The Benefits and Problems of Democracy Essay

In the famous words of Sir Winston Churchill, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. ” As a staunch supporter of democracy, Churchill is admitting that although there may be a variety of flaws in a democratic government, it is still a far more suitable choice of governing as opposed to alternate forms of government.

Widely accepted as the most popular and working form of government, democracy is, in a nutshell, a political system in which the power is given to the popular vote of the people. In fact, the very origins of the term democracy hail from the Greek term for ‘ruled by the people’. The basic form of our modern democratic system originated in Greece as a polar-opposite alternative to a dictatorship.

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This form of democracy is by far the most purest in its original form as there were no elected representatives, and every eligible citizen voted on all issues in the government. Unfortunately, women and slaves were not considered eligible to vote at this time even though they made up more than 50% of the population. Despite this, the basic principle that the power of the government is directly influenced by every eligible citizen was most strongly incorporated at that time.

Nowadays, many of our modern democratic governments have altered this form of government by electing a few official representatives to vote on issues which makes many of our modern democracies more of an elected oligarchy as opposed to being a democracy. The question at hand then, is what the benefits of this modern form of democracy are as well as the issues and potential problems that a democratic society would have to face.

To start off, we can look at some of the clear advantages and disadvantages of having a democracy in terms of dealing with corruption, a serious issue in both democratic and non-democratic countries alike. First of all, we must see that most democratic styles of government and any of the slight variations do give a great deal of power to the people and since the people have the power to elect individuals to represent them, the individuals who are in power should sufficiently reflect the view of a majority of the opulation. Furthermore, in most democracies, the people have the power to vote to oust the current leader if his or her performance is sub-par or contrary to the view of the mass. This constant “threat” of being removed tends to keep the individual politician to work toward the popular view of the mass instead of the politician’s individual view. This final check system also seems to do well to prevent blatant corruption in consolidated democracies.

However, although most analysts would suggest that there is a negative relationship between corruption and democracy, extensive research has shown that there appears to be an increasing spike of corruption that occurs in newly formed democracies, which eventually dies down but nevertheless shows that more countries and sudden change to democracy can mean an increase of corruption for a short period of time. Overall though, democracy is known for usefully combating corruption that is prevalent throughout nearly all other forms of government. The stance of democracy in pertaining to the economy of a country is interesting.

It has been argued that the political stance of the country has little to do with its economic output after looking at the economic power of the United States and China; although they have different political standpoints, both are economic powerhouses. In contrast, Iraq and North Korea, which have different political standpoints, are both economically dead. However, I believe that the political standpoint does have a major effect on the economy of a country. For instance, the growth and progress of economy is directly related to the political stability of a country.

If a country is unable to stay politically secure and maintain peace, industries within the country would naturally be looking for short-term economic growth periods due to uncertainty on the country’s future political status. Foreign investors and international businesses would also be naturally reluctant to venture their businesses into a nation that has a potential undergo political turmoil. However, in most autocracies or extreme oligarchies, the exchange of power from one regime to another political party typically results in a large amount of bloodshed and violence.

Furthermore, even if one regime manages to take control without any kind of violence and turmoil as most often the case, the new political party may or may not choose to take the country’s economic policies to a whole new direction. In a democratic country, however, change from one political party to another is fairly safe and secure with little political upheaval, since the new political party would be elected by the masses that political party’s economic policies should be reflection of a majority opinion of the country.

Thus, democracy would be preventing any rash and unforeseen economic changes made by a new political party as well as maintaining the political and economic safety of the country. This in turn provides an incentive for local industries to look toward long-term economic growth, as well as providing the safety necessities for foreign industries to invest in the country’s growth. Continuing on the benefits of a democracy on the economy are the more obscure benefits such as competitiveness and cultural growth.

A country’s competitiveness and cultural value are hard to quantify, but nevertheless are important aspects on a country’s economic growth. Undoubtedly, there is a “competitive character that is essential to democracy. After all, the mechanisms of democracy aim to regulate the state monopoly on governance in conformance with the rules of competition – an objective that is served by free and fair elections as much as by the freedom of association and the press or the competition among political parties. Autocracies, on the other hand, are not exposed to competition.

Instead, they formulate their own economic-policy rules to serve their own interests and generate economic privileges”. This competitive character thus aids in promoting economic growth by pushing the citizens toward economic success, a trait that is uncountably essential to capitalism, which is more often than not the economic stance coupled with democracy. The next factor is cultural value; cultural value industries such as television, movies, music, literature, and even internet have a huge effect on the economy.

By marketing itself as the dominant culture, which happens more often than not, cultural media industries not only provide enormous revenue for the country, but also give large potential for economic growth in industries outside the media, such as through commercials and on-screen product use. There is also a large positive correlation between the success of a country’s cultural media and whether or not a country is democratic. This mainly has to do with the fact that nearly all forms of democracy hold the inherent respect for freedom of speech and expression, a trait that is essential for a success of cultural media industries.

Most countries with an autocratic governing system have strict bans and censorship of much of the media and internet. This tends to cause a great deal of tension between the government and cultural industries, which in turn depletes a great deal of potential economic stimulators. Another contributing factor that democracy has to economic growth is the lack of government intervention in small businesses, laissez-faire. The natural belief in democracy is that the power is to the people and, as a result, leads to less interference into small business which often inhibits the growth of small sectors of the economy.

All in all, most countries with a more democratic form of government are more favored to have better economic growth. Although so far it would seem that democracy is a favorable form of government, it truly has many flaws. For instance, in a democratic government, the power goes to the people. Even though this may seem favorable at first, one must keep in mind that the power goes to all of the people. In many countries, a large portion of the citizens have a very limited knowledge of the current political issues. Thus, the common mass ends up dictating many issues that require a more delicate understanding of the political issue.

Another danger that a democratic society has to face is that most democracies hold regular elections to determine the governing political party. This results in many political parties looking toward short term goals in order to win the next election instead of considering long-term consequences, as held evident by the current United States debt crisis. In the end, democracy, like every other form of government, has its pros and cons. Even though it can be argued that democracy certainly has its many glaring shortfalls, it can also be claimed that it is the best of the worst, the lesser of two evils, if you will.

The common view among most political analysts, however, is that the advantages of democracy end up outweighing the disadvantages.

References

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