GOVERNMENT LAW COLLEGE, MUMBAI
UNDERGRADUATE CLASS OF 2021
Yes, it is important for an individual to live in a society that is primarily governed by the core democratic principles.
An ideal society for any individual to live in would be one where they can exercise the most individualistic freedom without infringing on another individual’s freedom. Thus, an ideal society means living in an egalitarian society with the freedom to grow individually and be free of arbitrary restrictions on individualistic freedom.
The democratic way of functioning, just like any other ideology of functioning is not uniform between the democratic states of this world, regardless of what the state’s label themselves to be Communist countries during the cold war used the slogan of “democracy” and North Korea is purported to be the “Democratic People's Republic of Korea”. Furthermore, the actions of a democracy in an undemocratic manner is not to be considered as the function of democratic state, as it is now working in manner that an ideal democracy would condemn, for an example the election rigging in the USA and the large scale government frauds in India. It would be problematic to judge an ideology on its fragmented interpretation and the existence of activities that it is contrary to occurring under the ideology’s governance. The real faults in an ideology can be ascertained by a studying the susceptibility it has for exploitation, even under its most ideal manifestation. Therefore, the paradigm for what democracy constitutes is to be tackled in a hypothetical manner with only the essentials of democracy.
An individual needs to have basic rights and the state needs to have an obligation to uphold them. These rights are internationally recognized and even conventions like Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights enunciate to the most basic of them. An individual should have the right to have their own religious, political and other beliefs, the right to associate with other individuals and to form and join organizations of their own choice. An individual should have the right to dissent to the government’s actions and to criticise them. Additionally, most primarily, an individual should have the right to be treated equally and a right to living with dignity.
It is believed that the term ‘democracy’ comes from ‘demos’ and ‘kratos’, which translate, to ‘common people’ and ‘strength’, respectively. In 508–507 BC, the Athenians established what is generally held as the first democracy under the leadership of Cleisthenes. The first democracy functioned by compartmentalizing the powers between two separate categories of bodies, i.e. the government offices comprising of representatives and a legislatively assembly comprising of all the citizens. Although this was a direct democracy, it cannot be considered the ideal democratic system in the status quo, as the participation of the citizens is an assumption that puts the impetus and accountability completely on the entirety of the population. Instead, a representative democracy (one where elections are the norm) with the presence of the core democratic principles where accountability can exist is to be considered the ideal form of democracy.
A democracy is a type of system where the rule is with the citizens of that state. In a democracy, citizens hold power and authority by participating in the decision making process of their government. However, not everybody has the time or capabilities to propound over the nuances of these decisions, they resort to a process indicating their choices for people who are capable enough to propound over the issues and make decisions. This process is referred to as ‘voting’ and is manifested by means such as a secret ballot voting system. The voting process is available to every citizen when the citizen reached the age of maturity. However, thinkers like Socrates believe that voting in an election is a skill, not a random guess, like any skill, voting needs to be taught systematically to people too. This claim refers to the overall policy-based education of the people and not about the literal process of voting. However, the distinction between an intellectual democracy and a democracy by birth is problematic. A government is to be the representation of the people and the uneducated make up a large amount of every nation’s population in the status quo. Thus, this form of democracy is susceptible to becoming an oligarchy, as under a democracy, not everybody can have the same level of political education, for an example, the lack of representation and policies that alienated the poor in England that existed through the requirement of voters to hold property. Therefore, in such a system of governance, equality can never exist and cannot be considered ideal democracy.
A democracy is a type of system where all the citizens are considered equal before the government. However, everybody has an individualistic value that can be manifested as his or her capabilities. Through the representative system, everybody gets a say, regardless of how different his or her stand is to the majoritarian morality. Furthermore, the system requires one to gain more social capital for their views to be propagated on a larger level. Therefore, creating incentive for an individual to grow. On the other hand, a communist paradigm portrays for itself to alleviate the society of a class system by the acceptance of a collective ideology. However, problems arise out of such a situation for an individual, as although a monetary class system is eliminated the social class system can still exist. Furthermore, the individual is no longer allowed to express or think in a way that is contrary to the functioning of the society. Therefore, the right to dissent to the government’s functioning along with an individualistic right to develop one’s self in a way that is different to the society are completely absent from this ideology.
A democracy is a type of system where the government is accountable to the citizens, as the subsequent elections of the government are contingent on how the views of the citizens are upheld. Furthermore, there exists no possibility of a unilateral implementation of a policy, as there is a proper representation-based hierarchy. Instead, a dictatorship is a government where one person makes all the rules and decisions without input from anyone else. Although the decision making process in a democracy may seem longer, it is more efficient, as the power granted under a dictatorship is susceptible to becoming a tyranny. A tyranny is diametrically opposed to the functioning of a democracy and problematic for the citizens, as the people neither are considered equal, nor do they have a voice, like Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown following the Arab Spring protests, which led to thousands of instances of torture and executions in Syria.
A democracy is a type of system where the government is elected under majoritarian rule. Under voting, the individual that is to represent the largest amount of a state’s population is to be selected to govern. Similar to a dictatorship, this system is susceptible to becoming a tyranny. However, instead of it being a tyranny of the leader, it can become a tyranny of the majority. There can exist mechanisms to curb this problem in a democracy though. The judiciary of a nation is supposed to be a watchdog of the democratic principles prescribed in its constitution/under its law. When the judiciary is independent, it technically has the power to regulate these majoritarian actions, if they infringe upon the rights of another individual, in arbitrary manner. For an example, the collegium process in India that makes the appointment, removal and transfers of judges internalised within the judiciary. Therefore, leaving no susceptibility for politicisation of the judiciary. Using this independence, the Supreme Court of India legalised same sex relations in India, as they deemed for the provision of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to be contrary to the democratic belief of equality. Furthermore, this was done while India was under the rule of a conservative party, which was against same-sex relationships, along with an opposition party that did not seem to care about these relationships.
An ideal democracy allows individualistic freedoms to thrive more than any other form of governance. Although, there are problems, these problems are negligible, as they are only incurred by the virtue of it being centered on the needs of the people. Furthermore, the susceptibility for this ideology is minimal, when compared to other ideologies, like an intellectual democracy or a communist regime or a dictatorship. It is understood that these ideologies not to disregarded as a legitimate form of governance, as at times, they may entail principles that are to exist in an ideal democracy. However, the focus these forms have on efficiency, stability or other societal factors can be detrimental for an individual. Therefore, what is more pertinent to observe is not that an individual lives in a democracy, but that an individual be granted the freedoms that are possible in an ideal democracy.