Like any other form of government democracy has also a few deficiencies and drawbacks. Some philosophers propose greater democracy to correct the ills of the democracy. They suggest that reforms should be introduced in the electoral system. Ultra democratic devices like referendum, initiative and recall should be employed. These popular checks will keep democracy in proper health.
There are some other political philosophers who suggest some other remedies to cure democracy of its ills. They point out that the success of democracy depends upon the active cooperation of the people in the affairs of the government and upon their capacity of fully realizing their responsibility. All this may be possible if the following conditions are fulfilled :
The greatest defect in the working of democracy lies in the fact that the masses in whom the power is vested are mostly uneducated, in the third world countries. They do not properly comprehend the political problems of their country and the value of their votes.
Lack of consciousness is dangerous in a democracy. Without a spirit of reasonableness, democracy is bound to degenerate into mob rule. This defect can be remedied by universal education and wide dissemination of knowledge.
Alertness of the people is essential condition without which the true idea of democracy cannot be realized. According to Bryce, “indolence and indifference on the part of the citizens are the two enemies of democracy.” Constant vigilance is the price of liberty. In the absence of proper vigilance, democracy is liable to be perverted.
3. Elaborate System of Local Self Government:
Another defect in the working of democracy lies in the fact that people do not possess a proper knowledge regarding the working of democratic institutions. This defect can be removed by establishing an elaborate system of self- governing institutions like village panchayats, municipalities, district boards, etc.
The importance of local self-government may be summed up in the words of Dr. K.N. Katju, “If I have my way, I would enact a law which would prescribe that no person should be elected to a legislature unless he or she had worked either in a municipality or in a panchayat for a minimum period of three years.
A municipality gives the necessary experience in administration and tests the individual members as to whether they would really serve the people or serve themselves.”
4. Civic Sense:
The citizens should possess a high degree of civic sense. They should take a living and healthy interest in the public life of their country.
They should also possess a high standard of honest and moral rectitude. Power may be misused for ignoble purposes in the absence of these virtues.
5. Spirit of Toleration:
Democracy is a government by debate and discussion. A keen spirit of toleration is essential for constructive criticism and healthy discussion. Moreover, democratic government implies a government by the majority.
The majority should be sympathetic towards the minorities and the minorities should be willing to submit to the decisions of the majority.
6. Freedom of Speech, Association and Press:
Individual liberty is the core of democracy. These freedoms allow a free scope for the proper expansion of human personality. Absence of individual liberty dwarfs human personality and consequently affects democracy adversely.
7. A Written Constitution:
Some writers believe that a written constitution is also essential for a success of democracy. A written constitution helps in the safeguarding of individual liberty and keeping the different organs of government within the respective spheres of their authority.
Sir Henry Maine says, with a wise constitution, the turbulence of democracy may be restrained and made as calm as in a reservoir”.
8. Removal of Gross Inequalities of Wealth:
Extremes of wealth and poverty impede the success of democracy to a very great extent. According to many scholars, political equality is impossible in the absence of economic equality. In the opinion of Karl Marx, state is not a neutral agency.
It favors those who are economically dominant in a particular society. Experience has shown that whatever may be the actual form of government, political power tends to gravitate towards those who wield economic power. This is, indeed, the greatest threat to the success of political democracy. In a class-divided society, the rich will always have an upper hand and the poor will always suffer.
It, therefore, demands a re-adjustment of economic relations in such a way that as vast differences of wealth may disappear and every citizen be provided with the material means of a decent existence and adequate leisure for public affairs.
Points to Remember
The following remedies have been suggested to cure democracy of its defects:
(a) The introduction of direct democratic devices like referendum, initiative and recall.
(b) There should be universal education.
(c) The electorate should be alert and vigilant.
(d) An elaborate system of local self-government institutions should be established.
(e) The citizens should possess a high degree of civic sense.
(f)A keen sense of toleration is essential for healthy discussion.
(g)Freedom of speech, association and press should be allowed.
(h)A written constitution also safeguards the spirit of democracy.
(i) Gross inequalities of wealth should be removed.