How Do We Assess Democracy’s Outcomes?
Democracy is better because
i) It promotes equality among citizens.
ii) It enhances the dignity of the individual
iii) It improves the quality of decision-making.
iv) It provides a method to resolve conflicts.
v) It allows room to correct mistakes.
- Imagine that other form of government may take decisions very fast.
- But it may take decions which are not accepted by the people and may therefore face problems.
- Democracy is based on the idea of liberation and negotiation. So, some dealy is bound to take place.
- In contrast, the democratic government will take more time to follow procedures before arriving at a decision.
- But because it has followed procedures, its decisons may be both more acceptable to the people and more effective.
- So, the cost of time that democracy pays is perhaps worth it.
Outcomes of every democracy:
i) As a political outcome of democracy, we expect an accountable, responsive and legitimate government.
ii) As an economic outcome, we expect that democracies produce economic growth and development, and reduce poverty and inequality.
iii) As a social outcome, we expect democracy to accommodate the social diversity in a society, and provide dignity and freedom to all citizens.
Dictatorship : Under dictatorship, all the powers are vested in the hands of a single person or a group of persons.
Legitimate government : Legally chosen government is called legitimate government.
Transparency : To examine the process of decision making in a democracy.
Democracy is accountable, responsive and legitimate government.
i) Democracy ensures that decision making is 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 standard procedures and is accountable to the people.
ii) Democratic governments do not have a very good record when it comes to sharing information with citizens. They are 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.
iii) There is one respect in which democratic government is certainly better than its alternatives: democratic government is a legitimate government. It may be slow, less efficient, not always very responsive or clean, but a democratic government is people’s own government.
Countable government : The government elected by the people and therefore responsible to them.
Responsive government : The government in which people have the right to know the process of decision making.
Economic growth and development
i) Economic development depends on several factors : country’s population size, global situation, cooperation from other countries, economic priorities adopted by the country, etc.
ii) However, the difference in the rates of economic development between less developed countries with dictatorship and democracies is negligible.
iii) 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.
i) Demoracies 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.
ii) Democratically elected governments address the question of poverty by making various welfare schemes to remove poverty.
iii) Democracies not only make welfare schemes but also give reservations for socially and economically backward people in jobs, elections and educational institutions.
Economic Development : It is the development of economic wealth of countries, regions or communities for the well-being of their inhabitants.
Dictatorship : A form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in the dictator.
Economic Inequality : It is the difference found in various measures of economic well-being among individuals in a group, among groups in a population, or among countries.
Accommodation of social diversity
Democracies usually develop a procedure to accommodate various social groups. This reduces the possibility of social tensions becoming explosive or violent.
No society can fully and permanently resolve conflicts among different groups. But democracy is best to handle social differences, divisions and conflicts.
But the example of Sri Lanka reminds us that a democracy must fulfill two conditions in order to achieve accommodation of social divisions:
i) It is necessary to understand that democracy is not simply ruled by majority opinion. The majority always needs to work with the minority so that governments function to represent the general view.
ii) It is also necessary that rule majority does not become rule by majority community in terms of religion or race or linguistic group, etc. Rule by majority meas rule by majority’s choice.
Democracy promotes dignity and freedom of the citizens
- 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.
- 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.
- Take the case dignity of women. Most societies across the world were historically male dominated societies.
- Long struggles by women have created some sensitivity today that respect to and equal treatment of women are necessary ingredients of a democratic society.
- Democracy in India has strenghtened the claims of the disadvantaged and discriminated castes for equal status and equal opportunity.
i) A democracy is always striving towards a better goal. People constantly demand more benefits in a democracy. There are always more expectations.
ii) People now look critically at the work of those who hold power, the rich, the powerful. They express their dissatisfaction loudly. It shows they are no longer subjects by citizens of a democractic country.
It is all of the ways that people within a single culture are set apart from each other. Elements of social diversity can include ethinicity, lifestyle, religion, langauge, tastes and preferences.
When social differences amongst different communities increases and one community is discriminated because of the differences, it becomes social division. For example, social difference between the upper castes and the lower castes becomes a social division as the dalits are generally poor and face injustice and discrimination.