Advantages and Disadvantages of Democracy Definition of Democracy

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Democracy

Definition of Democracy
Democracy, by definition, is a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them. It can also be defined as the political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives.

  • government by the people for the people (at least in theory), being entitled to participate in a secret ballot via a fair electoral system in a multi-party system. Examples: few of us relish the joy of casting a ballot unless that joy has been withheld.

  • enjoying the freedom of speech/assembly/movement and possessing personal freedoms guaranteed by laws and their enforcement.

Examples: “Black Lives Matter”

  • having mechanisms to ensure the accountability of government to the electorate. Examples: Checks and balances – where do we see this working? The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging the 2010 Affordable Care Act's provision that offers hefty federal subsidies to many people buying health insurance on the new federal and state health insurance exchanges.

  • enjoying a choice of media reflecting a variety of opinions. Examples: liberal left MSNBC, conservative right FOX News, more moderate CNN, public radio and TV.


  • the notion that a single voice can achieve nothing worthwhile- voter apathy, the electoral system which sometimes votes in a president who does not have the popular vote.

  • voting
for party lists in some countries and not for an individual, ‘unfair’ electoral systems (see Trump’s and Sander’s complaints of delegates vs popular vote)

  • some emphasis on short-term populist views to retain power sometimes at the expense of long-term planning (see: Keystone pipeline).

  • some governments can be bureaucratic and slow to respond to problems, power groups/lobbyists are often strong enough to determine the political agenda. Lobbyists powerful in DC. Problems to get budget passed due to political polarization (see gun control).

  • corruption cases do not enhance people’s belief in the political system (see the Panama Papers and the resignation of Iceland’s Prime Minister-John Oliver).

However, there is currently no sign of a fairer, more equitable system.

Advantages of Democracy
Democracy can provide for changes in government without violence. In a democracy, power can be transferred from one party to another by means of elections.
Moreover, any government is bound by an election term after which it has to compete against other parties to regain authority. This system prevents monopoly of the ruling authority. The ruling party has to make sure it works for its people for it cannot remain being the 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 of the nation. This results in a feeling of gratefulness towards the people. It can serve as their motivation to work for the people for it is the common masses that have complete power over choosing their government.

Another important advantage of democracy is that the people gain a sense of participation in the process of choosing their government. They get the opportunity to voice their opinions by means of electoral votes.

Disadvantages of Democracy
According to a common observation, not all the citizens are fully aware of the political scenario in their country. The common masses may not be aware of the political issues in society. This may result in people making the wrong choices during election.

As the government is subject to change after every election term, the authorities may work with a short-term focus. 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 mobs can influence people. Citizens may vote in favor of a party under the influence of the majority..

Every form of government is bound to have some shortfalls.

(Source: Manali Oak, 11/13/2008

The Basic Concepts of Democracy


Fundamental Worth of the Individual


Democracy insists on the worth and dignity of all. Each individual is a separate and distinct being. 


Sometimes the welfare of one person must be subordinated to the interest of the many. People can be forced to do certain things whether they want to or not. For example, individuals must obey traffic signals, pay taxes, go to school, etc.


When people are forced to do something, it is serving the interest of many individuals, representing society.


Equality of All Persons


Democracy insists on equality of opportunity, not necessarily equality of condition.


Democracy insists on equality before the law. 


No person should be held back for reasons of race, color, culture, religion or gender.


Majority Rule and Minority Rights 


Democracy argues that the majority will be right more often and wrong. The majority have a "right" to be wrong. Thus, the majority rule is the popular rule.


Democracy searches for satisfactory solutions to public problems. It can be a trial and error process. Democracy recognizes that seldom is any solution to a public problem so satisfactory that it cannot be improved upon.


The majority must recognize the right of the minority, by fair and lawful means, to become the majority. The majority must always be willing to listen to a minority's argument, to hear its objections, to bear its criticisms, and welcome its suggestions.


Necessity for Compromise

Compromise Defined: The process of reconciling competing views and interests in order to find the position most acceptable to the largest number. 


Compromise allows citizens to make public decisions. To reconcile competing views. Must compromise if all are truly seen as equal, and public policy questions seldom are presented in two simple sides.


Compromise is not an end in itself but a means to reach a public goal. Not all compromises are good, and not all are necessary. 


Individual Freedom


Freedom cannot be absolute, or anarchy will result. Democracy does not and cannot insist on complete freedom. Anarchy leads to rule by the strongest, best armed, and the ruthless.

Anarchy Defined: The total absence of government. 


American democracy strives to strike a balance between liberty and authority. Democracy insists that each individual must be as free to do as he or she pleases as far as the freedom of all will allow.

(Source: McClenaghan, William A., Magruder's American Government. Needham, MA: Prentice Hall, 1996

Democracy needs:
An educated populace: Unfortunately, the news stories that attract viewers, and thus dominate the airwaves, are not the ones with cogent analysis of complex policy issues. They are the ones about other things. This means that news organizations have political power: what they report (and ignore) and how they report it informs popular opinion, and therefore influences voters’ decisions. This leads to the media primary, where news outlets parcel out name recognition—an important factor in elections!—and decide who is a ‘legitimate’ candidate and who isn’t; and it also allows the media to determine, to a large extent, the issues that will be focused on.
And yet, we continue to feed the beast. Campaign funds bulge larger than ever, with estimates being that $6 billion will be spent during the 2012 presidential election. Half-baked TV ads will play to our baser instincts, knowing that only a small percentage of viewers will dig past the sound bite.
Approximately one out of three U.S. Citizens can name all three branches of government. Meanwhile, an equal amount can't name any of the three. Only 24 percent of 12th graders scored proficient or above on the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress civics exam, the second lowest of any measured subject (history was the lowest). The U.S. ranks 139 of 172 democracies in terms of voter participation (2012).
Voters are rationally irrational. There are two types of rationality: epistemic rationality—seeking truth—and instrumental rationality—working toward whatever it is that you want. Rational irrationality is what arises when it’s instrumentally rational to be epistemically irrational—that is, when your ends are not best served by seeking the truth. Doing the research necessary to become as informed as possible before voting is hard, boring, and time-consuming, but your individual vote is very unlikely to matter, and voting feels good. You get a sticker! And bragging rights! So you don’t do much research, but you vote anyway, based on self-interest, name-recognition, the candidates’ appearance on TV, which one you’d rather have a beer with, or however else you feel like deciding who to vote for. The problem is, each vote has a negative externality: each ill-informed vote makes the result a tiny bit more ill-informed, but when there are millions of voters, there are millions of those tiny bits, and they add up to grand displays of stupidity.
Democracy is incompatible with liberty. It’s easy to get votes by promising more government: constituencies that benefit from government expansions, whether they’re would-be welfare beneficiaries, victimologists, or military contractors taking government money to make $219-million planes that don’t work, have motivation to vote in their self-interest—much more motivation than those who are harmed by those expansions have to vote against them, since the individual benefit of each beneficiary outweighs the individual detriment of each voter harmed. And once government is expanded, it’s notoriously hard to roll back: beneficiaries will defend the benefits they’re used to getting, and the bureaucrats hired as a result of the expansion will defend their jobs.
Democracy increases governmental time-preference. Time-preference is the degree to which one prefers immediate to delayed gratification: a society with low time-preference is willing to think long-term, to forgo immediate gratification in favor of a better future, but a society with high time-preference refuses to think more than a few years ahead. Elected officials necessarily have high time-preference: they face elections every two, four, or six years, so if they pass on making their constituents happy in the short term in order to focus on the future, on times beyond the election cycle, they risk their jobs.
What’s necessary may not be what’s popular. The economic dogma of the Reagan era promoted low taxes and low spending, and Reagan’s administration tried to win Congress over to it. They had no problem getting Congress to pass as law the first part of their platform—but the second part died, for obvious reasons. Many voters like low taxes—after all, it’s in their financial interest—but far fewer voters like low spending, since lowering spending requires cutting government programs, and it’s in the interest of many voters to preserve those programs. The chart above should show you how that worked out.
6. Democracy is civil war where the sides just line up to be counted. There are two ways people can deal with dissatisfaction with a government: voice—attempting to influence the government’s decisions, through voting, protesting, etc.—or exit Democracy is all about voice, especially today in America, where exit on a local level (from incompetently-governed cities, forced busing in public schools, etc.) is discouraged and derided as ‘racist’. In a regime of ‘all voice, no exit’, disagreement, which often has deep cultural roots—most visibly in the case of gun control, but there are many other examples—simply cannot be resolved. Secession is effectively impossible, though fervently wished for, and understandably so: voice offers no solution to these conflicts except mutually unsatisfactory compromise—or the elimination of one side.

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