What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Democracy?

Advantages of Democracy

Democracy is considered to be the best form of government these days. Most of the countries in the world have adopted it. The following arguments have been given in favour of Democracy:

(i) Safeguards the interests of the people:

Chief merit of democracy lies in that it safeguards the interests of the people. Real power lies in the hands of the people who exercise it by the representatives elected by them and who are responsible to them. It is said that social, economic and political interests of the individuals are served better under this system.

(ii) Based on the principle of equality:

Democracy is based on the principle of equality. All members of the State are equal in the eyes of law. All enjoy equal social, political and economic rights and state cannot discriminate among citizens on the basis of caste, religion, sex, or property. All have equal right to choose their government.

(iii) Stability and responsibility in administration:

Democracy is known for its stability, firmness and efficiency. These days tenure of the elected representatives is fixed. They form a stable government because it is based on public support. The administration is conducted with a sense of responsibility. In representative democracy, people's representatives discuss matters more thoroughly and take reasonable decision.

Under monarchy the Monarch takes decisions as he pleases. Under dictatorship, the dictators do not involve people at all in decision making, people have no right to criticise the decisions of the dictator even when they are bad and against people's welfare.

(iv) Political education to the people:

Another argument given in favour of democracy is that it serves as a training school for citizens. People get impetus to take part in the affairs of the state. At the time of elections political parties propose their policy and programme in support of their candidates. All means of propaganda-public meetings, posters, radio, television and speeches by important leaders of the parties- are used to win public favour. It creates political consciousness among the people.

(v) Little chance of revolution:

Since democracy is based on public will, there is no chance of public revolt. Representatives elected by the people conduct the affairs of the state with public support. If they don't work efficiently or don't come up to the expectations of their masters i.e., the public, they are thrown in the dustbin of history when elections are held again. Gilchrist opines that democracy or popular governments always function with consensus and therefore question of revolt or revolution does not arise.

(vi) Stable government:

Democracy is based on public will. It conducts state business with public support. It is, therefore, more stable than other forms of Government.

(vii) Helps in making people good citizens:

Success of democracy lies on its good citizens. Democracy creates proper environment for the development of personality and cultivating good habits. D. Tacquville is of opinion that "Democracy is the first school of good citizenship. Citizens learn their rights and duties from birth till death in it."

(viii) Based on public opinion:

Democratic administration is based on public will, public opinion lends it strength. It is not based on fear of authority. Gettel is of opinion that democracy stands on consensus, not on power; it admits the existence of state for individual, not individual for the state. It lends development and progress to individual and arouses his interest in social activities. Individuals readily take active part in such a government. And this is because of the eminence, devotion and conviction in man found in the nature of democracy itself.

Demerits of Democracy

Following arguments have been given against Democracy:

(i) More emphasis on quantity than on quality:

It is not based upon the quality but on quantity. Majority party holds the reigns of government. Inefficient and corrupt persons get themselves elected. They have neither intelligence, nor vision, nor strength of character to steer through the ship of the state to its destinations.

(ii) Rule of the incompetent:

Democracies are run by incompetent persons. It is government by amateurs. In it, every citizen is allowed to take part, whereas everybody is not fit for it. Locke calls it the act of running administration by the ignorant. He says that history records the fact that a few are intelligent. Universal adult franchise grants right to vote to everybody.

Thus, "a few manipulators who can collect votes with the greatest success get democratic power." The result is that democracy run by the ignorant and incompetent becomes totally unfit for intellectual progress and search for scientific truths.

(iii) Based on unnatural equality:

The concept of equality is enshrined in democracy. It is against the law of nature. Nature has not endowed every individual with intelligence and wisdom. Men's talents differ. Some are courageous, other are cowards. Some healthy, others not so healthy. Some are intelligent, others are not. Critics are of opinion that "it is against the law of nature to grant equal status to everybody."

(iv) Voters do not take interest in election:

Voters do not cast their vote in a spirit of duty as democracy requires them to do. Contestants of election persuade them. Even then, it is generally found that turn out comes to 50 to 60 percent only. This forefeits the very tall claim of holding elections.

(v) Lowers the moral standard:

The only aim of the candidates becomes to win election. They often employ under-hand practices, foul means to get elected. Character assassination is openly practised, unethical ways are generally adopted. Muscle power and money power work hand-in-hand to ensure success to him. Thus, morality is the first casualty in election. It is a big loss for 'when character is lost, everything is lost' becomes explicit in due course.

(vi) Democracy is a government of the rich:

Modern democracy is, in fact, capitalistic. It is rule of the capitalists. Electioneering is carried out with money. The rich candidates purchase votes. Might of economic power rules over the whole process. The net result is that we get plutocracy under the garb of democracy-democracy in name and form, plutocracy in reality.

It cares a fig for the common man. The rich hold the media and use it for their own benefit. Big business houses influence dailies and use these dailies for creating public opinion to their favour. Influence of moneyed people over politics is probably clear in England, America and India.

Consequently, communists don't accept it democracy at all. According to them, Socialist democracy is democracy in the right sense of the term because the welfare of the labour class and farming community can be safeguarded properly only under socialist democracy.

(vii) Misuse of public funds and time:

Democracy is a huge waste of time and resources. It takes much time in the formulation of laws. A lot of money is spent during the elections. Ministers are proving white elephants. They are a heavy burden on public exchequer as they waste public money on their tours and recreations.

(viii) No stable government:

When no party gets absolute majority, coalition governments are formed. The coalition of political parties with a view of sharing power is only a marriage of convenience.

Whenever there occurs clash of interests, the coalition is lost and governments crumble down. Thus, stable governments under democracy generally don't exist. France lost the World War II because there was no stable government in the country at that time. We, in India, have been experiencing the same thing for the present.

(ix) Dictatorship of majority:

Democracy is criticised because it establishes dictatorship of majority. The majority is required to safeguard the interests of minority but in actual practice it does not. Majority after gaining success at the polls forms its ministry and conducts the affairs of the state by its own sweet will. It ignores the minority altogether; the minority is oppressed.

(x) Bad influence of political parties:

Political parties are the basis of democracy. A political party aims at capturing power. Its members are to safeguard the interests of the party. Sometimes, they overlook the overall interest of the state for the sake of their party.

They try to win election by hook or by crook. Practising the immoral methods, empty ideals, inciting hatred, spreading caste feelings, communalism has become a common practice. It lowers the national character.