Per the Saylor Academy’s article, “Types of Democracy,” The democratic form of government is an institutional configuration that allows for popular participation through the electoral process” (Saylor, n.d.). Democracy plays a vital role in building and developing a nation. In some western countries, like the United Kingdom, many of their citizens have been struggling to pursue and build a nation with a democratic government. It is true that there are several advantages to having a democratic form of government, but, it also has some disadvantages as well. However, the advantages of democracy are far more beneficial than the negative aspects of it, and the disadvantages of a democracy can be fixed through the environment of democracy, making it the ideal choice for government.
Direct democracy features the election of officials by the votes of the people. Although this can create the possibility of corruption and decreased governance, it is important to give a nations’ citizens some form of election power. Democracy also safeguards the interests of the people by electing these officials to represent them. Democracy at the core is based on the principle of equality. Equal political, social, and economic rights are put in place and protected by the help of the government, political parties, and citizen organizations. Per B. Russell’s article, “The Case for Socialism,” the democratic government makes sure that all people are equal as far as the law is concerned (Russell, 1935). Democracy is also known for its efficiency and stability. The elected officials that the citizens chose to have a specific length of time they can serve. Democracy, therefore, motivates these elected officials to thoroughly think their decisions through to ensure they are both correct and please their voters. However, a monarch does not need to necessarily keep the popularity of their citizens and can, therefore, make decisions as he or she pleases.
Political consciousness is another strength of a democracy. Thanks to media such as television, radio, and online social networks, the actions of our government are showcased for all to see. This, however, can have significant drawbacks as well, as propaganda can be very costly if used incorrectly. Per Hugh Heclo’s article, Hyperdemocracy, Heclo states that, “in the media battle over public impressions, those who seek to educate the voters by providing information, or to answer opponents’ criticisms, usually lose out to those who “frame” issues and images, shift focus and counterattack, avoid admissions of ignorance or uncertainty, and exaggerate conflict over policy for dramatic impact” (Heclo, 1999). In a democracy where the public has a voice, it is important that their voice is based on educated information relevant to what is actually happening in the world. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, for example, rules as a dictator. His “Supreme Leader” role allows him to manipulate truths, spread propaganda and lies, and deny his own citizens many of the freedoms that we enjoy in America. His horrific actions while ruling over a starving population show why a dictatorship can be quite a terrible thing and why democracy works.
While the United States was founded on revolution, democracy lowers the risk of revolt by being based on public will. Government representatives have a direct line of communication with the American population, and therefore any changes they wish to make can usually be done without violence or protest. While the United States today faces many complicated issues, the process of solving these problems is a collective effort, or at least should be. At the core of a good democracy, is a “good society.” A “good society” is comprised of numerous matters such as justice, prosperity, the rule of law, concern of citizenship, and rights to both defense and private property. This concept is explained in the article “The Domain of Justice” by Mortimer J. Adler. Adler states, “In short, one cannot do good and avoid injuring or doing evil to others without knowing what is really good for them” (Addler,1981).
Democracy, using the fundamentals of a good society, offers its citizens a chance to be good citizens by creating an environment that is perfect for the evolution of cultivating good habits and personalities. The American society, although governed by strict laws, operates under the jurisdiction of the everyday citizen. We all abide by a set of rules that society deems as just; the social contract. It is with this fictitious contract we have the bases of what is and isn’t acceptable in our society and democracy.
There are many advantages to a democratic form of government. First, it protects the interest of citizens. Although the people have a voice in a democracy, it is based on their level of engaged citizenship. Per Robert D. Putnam’s article, “Bowling Alone,” Putnam states, “the norms and networks of civic engagement also powerfully affect the performance of representative government” (Putnam, 1995). The many laws that help us communicate and make changes to the government are useless unless we chose to be active members of society. The ability to elect government officials depends on if one chooses to actually vote. Compared with a society with socialism, the citizens of a country governed by a democratic government are given the rights to vote on political, social and economic issues.
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages of the democratic form of government. There is generally a stronger emphasis on quantity rather than quality. This is especially true regarding how voting works. Since elections are based on the majority vote, the majority vote therefor controls the government. The quality of the voters and their intentions for the future of the government does not matter, only the sheer number of voters they have at their disposal. We often see how this can negatively influence the voting process and the following results. Thanks to social media, many are fully aware of elections as well as the media giving the population the ability to form organizations and movements. For example, the National Environment Research Council (NERC), recently conducted an Internet poll to decide the name for their new naval research boat. Not surprisingly, many did not take this seriously. The name, “Boaty McBoatface won the popular vote with 124,000 votes. While the NERC ultimately chose not to go with the proposed name, we can see how the majority rule can have undesired consequences. This harmful effect has never been showcased better than the election of President Trump.
Another disadvantage democracy has is based on one of its most fundamental aspects, equality for all. While equality is technically a good thing to strive for, it goes against nature. Not every person has equal intelligence, talents, and health status. Not every person shares the same courage, work ethic, and mental health. Due to these many different characteristics we all share, granting everyone equality when it comes to the government, for example, can be wrought with difficulties. Allowing a wide range of possible candidates for a government position can cause celebrities and other undesirable applicants to take office and possibly harm many aspects of American society and government. Putnam further states, “the proportion of Americans who reply that they “trust the government in Washington” only “some of the time” or “almost never” has risen steadily from 30 percent in 1966 to 75 percent in 1992 (Putnam, 1995). This distrust of the American government is a key example of one of the flaws of modern day democracy.
Democracy also suffers from the misuse of both finances and time. While any style of government can do this, democracy above all spends an absurd amount of time and resources on elections and formulating laws. American taxpayers fund government employees’ vacations, high salaries, and substantial health care programs while its citizens must scrape together dollars to pay for their own health coverage. Russel further states, “wage-earners have the constant danger of unemployment; salaried employees know that their firm may go bankrupt or find it necessary to cut down its staff; businessmen, even those who are reputed to be very rich, know that the loss of all their money is by no means improbable” (Russel,1935). Democracy is also based on its political parties. These political parties are focused on obtaining power and often do so with actions that hurt the United States. While arguing about which party has the best ideas for a problem we face, thousands of other severe problems are being forgotten. The Saylor Academy further states, “the potential for a “split government” increases the likelihood for disagreement and can make the policymaking process difficult” (Saylor, n.d.).
However, in general, the advantages of a democratic form of government outweigh its disadvantages. Democracy, while not perfect, is the right environment for the endless pursuit of perfection in both society and government. The public needs a voice, and that voice needs to be able to elect their own desired officials, to then transport that voice to the right ears. As we see in many other countries that do not have democracy, tyrants, and dictators who hold all the power, usually never use that power for the good of their country. In a democracy, if the leader is performing negatively, the everyday citizen has the power to make changes. Whether it be through media, public organizations, electing new officials or removing them all together, the public has the power, and that is why democracy is needed in this constantly changing and damaged the world. One person alone will not make the world a better place. Instead, a collaborative effort of all will be required.
Russell, B. (1935). The Case for Socialism. Retrieved from http://www.ditext.com/russell/cs.html
Heclo, Hugh. (1999). Hyperdemocracy.
Alder, M. (1997). Six Great Ideas. New York City: Simon and Schuster.
Putnam, Robert D. (1995). Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital. Journal of Democracy.
Saylor Academy (n.d.). Types of Government.
Categories: Random Thoughts