Meaning of Democracy
Today, most of the countries of the world have democratic government. In spite of many shortcomings, majority of the countries have adopted this form of government. This implies that most of the people liked the idea of democracy. In this lesson, you will learn about definition, features and pros and cons of democracy.
Democracy is a form of government in which the rulers are elected by people.
1: (a) Abraham Lincoln, 2: (b) Aristotle, 3: (d) 5th century, 4: (c) Elected Representative, 5: (a) Democracy
Example of Myanmar
To understand this, let us take the example of Myanmar. Recently, the army of Myanmar overthrew the elected government and took the reign in its own hands.
Since the public of Myanmar has not elected the army to rule over them hence there is no democracy in this country. You can also take the example of Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by monarchy. A person does not become a monarch by people’s choice but by virtue of being born in a royal family. So, Saudi Arabia does not have a democratic government.
Rule by many is called democracy, rule by a few is called aristocracy, and rule by an individual is called autocracy.
Democracy is a form of government in which people get the right to elect the governing legislature. This term first appeared in the 5th century to define the government system in Greek city-states.
Features of Democracy
The final decision making power rests with those who are elected by people.
A democracy must be based on a free and fair election. The ruling party must have a fair chance of losing that election. In India, elections are held at regular intervals. Many a times, an election in India results in a change in the government. But in China and Russia, we get to see the government of same party since so many years even after elections being held at regular intervals. This shows that India has a thriving democracy which is not the case with China or Russia.
In a democracy, each adult citizen must have one vote and each vote should have equal value.
A democratic government rules within the limits which are set by constitutional laws and citizens' rights.
Arguments Against Democracy
- Change in leadership may lead to instability.
- Democracy involves political competition and power play. This leaves no scope for morality.
- The decision making is often delayed because a large number of people need to be consulted.
- Elected leaders may not be aware about the best decisions for people. More often, bad decisions are made in a democracy.
- Involvement of electoral competition in a democracy gives rise to corruption.
- Ordinary people may not understand the meaning of collective good and hence they should not be made a part of the decision making process.
Arguments For Democracy
- Democratic government is more accountable to people and hence is a better form of government, compared to other forms of government.
- Since a large number of people are consulted in the decision making process, so democracy enhances the quality of decision making.
- Democracy provides a method to deal with conflicts and differences. In a diverse country (like India) there can be very sharp social differences and conflicts. Such differences can be resolved through democracy in a better and amicable way.
- Democracy provides the fundamental rights to its citizens and thus enhances the dignity of the people.
- Democracy allows to correct its own mistakes and hence is a better form of governance.
In this lesson, you learnt the definition of democracy which shows that a form of government in which rulers are elected by people is called democracy. Some mandatory conditions for democracy are universal adult franchise, giving options to people (in terms of political parties) and sanctity of fundamental rights for citizens. Democracy has many shortcomings too, e.g. slow decision making, fear of anarchy and corruption due to political competition. But in spite of all its shortcomings democracy is a better system in which people's aspirations and rights are taken care of.