Outcomes of Democracy – Term II

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Outcomes of Democracy

Why People prefer Democracy?

  1. Promotes equality among citizens;
  2. Enhances the dignity of the individual;
  3.  Improves the quality of decision making;
  4.  Provides a method to resolve conflicts; and,
  5.  Allows room to correct mistakes.

What can we expect of Democracy?

1. People have high expectations of Democracy. If their expectations are not met, they start blaming democracy.

2. Democracy can only create conditions. It is for the people to use these conditions for their betterment.

3. For example, democracy has created the condition to treat men and women equally. But we know what the truth is. People have not made use of the condition created by democracy.

Despite this, we can expect democracy to fulfill certain basic expectation. Let’s discuss them.

Accountable, responsive and legitimate government.

The most basic outcome of democracy is that it produces a government that is accountable to the citizens, and responsive to the needs and expectations of the citizens.

Accountability

Democracy can produce an accountable government only when it meets the following three requirements.

a) Free , fair and regular elections.

b) Public Debate.

c) Sharing of information.

Free, fair and regular elections:

1. We expect democracy to create a condition where free and fair elections are held regularly.

2.  If the government doesn’t function to our satisfaction, we should be free to bring it down.

3. Most democracies have been doing very well in this regard.

Public Debate.

1. Decision making process is the prime element of public debate. We expect democracy not to take any decision against the public opinion.

2. Some people think that democracy doesn’t produce an effective government because the decision making process is very slow.

3. Non democratic governments can take quick decisions because they don’t have to bother about deliberations and norms; neither do they about public opinion.

4. The decision taken in non-democratic governments are not likely to be accepted by the majority and are not likely to affect people positively.

5. It is not the case with democracy because it has to follow certain norms and procedures. A public debate has to be initiated and the same debated in the legislature.

6. Though democracy stands at a better position in this regard in comparison to non-democratic governments, the actual realisation of the expectation is not satisfactory.

Sharing of Information.

1. A citizen in democracy has the right and the means to examine the process of decision making. This is known as transparency. This factor is often missing from a non-democratic government.

2. Though most democracies have created conditions to share information with the public, the actual sharing of information is not satisfactory.

3. We can also expect that the democratic government develops mechanisms for citizens to hold the government accountable and mechanisms for citizens to take part in decision making whenever they think fit.

Responsiveness

1. It is reasonable to expect from democracy a government that is attentive to the needs and demands of the people and is largely free of corruption.

2. The record of democracies is not impressive on these two counts. Democracies often frustrate the needs of the people and often ignore the demands of a majority of its population.

3. The routine tales of corruption are enough to convince us that democracy is not free of this evil.

 4. At the same time, there is nothing to show that non-democracies are less corrupt or more sensitive to the people.

Legitimacy

1. There is one respect in which democratic government is certainly better than its alternatives.

2. Democratic government is legitimate government. It may be slow, less efficient, not always very responsive or clean.

3.  But a democratic government is people’s own government. Unlike Dictatorship or Monarchy, it is not imposed on the people.

4. Hence an overwhelming support for the idea of democracy all over the world.

Economic growth and development

1. When democracy is compared with dictatorship for the fifty years between 1950 and 2000, dictatorships have slightly higher rate of economic growth.

2. The inability of democracy to achieve higher economic development worries us.

3. But this alone cannot be reason to reject democracy.

4. Economic development depends on several factors: country’s population size, global situation, cooperation from other countries, economic priorities adopted by the country, Et cetera.

5. However, the difference in the rates of economic development between less developed countries with dictatorships and democracies is negligible.

6. Overall, we cannot say that democracy is a guarantee of economic development. But we can expect democracy not to lag behind dictatorships in this respect.

7. The positives of democracy over weighs the negatives.

Reduction of inequality and poverty

1. Democracies are based on political equality. All individuals have equal weight in electing representatives.

2. Though everybody is equal in democracy, we find growing economic inequalities.

3. A small number of ultra-rich enjoy a highly disproportionate share of wealth and incomes. Not only that, their share in the total income of the country has been increasing.

4.  Those at the bottom of the society have very little to depend upon. Their incomes have been declining. Sometimes they find it difficult to meet their basic needs of life, such as food, clothing, house, education and health.

5. In actual life, democracies have not been very successful in reducing economic inequalities.

7. The poor constitute a large proportion of our voters and no party will like to lose their votes. Yet democratically elected governments do not appear to be as keen to address the question of poverty as you would expect them to.

 

Accommodation of social diversity

1. It is natural that differences exist in every society. No society can fully and permanently resolve conflicts among different groups. But we can certainly learn to respect these differences and we can also evolve mechanisms to negotiate the differences.

2. Democracy is best suited to produce this outcome. Non-democratic regimes often turn a blind eye to or suppress internal social differences. Ability to handle social differences, divisions and conflicts is thus a definite plus point of democratic regimes.

Democracy need to fulfil two conditions in order to accommodate social diversity. They are:

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. Majority and minority opinions are not permanent.

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 that in case of every decision or in case of every election, different persons and groups may and can form a majority. Democracy remains democracy only as long as every citizen has a chance of being in majority at some point of time. If someone is barred from being in majority on the basis of birth, then the democratic rule ceases to be accommodative for that person or group.

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. Every individual wants to receive respect from fellow beings.

2.  Often conflicts arise among individuals because some feel that they are not treated with due respect. The passion for respect and freedom are the basis of democracy.

3.  Democracies throughout the world have recognised this, at least in principle. This has been achieved in various degrees in various democracies.

4. Just because democracy has created condition to this effect, it doesn’t mean that every individual enjoys dignity and freedom.

5. Long struggles by feminists have created some sensitivity today that respect to and equal treatment is necessary ingredients of a democratic society. That doesn’t mean that women are actually treated with respect.

6. This is the same case with the people of backward classes. Exploitation continues even today.

7. Such exploitations do not have moral support or legal support.

Testimony to the success of democracy.

1. Expectations from democracy also function as the criteria for judging any democratic country.

2. What is most distinctive about democracy is that its examination never gets over. As democracy passes one test, it produces another test. As people get some benefits of democracy, they ask for more and want to make democracy even better.

3. That is why when we ask people about the way democracy functions, they will always come up with more expectations, and many complaints.

4. 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.

5. A public expression of dissatisfaction with democracy shows the success of the democratic project: it transforms people from the status of a subject into that of a citizen.

6. Most individuals today believe that their vote makes a difference to the way the government is run and to their own self-interest.

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