Is democracy good for people's health? A South African perspective

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7480.1425 (Published 16 December 2004)
Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1425

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  1. Dan J Ncayiyana, vice chancellor (vice-chancellor@dit.ac.za)1
  1. 1 Durban Institute of Technology, PO Box 1334, Durban, South Africa

    What is democracy? There are probably as many versions of this elastic concept as there are countries and nations that claim to be its adherents (and there is nary a country that does not)—something that is bound to confound attempts to tackle the question that constitutes the subject of this essay. Both Plato and Aristotle were contemptuous of the idea of democracy meaning direct rule by the populace or “the mob” as in Athens; they favoured instead the idea of “rule by the best”—the aristocracy (aristos is Greek for “best”).

    The Aristotelian model underpins modern representative governance. The governed are afforded the opportunity periodically to elect “the best,” who will rule over them. Once elected, the ruling elite makes decisions about war and peace, the quality of the environment, the allocation of the nation's resources, and other critical matters, all of which have profound implications for the …

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