Liberal democracies are better at providing people’s needs than non-democracies.
Last updated: March 7, 2019
Liberal democracies are often thought of as the best form of governance, but is it the suitable to everyone? And is this really correct, or just a Western notion that their way of governing is the best way, and thus cultural arrogance? We will examine all these points in this topical debate.
Democracies are the best way to guarantee people's fundamental human rights.
Non-democracies, by their very nature, do not guarantee these fundamental human rights. These are rights that can and should be guaranteed by governments, and they are fundamental human rights that all individuals should have under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Democracies are more likely to be economically successful
One of the differences between North and South Korea is indeed their economic systems, however the point here is that liberal democracies facilitate the change of governments which would presumably also enforce new economic systems that would overturn dire economic policies that keep it's citizens mired in poverty for decades.
With regard to the argument that property rights are better protected by non-liberal democracies is simply incorrect: liberal democracies place emphasis on the rights of citizens and ALL liberal democracies are capitalist, therefore will be likely to have strong property rights. Autocracies and semi-autocracies are subject to less oversight and scrutiny from the media, opposition parties, and their citizens, and often do not have the same constitutional guarantees, making it easier to change laws such as those guaranteeing property rights.
Thus the argument that other forms of government are better able to be economically successful because they are more likely to enforce property rights is incorrect.
The main link between being a democracy leading to being economically successful is that democracies are more likely to follow the group interest when deciding on what protectionist policies to use and when to be free market whereas authoritarian regimes tend to be oligarchic and have power concentrated in the power of the few so they in turn try to concentrate wealth in their own hands so pursue economic policies that waste resources by lining their own pockets. In cases where the democracy pursues disastrous economic policies there is a good chance that the democracy will turn into an authoritarian regime such as the Weimar republic.
Democracy in most systems means rule of the majority – if that. This means that the majority may well deny freedoms to a minority. Moreover Britain votes once every four years for half of the Houses of Parliament this would theoretically be plenty of time for a party once in power to set about denying libertys rather than spreading them. This could be a major change as with the Wimar republic being democratically taken over by Hitler or it could be much more minor such as the British government’s erosion of liberties since 9/11 justifying it as part of the war on terror to be able to prevent peaceful protest and stop and search. [George Monbiot, 'A threat to democracy', The Guardian, Tuesday 3 August 2004 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/aug/03/terrorism.britainand911%5D%5D
it is development that leads to democracy
However even this link is getting weaker. The number of wealthy authoritarian countries is increasing and they are not always becoming democracies, and if they do become democracies it is not necessarily on a liberal model. Authoritarian regimes are increasingly showing that they can create the economic growth to become affluent and still evade the need for political reform. China is the most obvious example of a authoritatian regime that is growing increasingly wealthy, has a large middle class that is usually the group that demands political rights, any yet is not having to give up authority. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and George W. Downs, ‘Development and Democracy’, Foreign Affairs, ( Sep., 2005)]]
Many commentators see a bargain between the Chinese middle classes and the Communist party, whereby the middle classes let the Communists stay in power in return for rapid economic growth. This has allowed the communist party to co-opt the educated members of society, those who would normally be most likely to be discontented at a lack of representation. The middle classes fear that democracy would mean that the peasents who work on the land would have the real say in government. In short like the British upper classes in the early 19th century they believe that the rural populace is not yet ready to participate in elections.[Qing Hua, 'Democracy in China, Not Anytime Soon', The Asian Economist, Tuesday, August 26th, 2008, http://www.theasianeconomist.com/democracy-in-china-not-anytime-soon/%5D%5D
Theory vs. Practice
However, it is not difficult to see that the United States and the UK (as two of the most prominent examples) are liberal democracies in theory, but not in practice. In the United States, the "Patriot Act" has made sure it has overturned most civil liberties for United States citizens, whilst in the UK the Terrorism Act of 2006 has achieved pretty much the same thing. These governments have aquired the ability to effectively throw out whatever human rights they no longer wish to comply with.
Whilst we are still able to live with a considerable amount of freedom, liberal democracies tend not to be able to deliver the ability to use that freedom.
Liberal democracies often suffer from having large wealth gaps and severe problems with financial control. In the United States, for example, five percent of its population controls forty-five percent of its wealth.
In a liberal democracy, when you are poor, your ability to exercise your freedom is restricted, due to the fact that social mobility is generally uncommon and slow. Whereas if you are rich, your ability to stay rich is relatively easy.
Under communist or socialist rule social mobility is the most important policy. To decrease the wealth gap and to ensure that everyone has a decent living are what count the most. Communism and Socialism do not imply the limitations of freedom. In fact, there is more of it (in theory), due to the power of social mobility and the philosophy that everyone should be able to make a decent living. However, in order for this to work in a Communist or Socialist society it is necessary for the government to follow through with its promises - that it will act for the good of the people and not for itself. So long as there is benign, compassionate, intelligent government in these systems then these systems are in many ways better than liberal democracies.