“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
Winston Churchill, Politician
Pros and Cons of Democracy
The term democracy comes from the Greek term dēmokratía, which means “rule by people”. Democracy can be regarded as the opposite of the classic dictatorship regime.
In many Western countries, democracy is the foundation of human freedom and economic success. However, there are also some disadvantages related to democracy.
In this article, the pros and cons of democracy are examined.
Pros of Democracy
- Low levels of inequality
- Assurance of human rights
- Religious freedom
- Freedom in cultural values
- Educational rights and opportunities
- Strengthening of individual opportunities
- Low levels of discrimination
- High level of freedom
- Power decentralization
- Democracy gives people a feeling of participation
- Empowerment of people
- Participation in elections
- Change of political power after a certain period of time
- Equal justice
- Almost everyone could become a politician
- People are more willing to accept the system
- Identification and level of patriotism increases
- Democracy can avoid conflicts
- Smooth transition when political leaders change
- Avoidance of extremism on a large scale
- Companies are more eager to invest in democratic countries
- Trade is facilitated through democracy
Low levels of inequality
One advantage of democracy is that it lowers the level of inequality compared to other regimes. For instance, in a dictatorship, there are often huge levels of inequality since the dictator can choose which group of people he wants to favor.
On the other hand, in a democracy, there is at least a certain level of equality assured by legislations so that no group of minorities can be discriminated against too much.
Assurance of human rights
Democracy also assures the maintenance of human rights. Through legislations and other judicial frameworks, human rights are promoted and assured in most of the democratic countries.
In contrast, when we take a look at dictatorships, human rights are often suppressed and not valued at all. In fact, dictators often fully neglect human rights and just act in a radical political direction that aims to sustain the dictator’s power.
Democratic countries also often preserve the religious freedom of people. For instance, if you live in a democratic country, chances are that you will be allowed to pray and to act out your religious beliefs without having to fear any sentences as long as you do not harm others or engage in extremist activities.
In contrast, in dictatorships, the level of religious freedom is often pretty confined and people are even sentenced to death in some countries solely due to their religious beliefs.
Freedom in cultural values
Similar to religious beliefs, many democracies also ensure freedom in cultural values. For instance, if you come from a foreign country and have special cultural norms and values, you will be free to live according to those values as long as they are in line with the respective law.
In countries that do not have an intact democracy, you might not be able to have freedom in cultural values since dictatorships often suppress all other ways of life that are not in line with their own cultural attitude.
Educational rights and opportunities
Education is crucial to succeed in all parts of life. That’s why it is so important that everyone has access to proper education. However, while in most democracies, access to education is rather easy, at least in many Western countries, in countries without democracies, it is pretty confined.
The rulers of those countries often do not even want the general public to get proper education since they fear that they might lose power due to those improvements in education over the long run. For dictators, it is much better to keep the general public uneducated in order to sustain their power.
Strengthening of individual opportunities
In a democracy, people have much more chances compared to radical dictatorships. For instance, in democratic countries, people are often pretty free regarding their job preferences and also gender discrimination might be much lower in most democratic countries.
People are also better able to express alternative lifestyles in democracies compared to dictatorships. Thus, the overall opportunities for the individual are usually much better in a democratic country.
Low levels of discrimination
In general, even though the majority is often better off than minorities, there is far less discrimination compared to radical dictatorship regimes.
While in democracies, people have a certain level of tolerance which may vary depending on the respective country, in dictatorships, minorities are often treated quite poorly and not equal to the rest of the population.
High level of freedom
Also the individual level of freedom is much higher in democracies compared to other political regimes. In democracies, people are usually free to do whatever they want as long as they do not hurt others and comply with the local laws, which are often pretty generous.
In contrast, the level of freedom is pretty confined in dictatorships since dictators often fight individual freedom since they fear revolutions if people become too aware of what is going on in their country.
The decentralization of power is another main upside of democracy. History taught us that too much power of single people could lead to disastrous outcomes.
By confining the power of politicians, horrible decisions like starting wars might be prevented since other politicians or political parties may veto against those decisions.
Democracy gives people a feeling of participation
Since people are free to vote for the politician or party they trust, they may have a better feeling of participation and may have a higher level of identification with the political decisions those politicians will make.
Thus, democracy may lead to a state where people can identify more political decisions, which in turn leads to a higher level of acceptance of the general public.
Empowerment of people
Compared to other regimes, in a democracy, the overall level of empowerment of people is generally much higher. People are often free to do whatever they want as long as they obey the local laws. People can take part in their hobbies, meet friends and do many other things they like.
In contrast, in dictatorships, this kind of empowerment may be pretty confined since dictators don’t want people to engage and talk to each other too much since they fear that people may strive for a political revolution at one point in time.
Participation in elections
In a democracy, people are also allowed and even encouraged to participate in elections. This gives people the opinion to vote for their favorite politicians or party and therefore to determine to a certain extent how the country’s future might look like.
In contrast, in dictatorships, people are never allowed to voted and the dictator determines what might be best for the country and, often much more important, for himself.
Change of political power after a certain period of time
In a democracy, it is often also guaranteed that the political power shifts to other politicians or parties over time. In many countries, there is a limit of years a politician can stay in power.
When this period of time is over, he is forced by law to hand this power over to another politician which is often determined by the general public.
Thus, by setting those limits, democracies can avoid autocracies which might lead to adverse outcomes for the majority of the population.
For a free democracy, it is also crucial that people are treated fairly in several parts of their daily life, including judicial decisions. In most democracies, there are laws in place that guarantee fair and equal treatment in court.
In contrast, in other political systems, this justice might not be guaranteed and minorities might often become victims to quite unfair judicial treatment.
Almost everyone could become a politician
In a democracy, if you want to become a politician, you are basically free to join a political party. If the members of the party share your attitude, you might have a good chance to get up the political latter and to become an important politician one day who has the power to really make an impact.
In other political regimes, this would often not be possible since rulers are often not willing to let their power go and may suppress other parties who want to get more power.
People are more willing to accept the system
Since people are allowed to vote in a democracy, the chances for revolutions and civil wars decreases. People are usually willing to support the decisions made by politicians since they voted them and agreed to their political attitudes.
Even though people might not conform with all political decisions, the likelihood of people willing to accept the whole political framework is quite high in a democratic country.
Identification and level of patriotism increases
Many people in democratic countries are even quite proud of their political values. Therefore, democracy may also contribute to patriotism and a high level of self-identification of the general public with political decision-makers.
Democracy can avoid conflicts
Democracy may also have the power to avoid global conflicts. For instance, in a dictatorship, a single person may be able to start a conflict if he wanted.
In contrast, in democratic systems, politicians can veto against such extreme decisions, which may prevent conflicts or even wars in the worst case. Thus, democratic systems may be able to prevent the death of many people due to warfare.
Smooth transition when political leaders change
The transition process regarding changes in political leadership is often quite smooth and without problems in democratic countries. This ensures that the political and social stability of a country can be maintained.
In contrast, in other political regimes, political leaders are often killed or chased away through revolutions, which often leads to a vacuum of political power and high levels of instability for the respective country.
Avoidance of extremism on a large scale
Through democracy and the related freedom of mind and attitudes, it is less likely that a high number of people engage in extremist activities since flawed arguments can be exposed quite easily through the spread of news on social media or other platforms.
Therefore, democracy can also mitigate the foundation of radical organizations to a certain extent.
Companies are more eager to invest in democratic countries
Also from an economic perspective, democratic countries often have an edge over dictatorships. For instance, companies are often much more eager to invest and to open branches in countries that have a stable democracy since they do not have to fear becoming expropriated.
It is also much easier to get qualified employees in democracies compared to dictatorships since highly educated people value their individual freedom and want to rather stay in a democratic country than in a country with a political regime that suppresses human freedom.
Trade is facilitated through democracy
Countries with democratic regimes often have it much easier to find global trading partners. Many countries refrain from trading with dictatorships due to violations of civil rights and other issues, which gives democratic countries an edge when it comes to gains from international trade.
Cons of Democracy
- Democracy may slow down important decisions
- Too many unnecessary discussions
- Political inefficiencies can get expensive
- Minorities may be left behind
- Economic vs. social interests due to lobbying
- Politicians may act in an opportunistic manner
- Politicians often do not fear any consequences
- Donations may determine election outcomes
- Politicians may lie to get more votes
- Short-term thinking of politicians
- Voters may lack information
- Elections may be expensive
- People may vote solely in their own interest
- Corrupt political systems
Democracy may slow down important decisions
Even though democracy has many important advantages, there are also some downsides to it. One problem of democracy is that important decisions often take quite long until everyone agrees.
Most of the time, there has to be plenty of compromising in order to pass a law. This may be a big issue, especially if decisions are time-critical and long delays may lead to serious economic or social issues.
Too many unnecessary discussions
Politicians in democracies often also waste plenty of time on unnecessary discussions about minor things that actually do not matter in the big context of a problem at all. Those minor discussions may further delay important political decisions.
Political inefficiencies can get expensive
Democracy can also imply significant costs. There are a high number of people in congress who want to engage in political discussions.
However, all of those people want to get paid, and many of them earn a pretty good income.
Thus, if there are too many politicians around, this might get quite costly for taxpayers.
Minorities may be left behind
Even though minorities are treated better on average in democracies compared to most other political systems, in some countries, minorities may be still left behind.
Since politicians often focus to get the votes from the majority of the population in order to be elected, the needs of minorities may not be the focus of many politicians.
Economic vs. social interests due to lobbying
In the context of political decision making, lobbying activities often play a crucial role in democracies. For instance, if an industry in a country is quite strong and important, they may have plenty of influential people that have good contacts with political decision-makers, which may influence political decisions.
Thus, if economic interests and social interests diverge, politicians may prefer to act in line with economic interests instead of social interests.
Politicians may act in an opportunistic manner
Politicians may also have their own interests in mind in a democracy, similar to dictatorships. In case their political survival is on the line, politicians may act in a way that favors them instead of doing what would be beneficial for the general public.
Politicians often do not fear any consequences
In many democratic countries, politicians do not have to fear being sued if they cause damages related to their political decisions. This may give politicians room to act in their own interest instead of representing the interests of the general public.
Donations may determine election outcomes
In many democratic countries, the outcome of an election is vastly determined by how much money a candidate can spend on advertising.
Thus, if one candidate gets plenty of donations from big companies while the other candidate struggles to get sufficient funding, the candidate with much more money will often win the election.
Therefore, even if elections are often proclaimed to be fair, the outcome of election significantly depends on how much money a candidate can spend on his campaign.
Politicians may lie to get more votes
Most of us have experienced this quite often. Politicians promise a lot, however, once they are elected, they will not be able or even willing to implement those promises into real political decisions. In order to be voted, politicians are often willing to lie to the general public.
Short-term thinking of politicians
Since they know that they only have a certain period of time to accomplish their political goals, politicians might act in a rather short-term manner and may ignore adverse long-term effects of their decisions.
This may include popular decisions like tax cuts, which benefit people in the short term. However, due to an increase in public debt, this tax cut may hurt society in the long run.
Voters may lack information
Even though in many countries, parties often provide plenty of information about their political goals through the internet, many people often still lack information about the respective parties.
This may be due to insufficient internet access or also since people do simply not care about this topic.
However, uninformed people may vote parties that are not in line with their attitudes at best and may vote for extremist parties at worst, which may lead to serious social problems.
Elections may be expensive
Elections are also quite expensive in general since many people have to work in order to ensure the objectivity of an election outcome.
Moreover, candidates often spend millions or even billions of dollars on election campaigns. Thus, the overall election process can be quite costly in democracies.
People may vote solely in their own interest
Another downside of democracy is that people often solely vote in their own best interest, even if this might hurt society. For instance, some people may fear pollution or noise from the construction of an airport near their home.
Therefore, those people will likely vote for a party that wants to stop the construction of this airport, even though it would be quite beneficial for the general public in terms of tax earnings and also through the creation of many jobs.
Thus, political free decision making in democracies sometimes also implies outcomes that might not be beneficial from a social point of view.
Corrupt political systems
Politicians are also frequently involved in corruption affairs. Politicians get bribed by big firms to act in the companies’ interests instead of doing what would be best for the general public.
Especially in democracies in poor developing countries, politicians are often quite vulnerable to corruption since they can make a lot of money compared to the average income of the local population.
Top 10 Democracy Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Democracy Pros||Democracy Cons|
|Assurance of human rights||Slow decision-making processes|
|Freedom of religion||Inefficiencies|
|Decentralization of power||Unnecessary discussions|
|Empowerment of the general public||Insufficient representation of minorities|
|Participation in elections||Economic vs. social interests|
|Limited terms||Opportunistic behavior of politicians|
|Rather low levels of inequality||Short-term thinking|
|Limitation of extremism||Unrealistic promises|
|Economic advantages||Expensive elections|
Democracy is crucial in order to ensure the freedom of people in a country. It has plenty of advantages, yet also some problems are related to democracy.
However, in the big picture, democracy can be considered to be the best political system by far, since only democracy allows people a maximum of individual freedom and opportunities.
Thus, it would be desirable that even more countries all over the world would accomplish to establish a working democracy over time.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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