The problems with democracy in my opinion…
Now, first of all, I don’t have an alternative to democracy to offer as a solution. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think there is some value in taking a critical look at democracy and discussing what works well, as well as what faults it has. Please keep in mind, these are just my thoughts, and I’m no expert on any of these issues, just a regular Joe with an interest in politics and psychology, amongst many other things.
So we’ll start with the positives.
In a democratic society, there is the potential for the majority of the population to feel they are represented by someone who shares at least a good proportion of their views, ideals and values.
It also offers a level of interactivity — if the public don’t feel they’re doing a good enough job, there will be the opportunity to replace them with someone else.
By the same token, there is a level of accountability, although I have more to say on this point below in the negatives.
There is less likelihood — although the possibility isn’t entirely removed, as has been shown in the past — of people seizing power and changing the government from a democratically elected one to some other form, such as a dictatorship.
I’m sure there are other positives, but as this piece is just about my thoughts on the matter, I’m limiting this to the positives and negatives that come to my mind, rather then researching what others have to say on the topic.
So now, the negatives.
Elections really are a popularity contest. Let’s face it, just because someone is popular, that doesn’t mean they’re appropriate for a role in which they’re meant to be a leader.
Along similar lines, sometimes candidates will be popular because they hold views, beliefs, and/or values that are not in the best interests of the people. I’m sure you, the reader, can think of an example for yourself, it’s not as if this is an uncommon problem in democracies.
Another aspect that applies in at least some democracies, is that there are sometimes no consequences if a politician is elected, but doesn’t deliver on the promises they made before the election. Sure, they may not get re-elected at the next election, but the problem is with the erosion of public trust in ALL elected people, not just those who do not act honourably once elected. This has a terrible effect on the faith of the people in those in power, leading to people making statements such as “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, you get a muppet anyway” or “Don’t vote, it only encourages the bastards”. This is a terrible situation in any democracy and leads to high levels of disenchantment and voter apathy. It also means less people pay attention to what the elected officials actually do, which needless to say, can lead to further damage in the public trust.
I see these issues as significant problems, and while some can be overcome with changes to existing laws, or adding new laws, the likelihood of those in power making the required changes is rather small in many existing democracies unfortunately. And even then, there is no way to legislate away the popularity contest aspect that I can see, and that is, in my humble opinion, such a fundamental problem with democracy — I see it as the biggest problem with such a system of governance.
However, as stated earlier, I also do not have an alternative to offer that I think is any better. I think that being aware of these issues is in the best interests of the citizens of democratic countries. The citizens being aware of these issues can be mindful of them when it comes time to vote, and the candidates in elections can be mindful of these problems and perhaps directly address the concerns they raise, thus making them more appealing to the voting public.
But what do YOU think, my friends?