Is democracy the best form of government?
- ‘Democracy,’ derived from the Greek dēmokratia, means literally “rule by the people.” It refers to a political system that originated in Greek city-states, such as Athens. Athens is considered to be the birthplace of Western Civilization, where ideas of representative democracy, law and order, and individuals possessing reason and virtue all spring.
- World Population Review also defines ‘democracy’ as a place where a nation’s citizenry have the power to vote, and ‘pure democracy’ as “a form of democracy in which people decide on policy initiatives directly.” By that definition, World Population Review has ranked 10 countries with a 9.0+ out of 10 ranking for democracy. They are: Norway (as number one), Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland, Canada, Denmark, Australia, Switzerland.
- America is technically a Republic (or a democratic republic), a “form of government in which a state is ruled by representatives of the citizen body” and the sovereignty lies with the governed, or the people. Direct democracy is where citizens vote directly on issues. The US Congress is full of elected representatives that answer to the people and vote on issues for the people who elected them, which is why it is a representative rather than direct democracy.
- Other forms of government include Authoritarianism, Monarchy, Oligarchy, Totalitarianism, Aristocracy, Dictatorship, Federalism (like in America, also a democratic republic), Republicanism, Communism, and Socialism.
Globally, free-market democracy may have emerged as the dominant system in the last two centuries. However, only about 20 percent of Americans today trust the federal government to do what is right. Meanwhile, the citizens of many developing countries trust the authoritarians more than democratic politicians, according to Foreign Policy. In light of these figures, democracy might be an outdated form of government.
The biggest problem leading to public mistrust in a democracy is 'short-termism.' The foundation of modern democracies is laid on short term rewards. Catering to quick-fixes and immediate demands result in more votes at the cost of long-term sustainable development. Interest lobbying is another significant roadblock in effective democratic governance. It interferes with an accurate representation of public interests and appropriate allocation of government assets. Public policy is often swayed by these influential players and can harm trade, infrastructure, and economic growth.
Modern democracies face divisive polarization—resulting in extremist mob mentality—fostering legislative gridlock, which furthers social unrest.
Opposing political parties use differences in specific groups to gain support. They demonize their opponents to encourage negative emotions in their audience. Recent years have also seen a marked rise in polarizing political dynamics in global democracies, such as those found in America, Europe, India, and Brazil.
There is an evident structural crisis faced by democracy as the need for governance is stretching beyond individual states. Ineffective global governance and lack of one-size-fits-all solutions need to be remedied before a worldwide crisis ensues. Whether it is more feasible to consider democratically elected international institutions or entrusted nations to oversee global economic programs are just a few questions that need to be pondered.
Democracy, in its purest form, means laws and political authority are determined with the direct input or expression of the governed people. It's the political ideology that can produce governments that rule by results, not simply by high ideas or merely good intentions. Representative democracy—such as America's unique government established on unique principles—utilizes elected representatives who represent their constituents' competing interests. While democracies can fall into majority or mob rule, having a representative government is better than any other restrictive form.
The failure to eliminate or to overlook peoples' inherent self-interest and oftentimes their insatiable desire for power has caused many failures (and outright human-rights atrocities happening even now) to occur easily in other government forms that have less checks and balances. But democracy—especially as found in America's democratic republic in which all ruling authority is subject to a Constitution—is far superior to the authoritarian and fascistic regimes of Stalin and others, for example.
Apart from losing their rights and sometimes their lives, citizens of non-representative governments do not get a say about how any of their money is spent. Under the Soviet Union, Ukrainians were restricted in how much food/resources they could own as the rest was designated for government use. This caused mass starvation and over 5 million deaths.
The present iteration of anti-democracy, top-down, raw collectivism, 'this-is-for-your-own-good' governance, is rule by 'the knowledgable' or the new, elite authoritarian voices of politics. Democracy is meant to buck against the restraining rule of monarchs and tyrants. Democracy fosters partnership and allows for a diversity of perspectives to rise and fall, and the American Founders understood that.