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Improving Democracy by Confronting its Flaws

Updated on September 18, 2016
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Jamal is a graduate from Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

Democracy is usually highlighted as the ideal system to have in a modern, civilized society. Not perfect but better than the alternatives. It gets points in that it emphasizes giving voice to the masses, allowing diversity, and how it counters the option of authoritarian and tyrannical governments who often abuse the rights of the people for the power of the one.

Although it is a very old idea, it is one that only recently has caught on as the premium options for countries looking to become more modernized. And although America is considered the preeminent poster boy, other countries who have adopted the system have customized it to their own sensitivities and preferences.

However what I wanted to speak on was the dangers of democracy. No, I don’t support dictatorships and routine violation of human rights, but like any system, democracy has flaws that just now seem to be coming to light and are becoming a major problem.

Many people see Donald Trump as taking advantage of the democratic system and disgracing it
Many people see Donald Trump as taking advantage of the democratic system and disgracing it | Source


One the touted strengths of our system are that is run by the people and that this protects them from abuse. But for that system to work, as with any society, the people must be going in the same direction at some point. A democracy is like a body in the sense that each part maybe different but they’re working towards a common goal. If one part of the body for some reason fails, then the movement of the whole becomes affected. It is hindered or won’t move at all.

The last few years have seen a number of groups appear representing their own interests or communities: gun-rights activists, corporate groups for specific candidates, multiple rights activists like LBGT rights and Black Lives Matter, and just the infinite number of labels we’ve affiliated with along with their provincial goals: pansexual, bi-sexual, liberal, conservative, African American and so on. By itself this isn’t a bad thing as you’re going to have different interests within any large population. And some of those interests are worth while, like human rights.

At the same time, when conflict between these ‘body parts’ become so extreme that they start pulling away at each other or going a different direction than the rest , a democracy can then stagnate. A differing voice that loses the vote has to at some point focus on the common goal.

The strength is also a weakness. An example could be made using the 1960’s protests. Morality aside for the moment, the intense and often violent confrontations of the streets of America not only affected how the society back home, but also America’s image abroad. Military decisions in Vietnam were heavily affected by the chaos back home, and the protests were a favorite tool of the enemy to use against American soldiers already suffering from the violence. The Soviet Union also used the well publicized revolts in their propaganda as proof that democracy and by extension, capitalism, was a failed experiment. Still, it’s been said that many have said that this is a necessary risk because of the fear of a rule of one person or party.

The protests against the Vietnam war were both a constant thorn in the side of the US government and a psychological weapon used on US soldiers
The protests against the Vietnam war were both a constant thorn in the side of the US government and a psychological weapon used on US soldiers | Source

Focus Made Manifest

If you look at the history of human society, its empires and nations, the most successful societies prospered because the population shared a common goal. Yes, it was still made up of rulers, servants, nobles, and slaves; however the focus was always maintained to the success and growth of the society at large. You fought the Persians with Athens and Sparta because of the freedom of Greece as a whole. You served the Pharaoh for the greatness of Egypt. You served the Senate or the Caesar for Rome.

Without this focus, these societies often fell apart and were over run by external enemies or civil war. Empires and authoritarian countries often look down on democracies in part because besides their own greed and pride, democracy is viewed as an inefficient system of rule. To turn a phrase from Han Solo in Starwars: A New Hope, ‘there’s too much discussing at the committee.’

Constant bickering and power grabs made for a vulnerable state and an embarrassing one at that. However, a plus to democracies is a hit against supporters of the rule of one: the rights of the people being guaranteed: something whose loss is an ever present fear for those who live in a democratic rule. Those older societies I mentioned earlier often times became great and long lasting by stepping on the rights of others, be it slavery or wars.

" ‘there’s too much discussing at the committee.’"

The Pelopennesian War resulted in the collapse of the alliance of the Greek city-states that stood together against the Persians
The Pelopennesian War resulted in the collapse of the alliance of the Greek city-states that stood together against the Persians | Source

A Work in Progress or a Failed State?

So is that the price we pay for having a democracy? A maintaining of human rights and ability to represent and be heard, in exchange for the loss of security, prestige, and no longer moving forward?

That is a question that is fast coming upon us, maybe within the next fifty years or so. If this were anytime before the 19th century, an opposing nation wanting to expand its territory and riches would have invaded by now because of our division. While it may not devolve into another American Civil War, or at least one as bloody, it is an answer we are going to have to find, because as of right now, America’s insides are tearing itself apart because of their own interests and fear of losing what they have.


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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 18 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Interesting topic.

      I actually have become very hopeful lately, despite our terrible election season and racial divisions. We are finally having every awkward discussion imaginable throughout our society.

      I'm a 30 year Republican who has been devastated by Trump and his cohorts this year. It's an embarrassment. All the work we've done to appeal to a broader group of people has been wiped away by a reality TV star running for President. But I'm not convinced it is an opportunity for us to purge the party of its ugly side. And hopefully that will commence on November 10.

      As for the future of American society, the millennial generation grew up with less racial division than I did and that's great thing. It's a small step, but an important one. So I say let's talk about everything that is dividing us right now. Let's get it out of the way, so that the second half of the 21st Century can be about growth and innovation.

      Sharing everywhere.