Personal tools
 
Views

Debate: Democracy

From Debatepedia

Revision as of 05:27, 9 October 2010; Ichiro22 (Talk | contribs)
(diff) ←Older revision | Current revision | Newer revision→ (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
[Digg]
[reddit]
[Delicious]
[Facebook]

Is democracy really the best form of government?

Background and context

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.

A common variation of this motion is Vox populi is a relic.

Contents

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]

History: Does history prove democracy to be the best form of government?

[Add New]

Yes

  • 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.
  • Only fundamentally free societies can be fundamentally secure and developed, which is backed up by many examples from our history. See "Peacebuilding and the impact of post-conflict areas on European security" by Professor Anton Grizold (Department of Political Science - Defence Studies, University of Ljublana.
  • Democracy is better than all its alternatives. History shows us that autocracies, theocracies, oligarchies, etc. are either ineffective forms of government, instable, corrupt, inapt to deal with crises and/or prone to violate basic human rights and freedoms - clearly a state that is undesirable.
[Add New]

No

  • Modern democracy doesn't work well. 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.
  • "Democracy has never endured in countries with mainly non-market economies. The existence of an overweening state machine that meddles in everything can tempt leaders to use it against their political foes. Total control of the economy also sucks the air away from what Istvan Bibo, a Hungarian political thinker, called “the little circles of freedom”—the free associations and independent power centres that a free economy allows." The Economist, "Crying for freedom", January 16th, 2010
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Politics: Does (and should) the vox populi matter?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Democracy prevents unjust mob rule. Democracy allows the people to have a direct say in who governs them, via the votes cast by every adult member of the population. As such it ensures that a government is made up of those whom are truly representative of the people, and ensures that no minority, military power or elite is able to oppress them. If we accept that we all have the same rights, then it follows we should all have an equal say in who represents us in choosing how we are governed.
Additionally, decisions must be made by the will of the people, otherwise we have no protection against 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.
  • 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).
[Add New]

No

  • Democracy doesn't allow for effective leadership. 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.
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.
  • Democracy is just an illusion. Such devices as referenda or initiatives 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.
  • Democracy can easily result in a "tyranny of the majority". According to Fareed Zakaria (The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy Home and Abroad), especially less developed countries encounter problems when implementing basic democratic principles, as majorities are able to systematically undermine the whole legal system, as well as the protection of human rights.
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Economics: Does democracy promote economic growth?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Democracies tend to progress faster. "A study by Morton Halperin, Joseph Siegle and Michael Weinstein for the Council of Foreign Relations, using World Bank data between 1960 and 2001, found that the average economic growth rate was 2.3% for democracies and 1.6% for autocracies." The Economist, "Crying for freedom", January 16th 2010
Many case studies can e found in The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria.
[Add New]

No

  • Economic progress enhances democracy. Contrary to popular belief, it is economic progress that matters, not a political reform. History shows that first come human rights concerning business, whereas basic human rights and freedoms are negotiated later. (First comes economic liberalization, then the political one.)
See F. Zakaria's "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy Home and Abroad".
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Governance: Does democracy improve decision-making? Does it matter?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Medium- and long-term stability. "Although democratic politicians spend a lot of time vacillating, arguing and being loud and disagreeable, this can reinforce stability in the medium term; it allows the interests and viewpoints of more people to be heard before action is taken. On the State Fragility Index, which is produced annually by George Mason University and studies variables such as “political effectiveness” and security, democracies tend to do much better than autocracies. Tito’s Yugoslavia was stable, as was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—but once the straitjacket that held their systems together came off, the result was a release of pent-up pressure, and a golden opportunity for demagogues bent on mayhem." The Economist, "Crying for freedom", January 16th 2010
  • Avoiding catastrophic mistakes. "A culture of compromise—coupled with greater accountability and limits on state power—means that democracies are better able to avoid catastrophic mistakes, or criminal cruelty. Bloody nightmares that cost tens of millions of lives, like China’s Great Leap Forward or the Soviet Union’s forced collectivisation programme, were made possible by the concentration of power in a small group of people who faced no restraint. (...) poor autocracies [are] at least twice as likely as democracies to suffer an economic disaster (defined as a decline of 10% or more in GDP in a year)" The Economist, "Crying for freedom", January 16th 2010
  • The quality of governance is not as important. We cannot judge a political system on its outcome. What matters more are basic freedoms, rule of law, and respect for human dignity. So even if democracies were not yielding better results than autocracies, this should not be taken into account.
[Add New]

No

  • Populism. Unlike in totalitarian regimes, politicians in democracies have to secure their mandates. Every time elections are held, politicians do not aim to come up with reasonable proposals that would benefit the country, quite the opposite. They either need to show that no matter what, their opponents are always wrong, or the politicians have to present such policies that make them (or, at the very least, their political party) popular. That means that unpopular policies such as tax increases, or public spending cuts almost never get on the agenda, which can lead to disillusionment of voters, unsound monetary policies or other disasters - right after the elections.
  • Tyranny of minorities. In proportional representative democracies it is quite common for ruling parties to form coalitions. These coalitions usually depend on smaller political parties who take an unfair advantage of this position and "blackmail" bigger parties on adopting specific legislation or during confidence votes. The fact that these small parties who in reality gained about 8% of all votes are able to obstruct the whole decision-making system in effect undermines the basics of democracy: all votes are equal
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section up]

Developing countries: Are democratic systems superior to authoritarian regimes?

[Add New]

Yes

[Add New]

No

  • Democracy is a gradual process. In the long term, democracy is viable only in both politically and economically stable countries as it is usually during the time of crises when people tend to vote for extremist social or religious parties that could infringe upon the rights of minorities, thereby undermining the very pillars of the democratic state structure. [See Fareed Zakaria: "The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy Home and Abroad".]

See also

External links and resources:

Books:

Problem with the site? 

Tweet a bug on bugtwits
.