I was asked that question today in an interesting conversation about vaccinations, gun laws, tobacco usage, and morality. That’s the backdrop. Thinking about that question, I decided I wanted to add an adjective, so the question becomes, “What is a functional democracy?”
My rough answer to is that a functional democracy is one in which all the people are participating in the democratic process (voting, free speech, non-violent demonstration, law passing, etc) out of a deep morality and sense of ethics which guides their interest and thinking about the issues.
The implication here is that everyone is engaged in a deepening of their morality / ethics in order to bring as much clear thinking as possible to the issues. When we all are engaged in this deepening, we can also more clearly communicate with each other, and even if we disagree with each other (because we all have different life experiences), we should be able to respect every standpoint, every perspective, because we know it has come out of a deep moral thinking of the issue.
That, to me, is a functional democracy.