When the democratic view of societal organization was created, it represented a means of citizens exercising their power either directly or through an election of representatives. It is the most common political organization in the modern world. In this regard, the citizens elect representatives who form a government through parliament hence it depicts the rule of the majority. Therefore, four key elements are present in a democracy, a system of choosing leaders through elections, active participation by the citizens in civic life and politics, all are protected by human rights and the establishment of rule of law to equally serve the people. Democracy in recent times has been depicted as one of the most effective means of governing societies as it ensures that all of its citizens are served without bias. However, this paper shows that a paradox is realized in the implementation of a democracy as it draws from two contrasting ideas that may seem socially beneficial in theory but may be damaging in practice.
History of Establishing a Democracy
In the early modern period, the populations of Europe were subjected to authoritarian rule. This political system ensured that leaders usually by a monarchy where the king had authority over the laws of the land. He had the power to overthrow the rules that his subordinates had created. As a result, many of the people particularly those in the lower and middle classes experienced significant oppression (Halikiopoulou, Nanou, & Vasilopoulou, 2012). During this time, parliament had grown slowly in England as a means of giving restrictions to the king particularly in the rights of his subjects. With its growing power among members of society, it ensured the passing of laws like the Petition of Right and Habeas Corpus Act both which are present in the current society. These developments also brought about ideas of creating parties that would help discuss matters considered critical to the ordinary citizen. In essence, this would spell the end of the high level of power for the royal rulers.
Delegate your assignment to our experts and they will do the rest.
The first representative government in America was established in Jamestown, Virginia through the formation of the House of Burgesses. English men who migrated to North America would establish colonies and create democracies to develop the political view further. Nevertheless, due to its low level of power the ultimate authority was held by the Crown and the already developed parliament on England. The merger between the English and Scottish Kingdoms led to the establishment of the parliament of Great Britain that would establish a voting system for its members (Halikiopoulou, Nanou, & Vasilopoulou, 2012). Despite the fact that only minority citizens had the right to vote, it would be a turning point in many other countries in Europe as well as North America. Sweden was among the first to experience a shift in power from the monarchy to the constitutional parliament. This transition took place in early 18th Century while the independence of the US from the British monarchy later in 1776.
Origins of Democracy
Democracy is a political ideology drawn from two significant branches of liberalism; liberal democracy and classical liberalism. In the former, there are numerous characteristics including an electoral process, multiple party for different political views, numerous branches of government to distribute power, the rule of law, and protection of the rights of the people. These traits of governance have led to the belief that it is the western form of democracy (Krugman, 2015). This political ideology is drawn from a constitution that specifies the powers of the government and preserves the contract between the ordinary people and their leaders. Classical liberalism depicts similar characteristics in support of representative governance, rule of law, political freedom and civil liberty (Halikiopoulou, Nanou, & Vasilopoulou, 2012). However, its difference is noted in its emphasis on economic practices of freedom through free market capitalism. These notions on economic freedom draw its ideas from notable philosophers including John Locke and Adam Smith.
Through bringing the ideas of social and economic freedoms together, the creation of the modern democracy took place. However, this creation brought about significant problems in the political practice. In theory, it was presented as an effective means of positive leadership where the common man has a voice in the numerous changes taking place. The practical aspect seems to be harder than expected. In the early formation, social liberty was barely extended to the women who had to wait until the 20th Century to get their chance to vote for leaders. Similarly, economical freedom was not given to the African Americans who had to suffer through the hardships of slavery (Krugman, 2015). Through significant practice and attempts to improve the political ideology, it is evident that it is an imperfect form of governance. As result, democracy presents a paradox despite showing promise of social stability and order through inclusive politics.
The Democratic Minimum
The politics of a democracy require that significant standards are met to ensure the effectiveness of the leadership on the common citizen. These primary characteristics include the rule of law, active participation of citizens, protection of rights and election process as a means of choosing preferred representatives. This discussion attempts to show significant defectiveness in the election process in democracies (Krugman, 2015). In its creation, the process was intended to be free and fair for all the voters and the citizens at large. However, this has not been the case as shown throughout the history of the different nations where it is embraced. For instance, poor members of the community who did not own taxable property were not allowed to vote in the early developments of democracy (Halikiopoulou, Nanou, & Vasilopoulou, 2012). Women were also denied the right to vote until early in the 20th Century when the law recognized them as equal members of the society.
As the time passes, so do the changes taking place in the electoral process. When created, representative leaders were chosen by popular vote, but this has transformed into an Electoral College system where the chosen members in a particular state elect the presidential and state representatives (Lecture 9, 2017). Despite the freedom of the poor and women to selecting their preferred representative leaders, the system is a clear case of competitive elite members of the society taking turns running the government. In this regard, the electoral system fails to achieve its intended goal of fairness as it instead features the will of the upper class (Krugman, 2015). Their influence in the campaigns is evident as depicted in high level of funding either directly or indirectly. This practice tends to pressure the sincere aspirants to drop out of the race for the representative seat either in state or federal level (Lecture 10, 2017). As a result, the system of democracy as an institution appears to be botched to realize the full benefits of its incorporation.
The Paradox of the Electoral System
The electoral mechanism is a system where specific rules are incorporated to ensure validity of votes for the representative leader. The electoral method establishes a link between the preferences outlined and the outcomes of policy realized by the incumbent leaders. Some of the systems employed include a majority rule, plurality, and proportional representation. The first is the most commonly used where there are only two candidates for election. The winner is the one who achieves the majority votes above the 50% mark (Lecture 9, 2017). However, this method has led to disagreement among involved parties in definition and extent of rights accorded to the voter (Krugman, 2015). In the case where candidates for Presidential election are more than two, it is evident that the full extent of voter choice is not allowed as one cannot effectively identify the most preferred candidate (Caplan, 2011). It is for this reason that primaries are conducted to establish the a clear runner for the highest seat for the Democrat and republican parties in the US. This practice gives clear distinction between the one who is liked more than the other.
The voters perceive the individual vote as unimportant due to its inability to change results. Particularly in this time of the Electoral College the popular vote identifies the most preferred candidate of the two. However, the EC then votes to formally decide the winner of the voting. This practice prevents many of eligible citizens from voting for their preferred candidates instead withdrawing all together (Krugman, 2015). In this case, the paradox realized in democracy is the belief of inclusion yet many of the people are opting out of the practice. The lack of knowledge in politics and its relationship with economics also creates ignorant voters. The transition from authoritarian rule to a democracy, voters are unable to identify the policies that favor the personal agendas of the politician from those that favor that of the general public (Caplan, 2011). In many cases, the candidates seeking election may effectively harmonize these two and instead seek to please donors and not the ordinary citizen.
It is also evident that in the time of election, voters are unaware of the different representative options available. The general public will only wait until the election year to attempt getting all necessary information about the candidates. This practice shows significant disregard for political activities. The voters cannot correctly identify the policies or the benefit that the representative will bring to the common citizen (Caplan, 2011). Therefore, politicians are tempted to pursue their agendas of gaining wealth or power rather than serving the community. This occurrence is quite common particularly in new democracies where its practice is yet to be consolidated. Rigging in election and involvement of anti-democratic elites compels many of the members of society to lose faith in the political ideology. Therefore, though democracy is meant to ensure harmful social policies are eradicated, it significantly provides safety for their practice.
One of the main factors of an effective democracy is the establishment of an opposing group that is clearly identified through the winners of the election and the losers. In many of the modern democracies, the opposition is a group of pro-democracy individuals who only have differing ideas with the ruling party. The ideal goal of democracy is to ensure these elected leaders serve to the best of their ability the citizens of the country by making decisions that will benefit the general public (Halikiopoulou, Nanou, & Vasilopoulou, 2012). However, this is not the case as the leaders fail to remember their primary objective of serving the citizen and instead focus on their differences with the ruling party. Such instances create an ineffective practice of the democratic ideology.
In the worst case scenario, the opposing party may believe in a completely different ideology of governance. One of such may include fascism as experienced in Italy in 1933 through the efforts of Italo Balbo (Lecture 10, 2017). This ideology goes against the democracy beliefs as it emphasizes on radical authoritarian rule. In this case, the ruler has ability to incorporate violent force to compel the citizens on the desired approach. Having such an opposition could spell danger to the societal order in terms of the credibility of the incumbent government. Once the opposition gains massive support from the public, it may carry out unwarranted attempts to usurp the ruling leaders through forceful attempts. In this regard, it may completely ignore the importance of the majority perception through an election system.
Though the ruling representatives represent the majority, it is important to consider the input of the minority. This practice is quite effective through bridging institutions that help bring about crucial variable of interest gaps. These groups may include cabinet involved in improving the economical situation of the country. In this regard, the bridging institutions have access and representation of both the new and dominant interests (Lecture 13, 2017). These organizations are depicted as credible as they can commit to the decisions that bind them together. In this case, a significant contract is established between as the representatives of each interest represent their group and attempt to ensure they are enacted as law. The social contract enables the members to establish an effective means of bargaining (Lecture 13, 2017). Contrary to radical opposition, members of parliament can negotiate to come to a common understanding on policy outcomes. However, a paradox is realized where these method of ensuring political stability helps incorporate opponents of democracy as a means of its expansion. The democrats and republican parties work together to help each other increase believers of their political ideologies.
The above discussion is a clear indication of various factors that have led to a paradox in the electoral economics. The history of the democracy was in Greek civilization as a means of giving voice to the lower and middle classes in political activity. However, the drawing of multiple philosophical ideologies created a complex political practice that in paper appeared effective but practically impossible. The paradox of electoral economics is evident in the standards of a democratic minimum as in the electoral process. Two contrasting ideas that cannot exist together are presented as techniques of ensuring stability in the country. This notion is also evident in the bridging institution and opposition. Therefore, it is necessary that numerous changes continue to take place in the rules and practices of democracy in an attempt to achieve perfection.
Caplan, B. (2011). The myth of the rational voter: Why democracies choose bad policies . New York: Princeton University Press.
Halikiopoulou, D., Nanou, K., & Vasilopoulou, S. (2012). The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left euroscepticism. European journal of political research , 51(4), 504-539.
Krugman, P. (2015, April 6) Economics and Elections . The New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/opinion/paul-krugman-economics-and-elections.html?_r=0
Lecture 9 (2017) The Paradox of Democratic Exuberance .
Lecture 10 (2017) The Democratic Minimum .
Lecture 13 (2017) Concession Rationality: The Presence of Bridging Institutions .