What does democracy mean? - Is democracy the best form of government?
‘One man one vote’
The system of ‘One man one vote’ otherwise known as democracy is reputed to have begun in Athens, along with a lot of other western ideals of political philosophy. The Athenians did it in a very interesting way. They just gathered at the market place and voted – either openly or by secret ballot - on issues that affected all of them. Since the system begun it has undergone various trails and tribulations over the centuries and it is quite obvious that the entire democratic world thinks that it is the best way to choose a government. But is it really?
A few basic assumptions are made by this system. One of them is that everyone knows what is good for him or her. This is suspect, because it has been proven again and again that mostly people don’t know what is good for them. That is why all sorts of villains have been voted in by people who knew that they were voting in villains. Not everyone is able to understand the intricacies of government and the democratic system allows almost anyone to stand for government
If people use their reason to weigh pros and cons and vote for the right candidate, they may have a good leader for the next five years or so. But the question is ‘if’. People are easily persuaded by fiery speeches and sweet talk. This accounts for some of the disasters that are often voted in as leaders. Quite often candidates for elections are able to focus on the problems of the people and put forward all sorts of arguments which promise them a way out of those problems.
In some countries people are simple enough to believe such candidates and vote for them. This happens especially in simple communities where people tent to believe that everyone is as honest as themselves and also in those societies that are deprived of education. Because of this, candidates who are voted in are not necessarily the best for the people. They may be the ones who are the most persuasive.
Another weakness is that there have been instances of vote buying. Knowing that positions in government will help them become wealthy, candidates in some countries employ election agents for a different type of persuasion. Money is offered as inducements to vote for a candidate. Again the simplicity of the people tie them down to their words and they are too simple to take the money and then vote as they please.
A variation of this is hiring thugs to threaten voters to vote for a particular candidate. The thugs go about threatening farmers that if they don’t vote for a certain candidate, there will be violence against them after the elections. Being simple, all that farmers want is to be left alone to their farming in peace. So they are willing to pay for that peace. Ignorance of the law and perhaps indifference of the voters gets the wrong person into government.
The democratic system is good only if some way could be found to educate every voter on the importance of what he or she is doing. It is also necessary to teach everyone not to be swayed by the words and impossible promises and to think logically. Then it is necessary to protect all of them against unscrupulous candidates and their agents from buying their votes or threatening them. These are indeed difficult conditions to be fulfilled. In the villages of some countries, there are people who cannot even handle a pen to make a cross on the voting slips. They have to use rubber stamps to stamp their choices. To train all these people in a short time to think of their rights is indeed ambitious.
In spite of all the weaknesses of the democratic system, the alternatives – communism, oligarchy, dictatorship – are even worse choices. Moreover, we can see that if people can be educated, democracy is a workable system. The problem then lies in directing attention at educating the voters. In spite of all its disadvantages, democracy is – thus far – the only system which listens to every citizen in the country. It is the only system where the common man has some power. In the absence of anything better, the ‘One man one vote’ system is the best system we have.