I have been interested in (some) politics for a long time, including different political theories and models of government. In the past I have casually researched different forms of government, and while I see democracy as one of the more favourable options (compared to, say, dictatorships or ogliarchies), I have always felt it was not a flawless model of government. For this week’s action I decided to read about some of the criticisms of democracy – not necessarily because I would prefer an alternative form of government, but rather so I can better understand its weaknesses and -possibly- work to reduce them (in my minor capacity as an individual).
What I discovered
I read about many, many different criticisms of and concerns with democracy. I actually found the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_democracy) to be a very well structured introduction to the criticisms of democracy.
Some of the criticisms I found most thought-provoking were:
1) That many people do not have the education and/or knowledge to make informed decisions about different political issues, and so may not vote with rationality. I agree with this, because even though I am interested in politics, different issues and current affairs, there are certain things that I just feel I am not informed enough about to make a decision.
2) That it can lead to marginalisation. Because democracy works in the favour of the majority, there are whole groups which can become marginalised: the will of the majority is not necessarily what will work best for all citizens.
3) That democracy leads to short-termism and possibly political instability. Because the government must be elected frequently to remain democratic, politicians and parties plan mainly for the short term, as a) they are unlikely to still be in charge in the long-term, and b) they need quick success to ensure re-election. This may not necessarily be most beneficial to the population in the long-term.
I do feel very fortunate to live in a democratic society, and today I feel I exercised my democratic rights in a positive way: I made a submission to the Long Term Plan of the Regional Council, which looks at how our taxes will be used over the next 10 years. I am glad I partook in this because I think active engagement is very important for democracy: to me it should be more than just voting on election day and then sitting back for the next 4-5 years. I am also happy because the Regional Council is the authority concerned with environmental issues and resource management in the region, and I feel my opinions were informed and potentially useful.