Democracy: Champion of the People or A Failed Ideal?

In today’s world, especially in the western world, we consider democracy to be the best, most ideal system, a system unlike any other built on the foundations of freedom of choice for all, a system that gives a nation’s entire population the ability to determine who they want to lead them and their nation going into the future. From the time we start diving into learning about politics and political systems in school, to studying politics and taking political science courses in college, to when we are old and kicking back to watch updates on politics on the news, the notion that we live in a democracy that gives the citizens freedom of choice and that democracy is the best system that exists and can exist is constantly reinforced in our daily lives. In this essay, we will be exploring what democracy means and really is, the arguments for and against democracy, whether or not we currently live in a democracy in the western world and finally, my thoughts and conclusions on whether or not democracy truly is the champion that we’re being sold, or a failed ideal.

Democracy: The Definition

Democracy : A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. A system where citizens may exercise their power by voting to elect their own representatives.

The main forms of democracy that we commonly see and have seen in the past are :

Direct Democracy

Representative Democracy

Social Democracy

Authoritarian Democracy

Arguments For Democracy :

First, let’s look at why democracy is seen as a preferable system.

Those that argue in favour of democracy bring up democracy as their preferred system and the best possible system mainly because democracy advertises itself to be an accountable and transparent form of government. Democracy encourages citizens to engage with their system and vote for those who will best represent them in the future, giving power to the people but also enabling them to speak their minds and disagree with the way things are as they exercise their freedom of speech and expression. Expanding on the topic of freedom of choice, speech and expression, democracy is also argued to be the best when dealing with differences and conflicting views, as disagreements are ideally solved civilly without any violence or other potentially damaging actions. Those for democracy also argue that a democratic system of government is the best way to ensure that all citizens are accounted for as it enhances the dignity of it’s citizens and ensures political equality by giving those from every background, class, colour, creed, religion, etc the chance to decide what is best for them. Those that argue on behalf of democracy see it as ideal as it is also the most pragmatic and suited system for the western world as they argue it best way of guaranteeing and ensuring the creation and  preservation of the general populations’ civil liberties.

Arguments Against Democracy :

Those that argue against democracy like to bring up the argument that you do not need democracy to build and run a “successful” nation. Many point out systems in present day such as China (while there are others in Singapore, some of the Gulf States), a country that is successful by many standards that is also critical of western democracy as they argue that it is incompatible with traditional Chinese culture and that a government is best run not by the people, but by a collective of individuals that truly serve and represent the interests of the Chinese people. Others like to look at history and point out that democracy is a historical fluke boosted and made successful through the industrial revolution and the post-World War Two rebuild. The argument is made that examples such as the Roman Empire, Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate, Nazi Germany and The Soviet Union, despite how short of time these powers were present in the world, all achieved strength, success on many degrees and recognition as a powerhouse without possessing a democratic “for the people by the people” system. Another common argument that is brought up against democracy quite frequently is the populations’ level of knowledge or lack thereof for the political system and how it is dangerous in the long run. Those that aren’t fully knowledgeable of their domestic political system are more likely to cast their vote towards things they find personally/psychologically attractive as opposed to meaningfully voting based on issues that they really care about. Time and time again within western democracies, results from numerous conducted studies show that people simply do not know nor care enough about the real issues at hand within their countries, democracy practically relies on it’s citizens to make rational and informed decisions, very rarely is this the case and we most often than not see citizens being duped or tricked into voting against their own interests. The last argument commonly made (which those that are pro-democracy even acknowledge) is the level of polarization, division and tension that democracy can cause, as citizens are expected to vote while being “respectful to others and informed” while what REALLY happens is increased division within the population and increased hostility towards those that think and choose differently.

Do we really live in a democracy?

Today, especially within the western world we are told that we are given a choice, that we have the opportunity and even the privilege to participate in a democracy where our votes are accounted for and we have the ability to determine who leads and represents our interests going into the future. Now on a surface level, we do in fact live in a democratic system within the western world, as we are able to vote and make choices based on our best interests as voting in the western world extends itself not only to “presidency” and all positions alike, but other key elected positions and sometimes issues as well. If we are to dig deeper into this question however, we can quickly find that what is being sold to us really isn’t the case whatsoever. All throughout the western world, within these self-proclaimed “democratic systems” a common theme that is usually seen is the presence of mainly two-party, sometimes “multi-party” political systems where really only three different parties have any shot at winning an election every cycle. Now this wouldn’t actually be that bad if there were actual huge differences and contrasting qualities between each party, but more often than not, when the people cast their vote, no matter who they elect, the citizens end up getting the same politics, treatment, unkept promises and false hope, all with a few nuances here and there of course. For example, the “Progressive” Conservative party (if that isn’t indication enough) and the Liberal party of Canada are often pointed out as political parties that believe in almost entirely the same things, as their platforms are practically the same despite a few nuances. What one party does in one election cycle, the other will progress and adapt to their party dogma the next in order to win votes, resulting in absolutely no change or no opportunity for people to elect anything different. What the general population fail to realize time and time again is that those that are “representing” the political parties that they choose to support, whether these representatives are party leaders, notable officials or even the president/prime minister themselves, they are all being funded and have money fuelled into them by the same corporate entities, “philanthropists”, special interest groups and lobbyists.

These political donors, while some have their own causes that they try to push through politicians, many of the most notable come from either a corporate backgrounds or the ironic category of “philanthropists” that usually pay off political parties and their politicians to propagate their message while encouraging them to keep the system how they personally like it or want it going forwards into the future. Because politics has become so donor and corporate wealth controlled to the point that the wealthiest can essentially puppet every single party and get them to do what they please, is it really accurate to say that we the people have any choice, that the concept of “choice” isn’t just some facade we’re purposely kept under? In some cases this is not always true as we have municipal and more so local elections as an example. However, these days, more often than not it definitely is a lie that we are sold and a huge one at that. In theory, democracy is a perfect idea, a government determined by the people is an ideal where the most benefit and ensure that their voice has worth and isn’t suppressed. When capital and wealth take over politics and control those who are supposed to represent the people and what they want however, this is practically anything but democracy. I support the idea of democracy, but it is woefully idealistic as citizens are generally too uneducated about their system and the issues at hand, they do not vote in their best interests and can be easily tricked and to top it off democracy is too easily corruptible as we often see politicians paid off to represent certain values they may not even support themselves.

During this essay on whether democracy is the champion of the people or a failed ideal, the definition of democracy was briefly explored as well as the different types of democracy, we then looked at some of the key arguments for and against democracy before getting into my thoughts and one of the more important questions posed in this essay “Do we really live in a democracy?”. I believe that democracy, while it has the potential to be the champion of the people, it has become a failed ideal in present day. What was supposed to serve as a way for the people to give their voice, has completely dissipated into a corporate and donor money controlled quagmire rife with broken promises, increased hostility and division within the civilian population all the while being absent of any sort of potential for systemic change. Furthermore, it is questionable whether or not democracy is sustainable on a national level with multiple different competing interest groups to begin with, as direct democracy or even representative democracy within small communities can without a doubt work to a degree, but nations full of millions will always result in a large collective of those feeling as if they’re interests aren’t being represented. As always, there are a lot of opinions both for and against democracy as it is and always has been a popular topic to debate, even though there are great arguments for both sides, the question still remains : Is Democracy the champion of the people or a failed ideal?

Written by : Les from @Rightwingism

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