Outcomes of Democracy
Is democracy a better form of government when compared with dictatorship or any other alternative?
1. Democracy is better because it promotes equality among citizens.
2. Democracy is better because it enhances the dignity of the individual
3. Democracy is better because it improves the quality of decision making
4. Democracy is better because it provides a method to resolve conflicts
5. Democracy is better because it allows room to correct mistakes.
Is the democratic government efficient? Is it effective?
1. Imagine that other form of government may take decisions very fast. But it may take decisions which are not accepted by the people and may therefore face problems.
2. Democracy is based on the idea of deliberation and negotiation. So, some delay is bound to take place.
3. In contrast, the democratic government will take more time to follow procedures before arriving at a decision.
4. But because it has followed procedures, its decisions may be both more acceptable to the people and more effective.
5. So, the cost of time that democracy pays is perhaps worth it.
Democracy is Accountable, responsive and legitimate government
1. Democracy ensures that decision making will be based on norms and procedures. So, a citizen has the right and the means to examine the process of decision making. This is known as transparency. Democracy follows procedures and is accountable to the people.
2. Democratic governments have a very good record when it comes to sharing information with citizens and much better than any non-democratic regime in this respect. Democracy is attentive to the needs and demands of the people and is largely free of corruption.
3. There is one respect in which democratic government is certainly better than its alternatives: democratic government is legitimate government. It may be slow, less efficient, not always very responsive or clean. But a democratic government is people’s own government.
Economic growth and development
1. Economic development depends on several factors: country’s population size, global situation, cooperation from other countries, economic priorities adopted by the country, etc.
2. However, the difference in the rates of economic development between less developed countries with dictatorships and democracies is negligible.
3. Overall, we cannot say that democracy is a guarantee of economic development. But we can expect democracy not to lag behind dictatorships in economic development.
Democracy reduces economic inequality and poverty
1. Democracies have growing economic inequalities. A small number of ultra-rich enjoy a lion share of wealth and those at the bottom of the society have very little to depend upon and find very difficult to meet their basic needs of life, such as food, clothing, house, education and health.
2. Democratically elected governments address the question of poverty by making various welfare schemes to remove poverty.
3. Democracies not only making welfare schemes but also give reservations for socially and economically backward people in jobs, election and educational institutions.
Democracy Accommodates of social diversity
1. Democracies usually develop a procedure to accommodate various social groups. This reduces the possibility of social tensions becoming explosive or violent.
2. No society can fully and permanently resolve conflicts among different groups. But democracy is best to handle social differences, divisions and conflicts.
3. But the example of Sri Lanka reminds us that a democracy must fulfill two conditions in order to achieve accommodation of social divisions,
a. It is necessary to understand that democracy is not simply rule by majority opinion. The majority always needs to work with the minority so that governments function to represent the general view.
b. It is also necessary that rule by majority does not become rule by majority community in terms of religion or race or linguistic group, etc. Rule by majority means rule by majority’s choice.
Democracy promotes Dignity and freedom of the citizens
1. Democracy stands much superior to any other form of government in promoting dignity and freedom of the individual by providing Fundamental Rights. Every individual wants to receive respect from fellow beings.
2. The passion for respect and freedom are the basis of democracy. Democracies throughout the world have recognised this, at least in principle. This has been achieved in various degrees in various democracies.
3. Take the case of dignity of women. Most societies across the world were historically male dominated societies.
4. Long struggles by women have created some sensitivity today that respect to and equal treatment of women are necessary ingredients of a democratic society.
5. Democracy in India has strengthened the claims of the disadvantaged and discriminated castes for equal status and equal opportunity.
Expectation from democracy never gets over.
1. As people get some benefits of democracy, they ask for more and want to make democracy even better.
2. That is why, when we ask people about the way democracy functions, they will always come up with more expectations, and many complaints.
3. The fact that people are complaining is itself a testimony to the success of democracy: it shows that people have developed awareness and the ability to expect and to look critically at power holders and the high and the mighty.
Challenges to Democracy
What is a challenge?
A challenge is not just any problem. We usually call only those difficulties a ‘challenge’ which are significant and which can be overcome.
A challenge is a difficulty that carries within it an opportunity for progress. Once we overcome a challenge we go up to a higher level than before.
Different countries face different kinds of challenges.
1. Foundational challenge -This involves bringing down the existing non-democratic regime, keeping military away from controlling government and establishing a sovereign and functional state.
2. Challenge of expansion-This involves applying the basic principle of democratic government across all the regions, different social groups and various institutions. Ensuring greater power to local governments, extension of federal principle to all the units of the federation, inclusion of women and minority groups, etc., falls under this challenge.
3. Deepening of democracy –This is faced by every democracy in one form or another. This involves strengthening of the institutions and practices of democracy by more people’s participation and control.
Some broad guidelines that can be kept in mind while devising ways and means for political reforms in India:
1. It is legal ways of reforming politics- law has an important role to play in political reform. Carefully devised changes in law can help to discourage wrong political practices and encourage good ones. (But legal-constitutional changes by themselves cannot overcome challenges to democracy. Democratic reforms are to be carried out mainly by political activists, parties, movements and politically conscious citizens.)
2. Any legal change must carefully look at what results it will have on politics. Laws that give political actors incentives to do good things have more chances of working. The best laws are those which empower people to carry out democratic reforms. (The Right to Information Act is a good example of a law that empowers the people to find out what is happening in government and act as watchdogs of democracy)
3. Democratic reforms are to be brought about principally through political practice. Therefore, the main focus of political reforms should be to increase and improve the quality of political participation by ordinary citizens.
4. Any proposal for political reforms should think not only about what is a good solution but also about who will implement it and how. Measures that rely on democratic movements, citizens’ organizations and the media are likely to succeed.
5. Let us keep these general guidelines in mind and look at some specific instances of challenges to democracy that require some measure of reform.
Old Definition of Democracy
1. The rulers elected by the people must take all the major decisions
2. Elections must offer a choice and fair opportunity to the people to change the current rulers
3. This choice and opportunity should be available to all the people on an equal basis
4. The exercise of this choice must lead to a government limited by basic rules of the constitution and citizens’ rights.
New and modern definition of democracy
1. Democracy not only should provide political rights but also some social and economic rights that a democracy should offer to its citizens.
2. Power sharing between governments and social groups is necessary in a democracy.
3. Respect for minority voice is necessary for democracy.
4. Eliminating discrimination based on caste, religion and gender is important in a democracy.
5. Democracy must bring all positive outcomes like accountability, responsive, reducing poverty etc.