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Debate: Democracy

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Background and Context of Debate:

Democracy is best defined as government of the people, by the people. In the West, especially after ideological conflicts such as the Cold War, we can tend to assume that democracy is the only valid form of government. However, this assumption must be justified. The classical example of a democracy is that of Ancient Athens, where the whole populace would meet in the marketplace to vote on decisions. It can be argued form this position that modern ‘democracies’ are not in fact democratic.

Argument #1


Democracy allows the people to have a direct say in who governs them, via the votes cast by every adult member of the populace. As such it ensures that a government is made up of those truly representative of the people, and ensures that no minority, military power or elite is able to oppress them. If we accept that we al have the same rights, then it follows we should all have an equal say in who represents us in choosing how we are governed.


Real, effective leadership must come from above and not from below. The people as a mass are capable of being manipulated, and are unlikely to possess skills or training in confronting problems a state might face. As such, expecting them to elect the ‘best tools for the job’ is unrealistic. Government from above can see, by virtue of its position and advantages, what is better for the people than the people can. For example, the abolition of the death penalty was at first deeply unpopular with the British public when it was pushed through by the government, but is now broadly supported as correct and humane.

Argument #2


Modern democracy has been advocated for hundreds of years as the best form of government, and was taken as the model by societies we take as the founders of modern liberties, such as the French and American Revolutionary states. It has been proved by history as the best form of government.


Modern democracy ( as opposed to classical, Athenian democracy ) is a facade. ‘True’ democracy can only be practised on a very small scale. In Britain for example, whilst people may vote every five years, they have no input into decision beyond this. This is the desirable state of things, but it is not democracy. Our current state of government would be far more effective if it abandoned its pretences at representativity.

Argument #3


Modern democracies are constantly striving to make themselves more representative, by increased use of consultative sessions, such as MPs surgeries in Britain, referenda ( especially in Switzerland, but also issues such as over Scottish and Welsh devolution in Britain and EU membership in Denmark) and proportional representation ( e.g. in the Welsh assembly ).


Such devices are intended not to bring government closer to the people, but to give undemocratic government a veneer of democratic respectability. Real power is still with the elites, who decide who will stand for which seats, and thus who is guaranteed to be elected via ‘safe’ seats. In Britain, we even have an undemocratic second chamber, the House of Lords, which is able to interfere substantially with the process of passing laws. These Lords are appointed directly by the political parties. ‘True democracy’, we repeat again, is an unworkable system on the scale of a country, and we should abandon pretences at it for a more practical system.

Argument #4


Decisions must be made by the will of the people, otherwise we have no protection again abuse of power. The people are kept informed by newspapers, academics and scientists, and are thus fully capable of making an informed decision. What is more, the will of the people is far more representative of different groups in society than the condescending rule by elites, who have no understanding of different ways life.


The ‘will of the people’ is likewise a sham. In actual fact, very little public opinion is arrived at independently, by rational application of logic to facts. Public opinion is controlled, directed and inflamed by the gutter press, whose content is controlled ultimately by newspaper barons belonging to the very elite that controls the country. This is the way a country must be governed - an elite who provided firm and effective leadership, and directs the public in the ways best for them.



  • This House believes in democracy
  • This House would listen to the people
  • This House believes that democracy is universally the best form of government

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