Is It Important to Live in a Democracy?

Erin Liu

Troy High School

10th Grade

Is it important to live in a democracy? My answer is definitely yes. Foremost, however, I would like to discuss the concept of a democracy before elaborating on its importance.

 

What is Democracy?

To my understanding, democracy involves allowing members of a group to express their opinions towards a matter, and taking those opinions into consideration regardless how different or controversial. Next, after receiving the input of every member in the group regarding the matter at hand, a group decision is commonly made by having each member cast a vote. Very often, the majority vote—that is, the greater half of the votes—takes effect, while some important decisions call for higher vote hurdles, such as 75% of the votes, 90%, 99%, and so on. Democracy can be applied to many aspects of our lives, including the U.S. Presidential Election, local government policy making, school elections, group project decision making, family decision making, and so on.

To me, democracy does not necessarily imply the more people participating, the better. In many situations, it is better to have a smaller group of decision-makers with sufficient knowledge of the matter to make the judgment call, rather than a large group of people who lack the necessary background and knowledge to delegate wisely. For instance, in a music competition, one would expect the judges to have the necessary qualifications in music to determine the winners; this is far more important than the quantity of judges participating in the decision, for what would be the use of an extra twenty judges who do not know anything about music?

In order to achieve the best outcome of a democracy, there must be a wise way to exercise this concept of democracy. Efficiency is an important factor. For instance, in a stockholders’ meeting for a large company, which may have over thousands of stockholders, it is unrealistic to attempt to conduct a massive group meeting with all stockholders attended; even if such a hassle was accomplished, it is unlikely to obtain any results due to lack of efficiency. A situation like this would better be solved by having a meeting with only a select few representatives of stockholders; this is both more efficient and more accomplishable. In other words, democracy is not simply a means to make a decision—it is the means to make the decision that would result in the ideal outcome.

 

Why is It Important to Live in a Democracy?

First of all, democracy is important because different people see the world from different viewpoints, each one seeing only the extent that their vision can perceive and no one individual seeing the full picture. In addition, what may be beneficial to one person may be detrimental to another. For instance, an individual who is exempted from paying taxes, such as due to low-income, may be very supportive of an increase in taxes because they only see the benefits of a better-quality environment and community; however, all others who do have to pay regular tax are more likely to be against it because they will have to pay more money. The point being, it is important to listen to others to understand all viewpoints in order to grasp the full situation comprehensively and objectively. One effective approach is to hold a meeting inviting all those involved to sit together and discuss the issue thoroughly. Then, based on the nature of the situation, such as the knowledge and incentive of each member, the group can come up with an agreeable method of voting, and eventually come up with a satisfying solution.

Another reason why democracy is important is because the debates and discussions that occur during the process of sharing opinions often triggers novel and innovative ideas that could be very valuable. For instance, a democratic and open-minded working environment is likely to stimulate creative ideas to help generate innovative products and technologies. Notable products, such as the computer, the cell phone, the Internet, and other high-tech products all originated from countries that not only applied democracy in government, but also encouraged it in everyday life, such as the U.S. In the contrast, a workplace oppressing open-mindedness will strangle creativity in the cradle, and generate significantly fewer innovations and breakthroughs.

In addition, democracy can elevate people’s sense of importance and responsibility and motivate them to put forth more effort to achieve the results they would like, which is very beneficial to society. For example, in a company with a boss making all the decisions and never asking for input, the employees develop a mindset that there is nothing they can do to make a difference; consequently, their attitudes towards their work is limited to that of doing what is told, leaving no space for personal growth and improvement. In the contrast, in a company exhibiting democracy, employees know that they have the potential make a contribution to the company decisions if they prove themselves a valuable asset; from this stems a motivation to work harder and optimize their performance in the company.

Last but not least, the importance of democracy has been confirmed by history: democratic countries are generally more developed, and their citizens more content, as evident by fewer protests. For example, the largest democratic country, the United States, is currently a world leader in technology and has the highest living standards in the world. Another example is China, where my parents are from; ever since China’s political and economic reform in 1978, which called for more democracy in the government, this country has changed from a developing country to a highly advanced one.

 

Some Issues Associated with Democracy

While we are trying to apply democracy to our lives, we need to be careful about a few matters.

First, in a situation where some decision-makers lack knowledge regarding the matter and are not willing to put in efforts to research for basic information, their votes are not likely to be wise and might lead to non-optimal decisions. For instance, a celebrity providing funding to support an airspace company might not have enough knowledge to weigh in useful suggestions regarding the company’s operations, so despite their financial support, their opinion should not be considered as heavily as the opinions of airspace experts and other professionals.

In another situation where some decision-makers are biased, whether intentionally or not, their input may not result in the best outcome. For instance, a manager of a company might prefer decisions that help maintain his or her management control, even though these decisions can hurt the employees or shareholders.

Another issue with democracy is that to fight for votes, some people may use inappropriate approaches such as assaulting the opposite party, cheating, and so on. These have been often seen in elections, ranging from small-scale ones to the presidential elections.

Finally, exercising democracy in a large population is often time-consuming and costly. For instance, it may take several months to go through a presidential election, and the candidates need to spend an extensive amount of energy and money to campaign. The most dangerous aspect is that the resulting democracy might be built upon money—if a president is elected mainly because he/she has more money to market and promote the campaign, it is not fair to those who have less financial support, but are nevertheless more suitable candidates; moreover, the elected government might not do well in representing the interests of people of low income or middle class.

 

Conclusion

Despite the issues above, I still believe that democracy is the best option when making a decision involving many people. However, to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of democracy, we should ensure that the process is also efficient and can solve the problem in a timely manner. In some cases, it is almost impossible for everyone to vote, so a delegation system for voting might be better. We should also reduce or eliminate the votes from non-knowledgeable, non-interested, and biased voters. Furthermore, we should try to exclude inappropriate behaviors in fighting for votes, and try to reduce the waste of money and resources in the process. Nonetheless, above all, we should protect and encourage democracy in society, for its benefits and potential are incomparable and irreplaceable.

 

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