that will affect their lives. Technical reduction of people’s power has been seen through electoral and legal processes, where referendums are the perfect example where people rights are limited without their knowing. 

Truth and trust between the people and the government are most important components in the developed democracies. A lot of political leaders believe that common citizens cannot be trusted with serious issues and truths that affect them; hence putting peoples government at risk (White, 2008). It is essential for the citizens to understand that democratic processes such as referendum will not solve all the issues and may be the primary threat to democracy in itself. Abraham Lincoln regime is popular for giving power to the people rather than taking it away from them, and this would need to happen in modern systems for democracy to prevail. 

List of References

Bulley, D, & Sokhi-Bulley, B 2014, 'Big Society as Big Government: Cameron's Governmentality Agenda', British Journal Of Politics & International Relations, 16, 3, pp. 452-470, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 May 2017.

Epstein, RA 2011, 'Direct Democracy: Government Of The People, By The People, And For The People?', Harvard Journal Of Law & Public Policy, 34, 4, pp. 819-826, Business Source Premier.

Nun, J. (2000). Democracy: government of the people or government of the politicians? Lanham, Md, Rowman & Littlefield.

Nu'uhiwa, BS 2013, 'Government of the People, by the People, for the People: Cultural Sovereignty, Civil Rights, and Good Native Hawaiian Governance', Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, 14, 3, pp. 57-106, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 May 2017.

Petriwskyj, & Cuthill, M 2017, 'Barriers to older people’s participation in local governance: The impact of diversity', Educational Gerontology, 43, 5, pp. 259-275.

Pretorius, L 2006, 'Government by or over the People? The African National Congress's Conception of Democracy', Social Identities, 12, 6, pp. 745-769, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 May 2017.

Qvortrup, M 2002, ‘A comparative study of referendums: government by the people. Manchester [u.a.], Manchester Univ. Press.

Spicker, P 2008, 'Government for the people: the substantive elements of democracy', International Journal Of Social Welfare, 17, 3, pp. 251-259, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 May 2017

Tierney, S 2015, 'Direct Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Theory and Practice of Government by the People', Political Studies Review, 13, 3, pp. 408-409, Academic Search Premier.

White. R 2008, ‘Government for the people: reflections of a White House counsel to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Lanham, Md, Hamilton Books.

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