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Our Democracy

November 1, 2015

One of the most popular quotations from Winston Churchill is:  “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried”.  That makes democracy one of the best political systems, although it is not perfect.  What makes it one of the best?

The key to democracy is public participation.  That means votes for everyone, at the local, regional, and national levels.  Just look at the political systems that don’t permit public participation.  There are a multitude of these: monarchary, military government, a one party system, or a dictatorship.  A country may have restricted voting, where only a few people are allowed to vote.  There’s also manipulation of the elections, so that a predetermined party always wins.  All of these negative examples prevent or restrict public participation.

Of course, it’s possible for a government to gauge public attitudes without holding elections that might go against the government.  Polling is one method.  Referendums is another.  Social media comment is yet another.  Some of these may be biased, but others may be sufficiently accurate for an enlightened government to incorporate into its policies.  How do we know that they’ve done this properly?  Do we trust them?  Sometimes only a real election can answer those questions.

Without democracy, what are the alternatives?  Public demonstrations might cause the government to change direction or even to step down.  Demonstrators are usually activists.  Sometimes they are radicals.  Sometimes they have powerful reasons to oppose the government.  Often they are only united because of a common enemy, the current government.  They may not represent the attitudes of all the people in the country.  Only free elections can determine that.

With a repressive government, only a revolution and popular uprising can overthrow the government, usually with violent action.  This is a dangerous way to do it, one that has to be a last resort.  After all, many groups may oppose the government, including groups that may turn out to be even worse, once they take power.  Democracy provides for a peaceful change of government.  Peace is something that most people want, even if it requires disruption of stability every so often.

 

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