A system of government in which effective political power is vested in the people. In older usage (for example, in the writings of the classical Greek and Roman philosophers or in the Federalist Papers), the term was reserved exclusively for governmental systems in which the populace exercised this power directly through general assemblies or referenda to decide the most important questions of law or policy. In more contemporary usage, the term has been broadened to include also what the American Founding Fathers called a republic -- a governmental system in which the power of the people is normally exercised only indirectly, through freely elected representatives who are supposed to make government decisions according to the popular will, or at least according to the supposed values and interests of the population.

[See also: republic, autocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, state, dictatorship, theocracy]