D e m o c r a t i c P o l i t i c s
How do we assess democracy’s outcomes?
Do you remember how students inMadam Lyngdoh’s class argued aboutdemocracy? This was in Chapter 2 of Class IX textbook. It emerged from thatconversation that democracy is a betterform of government when compared with dictatorship or any other alternative. We felt that democracy was betterbecause it:
Promotes equality among citizens;
Enhances the dignity of theindividual;
Improves the quality of decision-making;
Provides a method to resolveconflicts; and
Allows room to correct mistakes. Are these expectations realised underdemocracies? When we talk to peoplearound us, most of them supportdemocracy against other alternatives,such as rule by a monarch or military orreligious leaders. But not so many of them would be satisfied with thedemocracy in practice. So we face adilemma: democracy is seen to be goodin principle, but felt to be not so good inits practice. This dilemma invites us tothink hard about the outcomes of democracy. Do we prefer democracy only for moral reasons? Or are theresome prudential reasons to supportdemocracy too?Over a hundred countries of the world today claim and practice somekind of democratic politics: they haveformal constitutions, they hold elections,they have parties and they guarantee rightsof citizens. While these features arecommon to most of them, thesedemocracies are very much differentfrom each other in terms of their socialsituations, their economic achievementsand their cultures. Clearly, what may beachieved or not achieved under each of these democracies will be very different.But is there something that we can expectfrom every democracy, just because it isdemocracy?Our interest in and fascination fordemocracy often pushes us into taking aposition that democracy can address allsocio-economic and political problems.If some of our expectations are not met, we start blaming the idea of democracy.Or, we start doubting if we are living ina democracy. The first step towardsthinking carefully about the outcomesof democracy is to recognise thatdemocracy is just a form ofgovernment.It can only create conditions for achieving something. The citizens have to takeadvantage of those conditions andachieve those goals. Let us examine someof the things we can reasonably expectfrom democracy and examine the recordof democracy.
Did we reachtheseconclusions inMadam Lyngdoh’sclass? I lovedthat classbecausestudents werenot beingdictated anyconclusions.
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