Essay on The Dangers of Democracy
In a democratic political system, the ultimate power is before a body of citizens who has the power to elect their representatives. At one point, James Madison described American democracy, in comparison to that of Athens, as “lies in the entirety segregation of the people in their collective capacity.” Thus, Madison feared that common factions turn tyrannical, hence threatening liberty. On the other hand, Centinel argued that the government should not be taken away from the people, as this lead to oppressive to their liberty as well as unresponsive to their needs. According to my viewpoint, I concur with Madison that too much democracy is dangerous. Thus, there is need to control the degree of democracy in political governance. The paper will be focusing on evaluating why too much democracy can be dangerous, and the precautions that should be undertaken to respond to the primary danger without falling to the other dangerous tendency.
Democratic form of government accords people an added advantage as it incorporates their ideas into the system of governance. However, despite this advantage, foolish notions can seize it (Kishore 1-5). Any organization in which democracy rules i.e. Majority of members or citizens can pass rules and laws, which suit them, without considering other group members who must adapt to the laws and rules they enact. Judgment is crucial in distinguishing laws, which are reasonable and sensible, from those that are undemocratic, as they are unnecessary, intolerable, and unfair to the minority that oppose them thus impeaching their liberty. Therefore, formal procedure should be set in place to prevent implementation of oppressive laws, as judgment in such matters may fail due to use of majority rule i.e. democracy.
Democratic forms of governance do not allow for an efficient functioning of the government. Precisely, democratic governments strive for independence through the division of the various government arms i.e. the executive, the judiciary, and the legislative. Such a distinction limits the possibility of arbitrary excesses by the government. The sanction of all the three branches is essential in making, executing and administering of laws and policies. Moreover, none of the above-mentioned branches of a democratic form of national governance can function independently from each other (Ebony, 99-103). For example, in the United States, the congress, which is the legislative arm, has an impeachment body to check on the executive arm i.e. the president (can also be legislative due to the veto power). Furthermore, Separation of powers inevitably means split of responsibility, which leads to friction amongst the separated organs at the expense of cultivating cooperation for the mutual benefit of all.
The other possible danger of too much democracy is the possibility of making wrong choices. According to the principles of democracy, the common man has all the powers or rather rights to elect their government as well as their main authorities. However, too much of these powers can sometimes be dangerous based on various reasons. For instance, it is evident that not all the people are aware of the political conditions in their country (Kishore, 1-5). Additionally, majority of the common people are not familiar political issues affecting their society. Thus, there is a danger of making wrong choices during elections, which in turn bring into power individuals who are likely to misuse the rule of democracy. Without the right people in the government, development in all perspectives would be difficult. As such, certain measures should be put into place to ensure that the common people do not misuse their supreme democratic powers by making wrong choices.
However, a number of arguments have been put forward against the idea of removing the government too far from the people, or rather having a political system with too little democracy. One of these arguments is that the constitution acts as a safeguard in shielding citizen’s rights in most of democratic countries. Based on this argument, changing the constitution requires agreement of majority of the representatives of the people whom they elected. It can also be done through the court, if the court believes that there is need for such changes for the benefit of the people collectively (Ebony, 120-123). The other way through which the constitution can be changed is through a referendum, where the everybody in the country is entitled to give opinions regarding the proposed changes. Additionally, separation of powers into the judicial branch, the legislative branch, and the executive branch, impose considerable challenges for a small majority to enforce their will.
The second argument that has been highlighted by the proponents of too much democracy against limitation of democracy is that minorities and majorities can take distinctly different shape on diverse matters. It is evident that individuals would agree with the viewpoints of the majority on some issues, as well as with the minority on some other issues. Besides, the views of most people keep on changing depending on circumstances (Guiner, 34-37). As such, members of the majority may not advocate for the coercion of the minority, simply because they may form part of the minority in the future and the same thing night happen to them. Lastly, it is also argued that regardless of the risks of the tyranny of the majority, the rule of majority is the most preferred system as compared to other systems. Besides, tyranny of the majority is considered as being an upgrading of the tyranny of the minority (William and Theodore, 123-129). Arguably, most of the above mentioned problems of the tyranny of the majority or rather too much democracy can also be witnessed in less democracies, adding to the problem of oppression of the majority by the minority. According to the advocates of democracy, studies indicate that more democracy reduces mass killing by the government as well as internal violence.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that a democratic political system has its advantages. However, too much democracy can be dangerous, as once said by James Madison. Regardless of the arguments that have been put forward by the proponents of democracy against limitation or control of democracy, I believe that there is need to set limits of democracy in any given country. One of the arguments for limitation of democracy is that the tyranny of the majority may agree to oppression of the minority groups. Besides, separation of powers among the various branches may limit efficient functioning of the government. Finally, there is a possibility of the majority making wrong choices as far as governance is concerned. Therefore, there is need to control democracy to avoid emergence of the tyranny of the majority.
Ebony, Lauren. The Tyranny of the Majority: Black Activism and the Boston School Committee, 1963-1973. Ohio: Ohio State University (2007).
Guiner,Lani. The Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy. Boston: Free Press. (2006).
Kishore, Mahbubani. Journal on ethics & international affairs. 23.1(2009): 1-5. Print.
William, L Ransom and Theodore Roosevelt. Majority Rule and the Judicially: An examination of the Current Proposals for Constitutional Change Affecting the Relation of Courts. New York: The Lawbook Exchange Ltd. (2008).