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During the Gettysburg address, President Lincoln declared that the government of the people by the people would not perish from the earth’s face. In brief, he implied that a democratic government constituted a regime that could guarantee shared prosperity among all classes of people. Idealists who developed and campaigned for a democratic government had a vision of a world in which the elected people would represent masses in a selfless manner to ensure collective development of societies. However, many nations now see democracy as a system that does not work well for the citizenry. They see it as a tool that favours the flourishing of those people in the top classes, especially the rulers and the leaders. These concerns lead to the question of whether or not to shift to other systems of governance such as autocracy. In this line, this paper discusses why the concerns about the health democracy are exaggerated by considering the argument that democracy is the most preferred system of governance. Nevertheless, despite the challenges, the paper concludes that democracy is the shortest route that can guarantee shared prosperity, accountability, and peaceful coexistence amongst all classes of people within a nation.
Concerns about Democracy
Considering the developments of democracy and the criticisms that revolve around power inequalities between the elected officials and the voters, questions emerge on whether the concerns of democracy are exaggerated. One would anticipate the falling of communists’ societies such as the Soviet Union to usher in a new era in which such societies would embrace democracy. Indeed, as Kabul (2010) reveals, the perception that ex-communist societies could humbly borrow democracy lessons from western nations is laughable. For example, the article confirms that pro-Kremlin United Russia movement held a meeting with the Communist Party of China towards the end of 2010 with the goal of seeking to understand how the Chinese political system that is dominated by only one party was possible to sustain. The article nullifies the assertion that Russians have any belief that they would emulate the Chinese model of governance. Does this observation mean that authoritarian regimes do not have anything to learn from democratic regimes due to the exaggeration of democratic health concerns?
A major argument in support of autocracy is that it ensures the flourishing of national stability that facilitates growth (Kabul 2010). However, this argument lacks any non-contestable evidence. For example, Crick (2013) observes the non-existence of evidence that autocratic nations are more established compared to autonomous countries. Democratic politicians engage in the exchange of words and arguments characterised by disagreements on the most effective course of action or policy that would deliver the best outcomes. While this claim may be challenged from an authoritarian perspective, it results in short-term stability by creating a podium under which different views, interests, and positions of the people can be listened to before an action is adopted. The State Fragility Index (SFI) developed by the University of Gorge Mason supports the position that democratic systems function in a more effective manner compared to autocratic models (Kabul 2010). Hence, the concerns about the health of democracy’s tenets such as political tolerance, mixed and capitalistic economy, and the theories on the property and promotion of the doctrine of equity are exaggerated.
Exaggerated Challenges of Democracy
Under the democratic system, people have the right to invest and accumulate wealth at an individual capacity. A major argument against this approach of wealth creation within a state is that democracy would foster the enrichment of some classes while making the underprivileged become poorer. However, this criticism is open to debate when compared with other forms of governance such as autocracy. However, the same claim may be valid for an evolving system of democracy. Democratic systems of governance have various arms, including the parliament. Elected people occupy these arms. Consequently, the power is not vested in a small group of individuals or even a personality as witnessed in the case of the authoritarian system of governance (Weiss & Thakur 2007). Consequently, democracy ensures power checks among people who are entrusted with leadership and public property.
According to Crick (2013), despite the balances and checks in democratic systems, power abuses are still commonplace. While this position is valid, especially in evolving democracies, a counter argument is that power abuses are not as rampant as compared to autocratic systems of government. This finding confirms that indeed the concerns of the health of democracies are exaggerated. Indeed, in an autocratic government, the state possesses all the property. Therefore, the citizenry has no incentives to make sacrifices necessary to generate wealth. Regardless of the hard work, people are not guaranteed they would eventually have full ownership of the generated wealth (Crick 2013). This situation is a direct contrast with democracy. A democratic governance system ensures that the wealth acquired through individual hard work only belongs to the industrious citizens. The outcome is the emergence of middle classes. Such classes neither have excess power nor lack it, thus making it possible for a system of democracy to create the shortest route to collective prosperity.
Democracy is about respect of fundamental individual freedoms of the citizenry. Its critics strongly criticise the capacity of democracy to fulfil its commitment to respecting people’s freedoms. For example, Kabul (2010) reveals that a Washington-based lobby group released an annual report in 2010 indicating that human rights coupled with liberty rights had reduced for the fourth year consecutively. The lobby group considered this finding the biggest decline since it was initiated 40 years ago. The findings of the group indicated that democracy had experienced a huge turnaround. Following the collapse of apartheid coupled with communism in the USSR, people were convinced that democracy was the outright system of governance that could guarantee common good for all. This conviction emerged from the belief that economic freedom supported political autonomy, which was then the most important phase in any societal development. However, amid such criticisms, apart from democracy, no other system of governance can embrace the vesting of power to create wealth through the promotion of individual independence, including economic freedom. Ultimately, this system of governance may be considered the shortest means to societal development.
Democracy has had its drawbacks, especially in terms of ensuring equity in power and voters’ voice. However, its concerns foster individual property ownership, which encourages hard work. Therefore, despite the decline in liberty and other forms of rights that are integral to the concerns of democracy, it does not imply that other forms of governance such as autocracy are superior to it. In a democratic system, economic prosperity is achieved through encouraging individuals’ participation in wealth creation, which underpins the political voice. Since democracy fosters the development and growth of middle classes, it allows the participation of many people in the political arena. Hence, democracy is vital for collective societal development. Compared to other systems, democracy stands as the shortest route to shared prosperity. This conclusive remark nullifies the arguments that seem to exaggerate or tarnish the image and heath of democracy.
Crick, B 2013, Democracy: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Kabul, B 2010, ‘Democracy’s decline: crying for freedom’, The Economist. Web.
Weiss, T & Thakur, R 2007, The UN and global governance: an Idea and its prospects, Indiana University Press, Indianapolis.