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ISSUES FACING DEMOCRACY

“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.”
-Winston Churchill

In political theory, Democracy describes a small number of related forms of government


and also a political philosophy. Democracy is based on the philosophical principle of
equal rights. A common feature of democracy as currently understood and practiced is
competitive elections. Competitive elections are usually seen to require freedom of
speech, freedom of the press, and some degree of rule of law. Civilian control of the
military is often seen as necessary to prevent military dictatorship and interference with
political affairs.

Majority rule is a major principle of democracy, though many democratic systems do not
adhere to this strictly - representative democracy is more common than direct democracy,
and minority rights are often protected from what is sometimes called "the tyranny of the
majority". Popular sovereignty is common but not universal motivating philosophy for
establishing a democracy.

The concept of democracy first appeared in Ancient Greek political and philosophical
thought. The philosopher Plato contrasted democracy, the system of "rule by the
governed", with the alternative systems of monarchy, oligarchy and timarchy(rule by one
race or nationality over another).One of the earliest instances of civilizations with
democracy, or sometimes disputed as oligarchy, was found in the republics of ancient
India, which were established sometime before the 6th century BC. These republics were
known as Maha Janapadas, and among these states, Vaishali (now Bihar) would be the
world's first republic. The Republic of India is currently the largest democracy in the
world.

During the Middle Ages, there were various systems involving elections or assemblies,
although often only involving a minority of the population, such as the election of Gopala
in Bengal, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Althing in Iceland, certain medieval
Italian city-states such as Venice, the tuatha system in early medieval Ireland, the Veche
in Slavic countries, The States in Tyrol and Switzerland and the autonomous merchant
city of Sakai in the 16th century in Japan. However, participation was often restricted to a
minority, and so may be better classified as oligarchy.

The Parliament of England had its roots in the restrictions on the power of kings written
into Magna Carta. The first elected parliament was De Montfort's Parliament in England
in 1265. However only a small minority actually had a voice; Parliament was elected by
only a few percent of the population (less than 3% in 1780. ), and the system had
problematic features such as rotten boroughs. The power to call parliament was at the
pleasure of the monarch (usually when he or she needed funds). After the Glorious
Revolution of 1688, the English Bill of Rights was enacted in 1689, which codified
certain rights and increased the influence of the Parliament. The franchise was slowly
increased and the Parliament gradually gained more power until the monarch became
largely a figurehead.

20th century transitions to liberal democracy have come in successive "waves of


democracy," variously resulting from wars, revolutions, decolonization, and economic
circumstances. World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian
empires resulted in the creation of new nation-states in Europe, most of them nominally
democratic. In the 1920s democracy flourished, but the Great Depression brought
disenchantment, and most of the countries of Europe, Latin America, and Asia turned to
strong-man rule or dictatorships. Fascism and dictatorships flourished in Nazi Germany,
Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as nondemocratic regimes in the Baltics, the Balkans,
Brazil, Cuba, China, and Japan, among others. Together with Stalin's regime in the Soviet
Union, these made the 1930s the "Age of Dictators".

In the decades following World War II, most western democratic nations had mixed
economies and developed a welfare state, reflecting a general consensus among their
electorates and political parties. In the 1950s and 1960s, economic growth was high in
both the western and Communist countries; it later declined in the state-controlled
economies. By 1960, the vast majority of nation-states were nominally democracies,
although the majority of the world's populations lived in nations that experienced sham
elections, and other forms of subterfuge (particularly in Communist nations and the
former colonies.)

The number of liberal democracies currently stands at an all-time high and has been
growing without interruption for some time. Currently, there are 121 countries that are
democratic, and the trend is increasing.

It is argued that "democracy" does not respect absolute majority rule (except when
electing representatives). The "liberty" of majority rule is restricted by the constitution or
precedent decided by previous generations. Also, the real power is actually held by a
relatively small representative body. Thus, the argument goes, "liberal democracy" is
merely a decoration over an oligarchy. Others would say that only a liberal democracy
can guarantee the individual liberties of its citizens and prevent the development of a
dictatorship. Unmoderated majority rule could, in this view, lead to an oppression of
minorities. Another argument is that the elected leaders may be more interested and able
than the average voter.

Though democracy is the most successful form of government it faces many issues,
which are addressed here-

The people of the nation must have a high civic capacity which involves intelligence,
self- control,deviation to common cause and the capacity to subordinate private interest
and desire to it. Cooperation of the people is necessary, for a successful democracy
people must be sufficiently politically aware so that they kno who they are electing into
office to represent them.
Democracy has been criticised by many to be inefficient form of government. It is called
an irrational dogma by some and it thrives on nepotism.

One of the greatest examples of the failures of democracy was after the first world war
when there was a rise and growth of strong dictatorships like Nazism or Fascism.
Authoritarian rule prevailed and led to the worst moments in the history of the world
including the second world war.

The party system is very strong in a democracy which is a concerning issue as it leads to
a constant unfruitful battle between political parties attacking each other on trivial topics
and bad mouthing each other in the media to try and mobilise public opinion. There is
excessice interference with the smooth functioning of the government. The parties
concentrate more on vote catching concepts than on actual content in their campeigns.
There are several ill effects of the election propogandas.

Democracy is an expensive form of government. Election campeigns in todays scenario


accrue to millions and crores. It also entails high cost of administration.

Marxists, socialists and left-wing anarchists, argue that liberal democracy is an integral
part of the capitalist system and is class-based and not democratic or participatory. It is
bourgeois democracy because ultimately politicians fight only for the rights of the
bourgeoisie. Because of this it is seen as fundamentally undemocratic, existing or
operating in a way that facilitates economic exploitation. According to Marx,
parliamentary elections are an opportunity citizens of a country get every few years to
decide who among the ruling classes will misrepresent them in parliament.

The cost of political campaigning in representative democracies favors the rich, a form of
plutocracy who are a very small minority of the voters.Modern democracy has also been
attacked by socialists as a dishonest farce used to keep the masses from realizing that
their will is irrelevant in the political process. While at the same time a conspiracy for
making them restless for some political agenda. Some contend that it encourages
candidates to make deals with wealthy supporters, offering favorable legislation if the
candidate is elected - perpetuating conspiracies for monopolization of key areas.
Campaign finance reform is an attempt to correct this perceived problem.

Low voter turnout, whether the cause is disenchantment, indifference or contentment with
the status quo, may be seen as a problem, especially if disproportionate in particular
segments of the population. Although turnout levels vary greatly among modern
democratic countries, and in various types and levels of elections within countries, at
some point low turnout may prompt questions as to whether the results reflect the will of
the people, whether the causes may be indicative of concerns to the society in question,
or in extreme cases the legitimacy of the electoral system.

Several nations have forms of compulsory voting, with various degrees of enforcement.
Proponents argue that this increases the legitimacy, and thus also popular acceptance, of
the elections and ensures political participation by all those affected by the political
process, and reduces the costs associated with encouraging voting. Arguments against
include restriction of freedom, economic costs of enforcement, increased number of
invalid and blank votes, and random voting. Other alternatives include increased use of
absentee ballots, or other measures to ease or improve the ability to vote, including
Electronic voting.

For historical reasons, many states are not culturally and ethnically homogeneous. There
may be sharp ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural divisions. In fact, some groups may
be actively hostile to each other. A democracy, which by definition allows mass
participation in decision-making theoretically also allows the use of the political process
against 'enemy' groups. That may be especially visible during democratization, if the
previous non-democratic government oppressed certain groups. It is also visible in
established democracies, in the form of anti-immigrant populism. However, arguably the
worst repressions have occurred in states without universal suffrage, like formerly
apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

The beaureaucracy is also a major issue facing democracy. A persistent libertarian and
monarchist critique of democracy is the claim that it encourages the elected
representatives to change the law without necessity, and in particular to pour forth a flood
of new laws. This is seen as pernicious in several ways. New laws constrict the scope of
what were previously private liberties. Rapidly changing laws make it difficult for a
willing non-specialist to remain law-abiding. This may be an invitation for law-
enforcement agencies to misuse power. The claimed continual complication of the law
may be contrary to a claimed simple and eternal natural law - although there is no
consensus on what this natural law is, even among advocates. Supporters of democracy
point to the complex bureaucracy and regulations that has occurred in dictatorships, like
many of the former Communist states.Liberal democracies are also criticized for a
claimed slowness and complexity of their decision-making.

Modern liberal democracies, by definition, allow for regular changes of government. That
has led to a common criticism of their short-term focus. In four or five years the
government will face a new election, and it must think of how it will win that election.
That would encourage a preference for policies that will bring short term benefits to the
electorate (or to self-interested politicians) before the next election, rather than unpopular
policy with longer term benefits.

Public choice theory is a branch of economics that studies the decision-making behavior
of voters, politicians and government officials from the perspective of economic theory.
One studied problem is that each voter has little influence and may therefore have a
rational ignorance regarding political issues. This may allow special interest groups to
gain subsidies and regulations beneficial to them but harmful to society. However, special
interest groups may be equally or more influential in nondemocracies.

The "tyranny of the majority" is the fear that a democratic government, reflecting the
majority view, can take action that oppresses a particular minority. Theoretically, the
majority could only be a majority of those who vote and not a majority of the citizens. In
those cases, one minority tyrannizes another minority in the name of the majority. It can
apply in both direct democracy or representative democracy. Several de facto
dictatorships also have compulsory, but not free and fair, voting in order to try to increase
the legitimacy of the regime. The separation of powers into legislative branch, executive
branch, judicial branch also makes it more difficult for a small majority to impose their
will. This means a majority can still legitimately coerce a minority (which is still ethically
questionable), but such a minority would be very small and, as a practical matter, it is
harder to get a larger proportion of the people to agree to such actions.

A liberal democracy, by definition, implies that power is not concentrated. One criticism
is that this could be a disadvantage for a state in wartime, when a fast and unified
response is necessary. The legislature usually must give consent before the start of an
offensive military operation, although sometimes the executive can do this on its own
while keeping the legislature informed. If the democracy is attacked, then no consent is
usually required for defensive operations. The people may vote against a conscription
army. Monarchies and dictatorships can in theory act immediately and forcefully.

Research by the World Bank suggests that political institutions are extremely important in
determining the prevalence of corruption: democracy, parliamentary systems, political
stability, and freedom of the press are all associated with lower corruption. Freedom of
information legislation is important for accountability and transparency. The Indian Right
to Information Act "has already engendered mass movements in the country that is
bringing the lethargic, often corrupt bureaucracy to its knees and changing power
equations completely."

Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and


dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike. It passes into despotism.

Unlimited freedom is dangerous. Democracy prefers to include the laissez faire theory
with minimal state control in the individuals activities, but excess of this freedom can be
harmful and the individuals may choose to go against the state.

Everywhere is eastern Europe, attempts to mix democracy and market reforms are now
encountering much the same contradictions. Democracy requires that the reform process
should enjoy broad-based social support. But vigorous free market conditions have
jeopardized the welfare of much of society, and can only be sustained if society is
excluded from the policy-making arena. Democracy also presupposes some degree of
mass participation. But for much of the population, the whole liberal programme
represents no more than a collection of theories, which appears to have enabled a
flamboyantly rich minority to expropriate collective property. Democratic reforms also
depend on an open and accountable political system. But the peaceful ending of
communist rule required a contract between old and new elites, and a distribution of
powers and offices which remains even now highly questionable. Stable democracy also
necessitates intermediate institutions. But these have merely led to the proliferation of
interest groups, which have blocked each other at every level, thus posing a growing
barrier to necessary action
Western democracy is a political system built upon Western culture's worldview that
people are driven by self-interest. In traditional non-Western societies, the notion of an
individual autonomous from the community, traditions, religion or the cosmos does not
exist. Such societies are organized on the basis of "fusional relationships" with no
differentiation between community/individual, subject/object, inside/outside, the
supernatural/natural etc. Inequality, otherness, domination and hierarchy are not
recognized, so a political system to assure them in meaningless. Introducing democracy
to non-western cultures often introduces the very characteristics it is meant to erase in
Western culture. This is because to organize "democratically" requires the recognition of
power over others, a concept not accepted in most indigenous cultures

The 1990s have seen increasing disillusionment with democratic processes in Eastern
European countries where many people are alienated from the political culture they had
earlier rushed to embrace. Having been told repeatedly that democracy and the free
market are linked, many seem to have ended up convinced by the natural corollary -- that
if the market offers them few advantages, the democratic system itself is at fault. In
1992, 50% of Polish adults declared democracy useful only if it generated wealth. Only
18% described its benefits in categories of freedom and human rights. Just 13% believed
politicians were concerned for society's welfare; 75% felt that they were motivated by
personal interests alone.

Thus it is seen that though democracy is very successful but it faces its share of
drawbacks. Most of the world’s countries today are following the democratic form of
government.