Is it important to live in a democracy?

Chi-Jui, Wu
Taichung Second Senior High School, Taiwan
High School

Is it important to live in a democracy? Before answering this question, we need to define what democracy is first.

From a historical perspective, the so-called democratic system could be traced back to the ancient Greek Athens, in which the word “Democracy” is also derived from the Greek word “δημοκρατία,” meaning the assembly of the people. Nevertheless, the democratic system in Athens is very different from today's democratic system: the Athens’ democracy was not open to everyone; only male Athenian could vote on all the decisions that affected the city and served on juries. Slaves were even banned from participating in government. Nowadays, it is often controversial to argue whether it is your vote that counts in a democratic society.Yet, this statement might not fit into the initial democratic society. And the earliest "democratic system" was merely a decision-making method used by the Power Elite.

Many people also believe that economic and national prosperity is strongly associated with running a democratic system in the nation, but did Athens really became more prosperous for inventing the innovated system?

The answer is crystal clearly “No.”

In 431 BC, the two largest city-states in Greece, Athens and Sparta launched a war for more than 20 years, which is later known as the Peloponnesian War. We can regard it as a conflict between a totalitarian autocracy and the democratic system.

In fact, a war also represents a comparison of financial strength. From this perspective, it is reasonable to hypothesis that Athens, which is more financially prosperous than Sparta, could defeat Sparta. Nonetheless, the result doesn’t go with the anticipated direction. Certainly, there are numerous factors that determine the outcome of a war, but the Peloponnesian war has pointed out the biggest weakness of democracy - the difficulty of making decisive decisions.

Athens is a democratic region with a strong navy, while Sparta is known for its lean training army. In terms of the enemy, a senior Athenian statesman and general of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles proposed a strategy that the Athenians could hide behind their walls while preserving their naval hegemony; in the hope of fleeting this tough time. Although this strategy effectively resisted Sparta’s progressive offensiveness, it also caused dissatisfaction among the other Athenians. What is more, a plague broke out in the city at the same time. Eventually, Pericles was overthrown under the social dissatisfied atmosphere and a political opponent Klein. However, thanks to Klein’s inadequate military talent and experience, Athens was defeated in the upcoming battles. Eventually, the Athens fell into a struggle that the Citizens’ Congress continued to select some new candidates after one another through elections, but they were defeated in the end.

Looking back on the crux cause of being defeated, the rich and relatively democratic Athens was indeed struggling from infighting politics. Since every decision needs to be well-negotiated, it is nearly impossible to produce a decisive policy. Also, a thought of “everybody's business is nobody's business” maintaining the biggest obstacle on the democratic progress. Citizens only chose to vote for the near-sighted politicians, which also led Athens to decline.

The so-called “democratic system” is widely accepted by all stakeholders, while public unfairness is being neglected. In terms of this problem, those who oppose democracy also came up with an alternative system - socialism and communism.

Socialism and communism usually concentration a large amount of production capacity and resources in the early days of a foundation. Under the operation of the planned economy and the command economy, there may be a short period of rapid economic growth, but most of them are not long-lasting. The Communist Party advocates the elimination of private property right and classes’ differences, as well as the pursuit of economic equality. It seems to be attractive. However, from the previous experience, countries that implement communism typically end up with steady economic growth and often become vulnerable to famine. Socialist countries often adopt high-tax rate and comprehensive welfare policies, but such an economy will end up with facing liquidity issue or even bankruptcy, like Greece facing nowadays. In fact, most of the current economy is a knowledgeable and innovative economy. These trends are not a joint product of communism and socialism.

Against the destruction of private property right, the British economist William Forster Lloyd once put forward the term "Tragedy of the commons," pointing out the tragedy of communism, if all the fields are public goods, no one is willing to take care of them. Therefore, the development of the economy must be based on personal rival and exclusive needs. In fact, China has recently passed the "General Principles of Civil Law," which attempts to set the property law and further define the private property right. To some extent, this action implies that China is now regretful for running the nation under the communism.

Because of contingency, there is no practicable ideal political system in the world to choose. Although the democratic system is unstable, this system is the one that allows the majority to pursue their career independently, to say nothing of providing an opportunity for stimulating competition, unlike the communism contract’s system. In a liberal society, people in the country could choose a career according to their interests. One highlighted point is that the democratic system cleverly guards against the most frightening situation in a political system - the revolution.

Democracy empowers the civilians to participate in government, in addition to contributing to the equitable not equal distribution of the economy and curbing the excessive concentration of the power. Most importantly, democracy strengthens the legitimacy of leader rule.

In the past, the legitimacy of governance was often achieved through religion or common beliefs. For example, the Chinese emperor claimed to be the son of the destiny; the Egyptian Pharaoh believed that he was the reincarnation of the god of the sun; the European king said that he was the only monarchical authority. The power of domination used to be farmed by supernatural powers, but nowadays, with science and evidence base in our mind, it is undoubtedly not convincing. After having the legitimacy, the revolutionaries lost the reason for rebellion. Only through having the democratic electoral mechanism, people can choose to replace the incompetent rulers by voting or recalling elections.

Ultimately, it is pivotal for the people living under the democratic system, socialism, as well as the communist system, to exercise the power conferred by democracy. It is not the same for the vested interests under the communist system, because democracy represents the "rule of law" rather than the "rule by man." The democracy embodies the constitutional guarantee; conversely, the communism consolidates the dictatorship of the regime. For most people, living in a democratic country is obviously an indispensable portion of their life.

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