Democracy is the best form of government
Churchill said "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Essentially that democracy has many flaws and problems but all the others have more problems. Now authoritarian countries such as China are potentially challenging this assumption by proving that authoritarian regimes are better at creating economic growth. Is Democracy still the best form of government?
Democratic states nearly always have freer people than autocratic states. They obviously have the right to vote for their government so by extension deciding the policy of their nation and what their nation should be like. They have more freedom of speech and expression than in autocracies. In particular they are free to criticise their own government.
Except for the freedom to choose the government there is no reason why people cannot be as free under an autocracy as in a democracy.
Represents the people
The biggest virtue of Democracy is that it is government by the people for the people. The government represents the views of the people who elect them and can throw them out if the government does things that the people do not like. Unlike other forms of government democracy is about the little man, everyone rather than the elite that are often disconnected from how everyone else lives their lives.
Democracy does not do very well at representing the people. In first past the post systems a government may not even have the support of a majority of those who voted not even including that many will not have votes and many more will not have the vote. This means that it is often a small minority of the population who determines which party gets in to government. Once they are there they are rarely representative of the people as they have several years to do what they like. Yes they need to think about re-election but that simply means they need to do more that the people like than the people dislike (or else have a good advertising campaign).
Better governance due to transparency
Democracy is as much about having checks and balances to the executive and having transparency of decision-making as it is about elections and the populace throwing governments out of power. In a democracy the parliament, the media and sometimes the judiciary all keep an eye on the executive and what is being done with the people’s money. They are therefore able to see if the executive is doing things that are detrimental to the country, are immoral, or even illegal. This can then be brought to a halt. Even where such actions are not visible on the surface there are separate institutions that have the power to investigate the executive and watch any ‘secret’ deals or actions that are going on away from public view.
While this is mostly found in democracy it is not something that has to be exclusive to democracies. Autocracies can potentially be transparent and have checks and balances they however often do not simply because an autocracy often has the time, and the willingness to use force to prevent these from occurring.
Respect of Human Rights
Democracy as much it is understood, is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
If democracy is put at it appropriate performance, then, all facet of human rights is respected. The citizens would have the rights to exercise freedom of speech concerning the well-being of the populace in areas of the economy, education, health, infrastructural development, etc.
It is impossible for a state to accommodate all conflicting views on a subject. Thus, majority rule is practiced.
This puts the rights of minorities into jeopardy.
Promotes Human Rights
As much as Democracy is understood, it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The ability of the people to have a voice in the running of the State, in the economy, health, education, infrastructural development, etc creates a bit-balanced environment for governance to thrive; this can only be achieved in a democratic governance.
Autocracies are better at big projects, they can get things done and as such they are likely to be better at creating economic growth if they have the will. In an autocracy there are not the avenues for dissent that can block building projects, the police or troops can be used to clear protests that in the west would slow down large infrastructure projects. As a consequence of this all the infrastructure that is needed to create a modern economy can be produced quicker and cheaper than would be the case in a democracy. Also the resource base of the country can be accessed faster (no pesky environmentalists preventing drilling and mining!) and used more efficiently.
This is not the case. The most developed and richest countries are all democracies. While they may well have been developing their democracies during their initial industrialisation democracy and the freedom it brings is increasingly necessary for economic growth once the country has moved to being mostly dependent upon services rather than manufacturing or natural resource exploitation for economic growth. Once this occurs then creativity becomes important and the freedoms associated with democracy are needed to foster this creativity that is needed for industries such as information technology, creative arts, research and development etc.
Increasingly about money
In some countries democracy seems to be increasingly about money. The U.S. is the obvious example where millions are spent on elections with big events and glitzy advertising campaigns. This is not what democracy should be about and it discourages other countries from moving along the path to democracy. Indeed it undermines the very idea of democracy. Democracy when money is involved to the extent that it is in the U.S.A. becomes elitist and corporatist because only the elite and rich businessmen can afford to fund the campaigns for congress let alone for the presidency. The 2008 campaign for the White House cost $1.6 billion and the whole 2008 election including senate and house of representatives races cost $5.3 billion. Autocracies obviously avoid this immense expense by avoiding elections.
Electorate is not motivated
You can drag the electorate to the ballot box if you like but you cannot make them interested in most of the topics. It's an idea that seems appealing if your are one of those people who is interested (I would love it), but if you try to discuss political issues with most people they either change the subject or nod politely without comment.
A lot of people are also keen to express their views, but clearly haven't done any research into their validity. An elected representative can take more time to consider the idea, discuss it with peers, and explain themselves if it is contrary to popular opinion. Of course, most politicians are weasels and will support popular opinion over educated opinion, but the result of this is no worse than direct democracy.
What do you think?