Differences between liberalism and democracy

Both liberalism and democracy are state systems that aim to organize society in its different aspects such as economic, social and cultural, according to the criteria set out in its system of government. In this sense, there are a number of differences between liberalism and democracy, which we will see later in this article based on both definitions.


Liberalism is a system of government or doctrine that emerged at the end of the 18th century due to the failure of the movement called -enlightened reformism-, due to the refusal of the absolutist powers and in opposition to the social groups that defend absolutism. This is a philosophical, economic and political system that promotes civil liberties to the maximum, opposing despotism in any of its forms. This is because it is based on the freedom of the individual and the minimum intervention of the state in social and economic life.

On the other hand, according to liberalism, the state has limited powers and functions, therefore, it is a system that completely rejects state intervention in civil affairs. For liberalism, the state must take the position of an arbiter with regard to economic activity, but not intervene directly in decision-making in economic matters.

The bases on which liberalism rests are the free market, the free expression of ideas and equality before the law. Politically, liberalism proposes handing over absolute power to the citizens, who will be able to choose their representatives in a sovereign and totally free manner. Furthermore, the government structure in liberalism is centered on the executive branch, led by the monarch. Finally, in this system, decisions regarding laws are the exclusive competence of the monarch.


It can be said that democracy is a political system that defends the sovereignty of the people and the right of the people to elect and control their rulers. It is a form of government in which political power is in the hands of all or most of the citizens who are part of a nation through legitimate mechanisms of participation in political decision-making such as universal and direct voting.

The structure of government in a democracy is divided into three (3) powers such as the legislative, executive and judicial powers. Additionally, democratic governments have a congress that supports the executive in decision-making, which is the entity that decides the approval of the laws proposed by the executive power.

In addition to this, democracy proposes that all citizens should have the same opportunities and the same duties before the law (legal equality). However, there are different types of democracy among which we can mention:

  • Pure or direct democracy : it is the democracy in which its citizens participate directly in making decisions that are political in nature through direct voting but without the intermediation of any representative.
  • Representative or indirect democracy: is one where citizens exercise political power through their representatives, who are elected by voting in free and regular elections.
  • Participatory democracy: it is the democracy that allows the citizen to actively participate in the supervision and control of the application of public policies. In addition, it promotes citizen organization to propose initiatives and to express themselves in favor or against a given measure.

To conclude, according to the above, the most relevant differences between liberalism and democracy can be summarized as:

  • The structure of government in democracy is divided into three (3) powers such as the legislative, executive and judicial powers, while in liberalism there is only the executive power, which is exercised by the monarch.
  • Democratic governments have a congress that offers support in decision-making while in liberalism there is only the figure of the monarch.
  • In democratic systems, the congress decides the approval of the laws proposed by the executive power (president) while in liberalism the decision is exclusive to the monarch.

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