Democracy is a political system that is ruled directly by the people or through elected representatives. This OpinionFront article tells you about the advantages and disadvantages of democracy.
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democracy is a form of government wherein the supreme power is in the hands of the people. The word ‘democracy’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘popular government’. Let us look at the definition of democracy and its advantages and disadvantages.
Democracy, by definition, is a political system in which the supreme power lies in the hands of citizens who can elect people to represent them. It can also be defined as the political orientation of those who favor a government by the people or by their elected representatives. The two basic types of democracy are direct and representative. In a direct democracy, people take active part in law-making and other government decisions. In a representative democracy, representatives elected by people take part in law-making and important decisions. It is similar to the US republican form of government. Here we discuss in detail, the pros and cons of democracy in both its forms.
➺ Democracy can provide for changes in government without violence. In a democracy, power is transferred from one party to another by means of elections. The choice of the citizens of a nation determines its ruling authority. The government runs on people’s support. Thus, democracy allows for a stable form of government.
➺ The government is bound by an election term after which it has to compete with other parties to regain authority. This system prevents monopoly of the ruling authority. The ruling party has to make sure it works for the people for it cannot remain in authority after completing its term, unless re-elected by the people.
➺ This brings in a feeling of obligation towards the citizens. The ruling authorities owe their success in the elections to the citizens. They feel grateful towards the people and socially responsible for them. It can serve as their motivation to work for the people, for it is them who have the right of choosing their government.
➺ Another important advantage of democracy is that the people gain a sense of participation in the process of choosing their government (in representative democracy) and in making policy decisions (in direct democracy). They get the opportunity to voice their opinions by means of electoral votes. This breeds a sense of belonging towards society and their nation.
➺ Democracy promotes equality and the protection of people’s rights. There is a strong legal system, and for the law, everyone is equal. All the citizens have the right to vote. The other social and political rights they have are also the same, and not based on their caste, creed, or any other factor. The chances of discrimination on the basis of these factors are very less, unlike in a monarchy, where the ruler may favor a particular group or community.
➺ In a direct democracy, the citizens directly participate in legislation, and have the authority in policy initiatives. The laws and governing policies are made by the citizens themselves, giving them maximum participation and bringing transparency to the system. Policy decisions are made with the consensus of people which makes the process fair.
➺ As people are directly responsible for the policies in a direct democracy, it does not leave them a chance for blaming the representatives.
➺ In a representative democracy, not citizens, but the representatives elected by them are responsible for making laws and formulating policies for the government. They make the people’s concerns heard, and the decisions or laws made by them cater to the people’s interests.
➺ An advantage of representative democracy over direct democracy is that the representatives are politically educated and thus, are more efficient at taking decisions pertaining to legislation. This allows for more informed decisions.
➺ The representatives also play a role in educating the masses about political issues.
➺ Also, the representatives are better able to deal with conflicting interests and take balanced decisions. Apart from education, they are equipped with the time and resources to handle the demands of the citizens.
➺ Representatives are elected for a particular area, which makes them better equipped to know the concerns of the group they represent. They have a good knowledge of the people’s needs.
➺ In both its forms (direct and representative), democracy achieves a better distribution of power and work. Decisions are taken collectively.
➺ In a democratic nation, it is the citizens who hold the right to elect their representatives and their governing authorities. According to a common observation, not all the citizens are fully aware of the political scenario in their country or the issues their nation faces. This may result in people making the wrong choices during election.
➺ Sadly, in some countries, people do not exercise their right to vote. Many are reluctant to vote or less aware about the impact their votes can have. They do not consider it as their privilege, and take the process of voting less seriously.
➺ Representatives may not necessarily be elected on merit. In a system of voting, the majority rules and there is no distinction between the votes cast by the literate and the illiterate. People may favor someone based on factors other than pure capability. Thus, the individual elected by the public may not always be the right candidate for the position.
➺ In a democracy, it takes longer to take decisions and implement them. In a monarchy, it’s one person who can take decisions and ensure their quick implementation. In a democracy, the implementation requires majority voting, thus making this form of government relatively less prompt in taking actions.
➺ As the government is subject to change after every election term, the authorities may work on short-term goals. As they have to face an election after the completion of each term, they may lose focus on working for the people and rather focus on winning elections.
➺ Another disadvantage of democracy is that the mobs can influence people. Citizens may vote in favor of a party under the influence of the majority. Compelled or influenced by opinions of those around, a person may not use his own judgment when voting.
➺ A lot of expenditure is made on elections. Even candidates may use money to attract the masses to vote for them. This leads to a wastage of money and resources, which could have been used in public interest.
➺ Election campaigns may involve immoral practices to lure the masses. The candidates use muscle power to draw majority votes. They may tarnish the reputation of their opponent. Money and muscle power may be used to influence the public against the opposing party. Under-hand practices may be employed to win elections.
➺ A disadvantage of direct democracy is that not all citizens are knowledgeable enough to take the right decision regarding legislation. Moreover, they may not have the time. Also, the majority may influence the minority. This may breed inefficiency in governing. However, this disadvantage can be overcome in the representative form of democracy.
➺ In a representative democracy, citizens are not completely accountable for policy decisions as they are made by the elected representatives. They tend to hold the politicians responsible for any wrong or unfavorable decisions made.
➺ The elected representatives are in a position to make unpopular but the right decisions. However, such decisions invite a disfavor from the majority, and thus are avoided with the fear of losing popularity.
➺ In a democracy, interests of the majority have to be catered to. In the attempt to appease the masses, the true purpose of a decision may be overlooked.
➺ Those enjoying power may engage in corrupt practices or resort to unethical means for personal interests. During their tenure in office, they may take undue advantage of their authority for personal gains, and interests of the masses may no longer remain their priority.
Essence of Democracy
People are at a lesser risk of being exploited, as all are deemed equal irrespective of their gender or race. Group decision-making leads to distribution of authority, contrary to autocracy where one person has absolute power. The most important merit of democracy is that power ultimately rests in the hands of the people who elect their leaders. However, in a country where people do not vote or where elections are influenced by riches or religion, the real meaning of democracy is lost.
Every form of government has some shortfalls. People have different views about different political systems. The advantages and disadvantages of any form of government have to be weighed carefully before arriving at any conclusion.