Is Democracy the Best Form of Political System?
Although there are many virtues to enjoy about democracy and democratic forms of government and political systems, this form of government has still many impending challenges yet to be accomplished.In that sense, I agree with Winston Churchill, on the grounds that “democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried” (Churchill).Looking at democracy through both its weaknesses and strengths in comparison to other forms of government makes it evident that it is the best form of political system we have, democracy has been subject to problems with, tyranny of the minority, and collective action.
Despite all the democratic weaknesses of this form of government, democracy is still highly consistent in terms of Unpredictable outcomes, managing diversity.
Lipset, in Political Man, described democracy as “ a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders for political office”(Glazer). This definition is generally accepted in a democratic heaven in which the heavenly chorus does not sing with a strong upper-class accent (lecture), but this is not always the case.
Despite the democratic institutions based on the principle of equal opportunity, political power is not always distributed equally in a democracy. This is clearly seen in India where the “high cost of campaigning and the opaque system of election finance have titled the electoral odds heavily in favour of the very rich or the easily corrupted” (Ronjoy Sen 90). Although, similar problems can be found in other forms of governments and political system, what differentiates democracy from other regimes is how it manages to deal with those problems.
For instance, in Germany’s authoritarian Fascist regime, “Hitler was very much his own master” (Henry Turner), and his war aims eventually led Germany to a world war conflict. By comparing Fascist Germany to India’s corrupt democracy, it is clearly demonstrated while, “small groups of leader have the final say in all important matters”(Sen), democracy is still a political system which allows the largest part of the population to influence major decisions. This is best illustrated when “India’s unpopular BJP Party lost power nationally in an election” (Nathan Glazer 18).
Not every democracy will succeed in dealing with challenges of tyranny of minority and corruption, but democratic forms of government have institutions which offer capacity to change leaders in response to public discontent without changing the system. Collective action is a classical challenge in democracy and democratic forms of government. According to Blais, one of the main criteria for assessing electoral systems is representativeness. “This guarantees an electoral system in which the vote reflects as precisely as possible citizen’s preferences” (Blais 5).
However, one of the challenges of a democratic electoral system is even if we have the right to express our views; we would not take advantage of it. As Olson in the article A Theory of Groups and Organization, notes, “Individuals in any group attempting collective action will have incentives to free ride if the group is working to provide public goods”(Olson). This is because the information cost of researching different candidates makes voting irrational, since the benefits of voting are not entirely clear.
As a result, this promotes free riding, and a democratic government which vote does not reflect citizen’s preferences. If… then not only it will be difficult by large groups to achieve their interests in common, but situations could occur where small groups can take over the majority’s incentives. However, what differentiates a democratic form of government from a totalitarian communist a regime is how it deals with the collective action problem with the help of institutional features such as courts.
Courts are important political players in democracy. They are expected to moderate, and deal with challenges of democratic politics, not a setting for Stalin’s show trials. As Nathan Glazer put it, “Courts are accepted as ultimate arbiters not to be irresponsibly challenged. They can take unpopular positions that elected representative bodies cannot or do not, and in doing so they sustain the liberal objectives of democracies” (Nathan Glazer 19). Democracy is mainly about unpredictable outcomes.
What makes democracy highly consistent is not knowing what the next election turnout will be, but having confidence that the candidate with a majority of votes would be elected. The essential goal of democracy is to provide a fair degree of uncertainty. What makes this form of government unique in contrast to China’s authoritarian regime is its ability to allow an alternation of power. For instance, in a democratic election, as Andre Blais had noted, “Losers believe that even though they may have lost this time there is a real possibility that they will win another time.
Because, even though they do not like the outcome, they recognize that the procedure is legitimate” (Blais 3). This raises the question under what conditions; losers peacefully accept the outcome of the election? One can argue that it is due to the fact that democracy is centered on the rule of the law as opposed to the rule of man. Democratic forms of government and political systems are structured by institutions and these institutions direct how political parties function.
In example, they determine how legislation passes through parliament or when a citizen is eligible to vote. Therefore, what makes democracy unpredictable in terms of outcome is the perception that each vote counts the same since laws are submitted to all citizens and are protected by the constitution. But in the case of China’s authoritarian regime, as premier Li Peng put it, “to allow the demonstrating students to negotiate with party and government as equal would be to negate the leadership of the CCP and negate the entire socialist party” (Andrew Nathan 39).
This makes it more likely the alteration of power in China, should it come, will occur through a rupture, since an authoritarian “regime is unwilling to relax the ban on autonomous political forces” (Nathan 39). We live in a diverse world and globalization has only made diversity within nations and states more prominent. Democracies and democratic forms of government perform a better job of administrating and managing diversity. This is best exemplify when Nathan Glazer, in the article Democracy and Deep Divides, states, “Not every democracy will succeed in dealing with its deep divides.
But democracy has institutional features which offer the hope that every part of the population will feel part of the whole” (Glazer 19). What differentiates democracy from Hitler’s anti-Semitic regime or China’s repressive government is how it deals with managing diversity. Democratic forms of government “promise to address deep divisions more successfully than any alternative”(Glazer) because there are often times characterized by their moderating power.
Democracies function to maintain moderate accesses and radicalism, by adhering to norms of inclusion; this ensures citizens are included in a political process whether in terms of voting, engaging in a civil society movement , or having the rights to express ideas in terms of freedom of press and assembly. However, in a non-democratic government like China’s authoritarian regime “civil society organization and religious groups have to keep a low profile in order to avoid repression” (Nathan 38).
According to Nathan’s Authoritarian Impermanence, this is because “the regime has not become enmeshed in the logic of institutions created as safety valves to preserve its rule” (Nathan). As Andrew Nathan once remarked, “Democratic regimes, by contrast, often elicit disappointment and frustration, but they confront no rival from that outshines them in prestige. Authoritarian regimes in this sense are not forever. They live under the shadow of the future, vulnerable to existential challenges that mature democratic systems do not face” (Nathan 38).
Democracy and democratic forms of government and political system have been subject to challenges of tyranny of minority, and collection. Despite the democratic weaknesses of this form of government, democracy is still highly consistent in terms of unpredictable outcomes, and managing diversity. Similar problems can be found in other regime types like China’s authoritarian regime, Hitler’s Fascist Germany, and Stalin’s totalitarian communist regime. What differenciates democracy from other forms of government is how it deals with those problems by the help of free political parties, contested elections, and court.