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Final Chapter 7

Final Chapter 7

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Published by gojian

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: gojian on Aug 11, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/01/2012

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Outcomes of  Democracy
Overview
As we begin to wind up our tour of democracy, it is time to move beyond our discussion of specific themes and ask a general set of questions: What does democracy do? Or, what outcomes can wereasonably expect of democracy? Also, does democracy fulfil theseexpectations in real life? We begin by thinking about how to assessthe outcomes of democracy. After some clarity on how to think onthis subject, we proceed to look at the expected and actual outcomesof democracy in various respects: quality of government, economic well-being, inequality, social differences and conflict and finallyfreedom and dignity. Our final verdict – positive but qualified –leads us to think about the challenges to democracy in the nextand final chapter.
 
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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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Accountable, responsive and legitimate government
 There are some things that democracy must provide. In a democracy, we aremost concerned with ensuring thatpeople will have the right to choose theirrulers and people will have control overthe rulers. Whenever possible andnecessary, citizens should be able toparticipate in decision making, that affectsthem all. Therefore, the most basicoutcome of democracy should be thatit produces a government that isaccountable to the citizens, andresponsive to the needs and expectationsof the citizens.Before we go into this question, weface another common question: Is thedemocratic government efficient? Is iteffective? Some people think thatdemocracy produces less effectivegovernment. It is, of course, true thatnon-democratic rulers do not have tobother about deliberation in assemblies or worry about majorities and public opinion.So, they can be very quick and efficient indecision making and implementation.Democracy is based on the idea of deliberation and negotiation. So, some delay is bound to take place. Does that makedemocratic government inefficient?Let us think in terms of costs.Imagine a government that may takedecisions very fast. But it may takedecisions that are not accepted by thepeople and may therefore face problems.In contrast, the democratic government will take more time to follow procedures before arriving at a decision.But because it has followed procedures,its decisions may be both moreacceptable to the people and moreeffective. So, the cost of time thatdemocracy pays is perhaps worth it.Now look at the other side– democracy ensures that decision making  will be based on norms and procedures.So, a citizen who wants to know if adecision was taken through the correctprocedures can find this out. She has theright and the means to examine theprocess of decision making. This isknown as transparency. This factor isoften missing from a non-democraticgovernment. Therefore, when we aretrying to find out the outcomes of democracy, it is right to expectdemocracy to produce a governmentthat follows procedures and isaccountable to the people. We can alsoexpect that the democratic governmentdevelops mechanisms for citizens to holdthe government accountable andmechanisms for citizens to take part indecision making whenever they think fit.If you wanted to measuredemocracies on the basis of thisexpected outcome, you would look forthe following practices and institutions:regular, free and fair elections; openpublic debate on major policies and
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Can you think of what and how the government knows about you and your family (for example ration cards and voter identity cards)? What are the sources of information for you about the government? 
Governmental Secrecy

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