Is democracy the best way for a society to be ruled?
Many countries all over the world prefer the democratic form of government. In this type of leadership, the people choose their leaders through elections. All adult citizens who are eligible to vote have the freedom to choose their leaders after a predetermined period. There are two types of democracies, direct and representative. In direct democracies, each individual is given the power to influence the electoral process without any intermediaries. In the representative form of democracy, there is a political intermediary between the voter and the policies of the country. Most countries prefer this form of democracy because of the large number of voters in each state. The elected representatives remain accountable to the group of people that elected them. The opposite of democracy is tyranny or dictatorship. Here, citizens are not free to choose their leaders, but they are selected through mechanisms such as succession. Both forms of government have their pros and cons, but the benefits of democracy far outweigh those of dictatorship.
Some famous words from Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” This means that democracy has many flaws, but they are still fewer when compared to those of other existing forms of government. Some of the benefits of democracy include the freedom of citizens of a democratic society. Secondly, the people and their interests are well represented (Dworkin 11). Third, a democratically elected government is more transparent; leading to better governance. Human rights are also upheld in a democracy as compared to a dictatorship. On the flip side, democracies experience slower economic growth compared to autocracies, the democratic governments are all about money, and the electorate is less motivated in a democracy.
The first advantage of a democratic society is freedom. The people are free to choose their leaders in elections, and through this, they have a say in the policies implemented in their country. Another feature is the freedom of people to criticize their leaders. Every individual is free to express their opinion without fear or favor. If they do not like what one of their leaders is doing, they can say this openly. There are also multiple political parties in a democracy that keep the government in check. The opposition to the government makes sure that the government acts in the interest of the people of the country (Moyn). Things are very different in an authoritarian regime. Citizens of such societies are not allowed to question the leaders in power. The consequences for speaking in opposition to the leaders can be imprisonment or even death. Examples of such countries include Bahrain where insulting the emir gets a jail term of between one and seven years as well as a hefty fine of between $2650 and $26,500. This makes it very difficult or even impossible for citizens to call out a president when they act inappropriately. However, not all autocracies are this dictatorial. Apart from the inability to speak out against leadership, the citizens can be free to do any other thing.
The second advantage of democracy as a form of government is that it is representative. People take part in elections to choose leaders who represent them. Every single person has the chance to choose their leaders. If a leader does not act according to the wishes of the people, then they can be impeached and thrown out of office. Such a system ensures that the elite are not the only ones who get a say in the running of the affairs of a society or a country. However, this point of support may not always be valid; the leaders chosen may not reflect the wishes of the majority. The United States and the Electoral College system of electing a president is a perfect example (Dworkin 9). In the 2016 presidential election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote of 65,844,610 against Republican candidate Donald Trump with 62,797636. However, Hillary lost the Electoral College with 227 votes against Trump’s 304 . The popular vote shows that Hillary was the preferred leader, but the Electoral College has the final say. The president who ends up in office is not the same as the one with most voters.
The third advantage of democracy is better governance because of transparency in government. Most democratically elected governments have three branches, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive has the most powers, and the other two arms act as a check on its powers. They keep tabs on what is done with the country’s money. If the executive is found to be doing things that are illegal or detrimental to the country, they have to be stopped (Hollyer, et al. 1196). The media also plays a significant role in ensuring the transparency of the government. It explains all the necessary information to the electorate who may not be very knowledgeable on some fronts.
An example of this is discussing Bills that have been tabled in the Senate and Congress in the United States. One of the most controversial issues was the government shutdown in 2019 during which the media educated the public on the causes of the shutdown and the potential effects on the country (Butler 17). The people of the country are therefore kept abreast of what is happening in their government. Fraudulent activities and secret deals can be brought to light by the media. In an autocracy, things are very different. The press is not as free to report on government activities because this information is not made available to the public. The governments can choose to have checks and balance of their power, but this rarely happens.
Another reason as to why democracy should be the preferred form of government is that it respects and promotes human rights. Many human rights are pegged on freedom of speech which is a significant characteristic of democratic governments. The government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. This means that the citizens occupy a central position in government. The citizens can speak out concerning their wellbeing in all areas of life including healthcare, education, infrastructure, freedom of speech among many others. The challenge in this is that people from the same society or country can have many conflicting views and it is impossible to implement them all. The majority will win, and this may jeopardize the rights and freedoms of the minority groups (Moyn).
There also exist some strong points against the democratic rule. The first of this is that democracy can slow down the economic growth of a country or society. Autocracies can do a better job implementing large scale projects necessary for economic growth. This is because there are no avenues for the blocking of the projects such as court injunctions and the like (D’Souza & Nash 241). The projects take much shorter periods proving beneficial to the economy. China, which is the world’s fastest growing economy, is the example of such an autocracy which has been helpful to the economic growth of the country. However, this point has been refuted by the fact that many of the world’s most developed countries are democracies. This is because these countries have moved from manufacturing industries as the base of the economy to service industries. The service industry such as technology, research, and arts requires a lot of freedom and creativity which can only be found in a democracy.
The second point against democracy is that elections have become more about the money than representing the people. The United States is an excellent example of this. Running for Congress requires a substantial financial commitment for the candidate. Because of this, candidacy has been reserved for the wealthy and powerful. It is approximated that the 2008 presidential campaigns cost $1.6 billion and the campaigns for the whole elections amounted to $5.3 billion. These are vast amounts of money that would have been better utilized in other areas of the economy. Autocracies avoid all the excessive spending on campaigns because they do not hold such extravagant campaigns; power is passed quietly from one leader to the next.
In conclusion, the democratic form of government has been shown to have several advantages as well as disadvantages. Some of the main benefits include respect for human rights, freedom of expression, representation of the people and better forms of governance due to transparency. The disadvantages are that it slows down economic growth and waste a lot of money on elections and campaigns. Autocracies, on the other hand, can implement projects for economic growth more quickly and they also do not spend a lot of money campaigning. However, the main disadvantage is that leaders can take the opportunity to enrich themselves because of little oversight over the executive. The citizens are also oppressed because they cannot speak against the government for fear of fines, imprisonment, and even death. Weighing the two options, it safe to conclude that democracy is the best way for a society or country to be ruled.
Butler, Patrick. “A Free Press: Boisterous Watchdog of Democracy.” SAIS Review of International Affairs 38.2 (2018): 15-22.
D’Souza, Juliet, and Robert Nash. “Private benefits of public control: Evidence of political and economic benefits of state ownership.” Journal of Corporate Finance 46 (2017): 232-247.
Dworkin, Ronald. “Constitutionalism and Democracy 1.” Constitutionalism and Democracy. Routledge, 2017. 3-12.
Hollyer, James R., B. Peter Rosendorff, and James Raymond Vreeland. “Democracy and transparency.” The Journal of Politics 73.4 (2011): 1191-1205.
Moyn, Samuel. “Human Rights and Majority Politics: On Felix Frankfurter’s Democratic Theory.” Available at SSRN (2019).