Jonathan Min Htut
Stuyvesant High School
High School Student (11th grade)
Living in a democracy is complicated. The general consensus would be that democracy is a governmental system that is important to live in, and I agree with that. But in today’s world, the standard of democracy is generally confusing and may be difficult to agree with. The definition of the word democracy may vary from the person you ask. But according to the dictionary, a democracy is either “government by the people” or “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.” That would be the definition if you asked a person from a first world country, probably someone from the United States, Canada, or Western Europe. But when you look around the world, you may discover that different counties seem to run their “democracies” differently.
The world’s most complete democracies usually come from the west. This includes countries like Norway, Sweden, and the United States. Norway and Sweden probably have the best democracies in the world, but they are small counties whose foreign policy isn’t as expanded as other western countries. In a similar way, the United State’s system of democracy is excellent, despite outrage in recent events. The difference between them is that the United States is a large country with a large population and is actually very active in global politics. As a result, the views of individuals vary vastly, and the views may be affected by a large assortment of things. It may be their background, where they currently live, their social status, etc. This results in varied views in politics across the nation. A recent argument against the quality of the United States’ democracy was its most recent election. President Donald Trump won the race against presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Clinton won the popular vote, while Trump won the electoral vote. The popular vote is quite literally the vote of each individual in the country. On the other hand, the electoral vote is based on the states each candidate won. Angered with the results, many people called for the removal of the electoral vote. Personally, I believe that the electoral vote is a representation of a democracy done right. The electoral vote makes sure that views of the less populated states are protected and addressed. It ensures that it is not only to important for candidates to confront issues of big cities and states such as California, New York, and Florida. Without the electoral vote, the views of swing states like Ohio and Virginia would never be brought to the spotlight. This type of vote allows for a fair and equal way of democratic representation throughout such a large country like the United States.
One of the strongest democratic systems in the world is the United Kingdom’s. But recently the whole system has become a bit messy. This is mainly due to what is commonly known as “Brexit.” From the outside, the whole problem of Brexit seems to fairly straightforward and simple. The country had a referendum, and its decision to leave the European Union is based on the majority of the population’s votes. But when you look at the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union a little bit deeper, you get to see it is a lot more complicated than it seems. Leaving the European Union creates many repercussions and problems for both parties that wouldn’t have been an issue if not for Brexit. It creates economic problems, immigration problems, transportation, domestic, structural, educational, border, budget, legal, and wholly of other problems (which even include fishing rights!). It is more than likely that when the citizens of the United Kingdom voted on leaving the European Union, a large portion of them was unaware of all the issues that would be presented as a result. It’s very likely that one or two issues they sided or didn’t side with swayed their vote. The vote may have been different if the people voting were fully educated on the topic they were voting for. But that is one of the downfalls of democracy and how it could be detrimental to a country's success.
I am a Burmese American and both of my parents are immigrants from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Myanmar is a third world country, and probably is one of the least developed countries on the planet. With such a title, it seems as if it would be a given that its political system is also terrible, and it is. Myanmar is a great example of a poorly run democracy. To be fair, the country is a fairly new democracy, only overcoming a long military regime less than a decade ago. Myanmar’s democratic system is extremely unusual and rare in today’s changing world. Not unlike many first world countries, it also maintains a parliamentary system, but 25% of seats are held by the military which is permanent under the laws of Myanmar’s constitution. Usually, in a democratic government, representatives are elected by the people, but these seats maintained by the military are not even held by elected officials. If you’re reading this and you believe that 25% isn’t a big difference, I want you to understand that it is. Imagine you were taking an exam, and you were only allowed to answer on 75% of the test. The other 25% of the test would be answered by your classmate who frequently disagrees with you and would face little repercussions from the test.
Democracy is a hard thing to evaluate. For a country and its citizens, a form of democracy is certainly important to have in order for the people of the country to be able to have freedom and their own rights. But it is also important to realize that democracy cannot be its own entity. It needs to be put in check by other factors and regulations by the government to assure that the country that it runs in will be in good shape. Otherwise, a country could face problems created by its own impaired democracy.