Is Democracy Really The Best Form Of Government?


Well-Known Member
Jul 3, 2006
As you can tell, I am just throwing up some questions to get everyone thinking a little bit. So here is another interesting question:

Do you feel that democracy is the best form of government? Why do you have that belief? And if you don't, why?
Thats a good question. Just for clarity sake I'll assume you mean a republic, and not pure democracy since that would essentially be mob rule.

I think people take it for granted that its the best system because the countries that use it are currently the most prosperous in the world. There are some things that go hand-in-hand with our current flavor of democracy though, like capitalism, good checks and balances, having 2 or more political parties, etc. Take those tweaks away and I'm not sure democracy has that much of an edge over other systems. Look at how China is developing as an example, the key piece of success in that country was free markets, not democracy. You could have a democratic communist system, but my gut would be that it would fail.

Looking at democracy, it has a bunch of weaknesses:
1) It can ostracize the minority
2) It's policies tend to change like fashion
3) Uninformed and/or uneducated voters elect bad leaders
4) Politicians are generally corrupt
5) Politicians are disincented to provide visionary leadership
6) Its always in the politicians best interest to appease the masses, and defer problems until after their term. See the patriot act, social security, Medicare as great examples.

But for all its failings, it has some plusses that don't exist in other systems:
1) A routine way to get rid of problem leaders (elections, impeachment)
2) People are less likely to riot when they have a say, even if they're the minority viewpoint. The empowerment provides hope.
3) A means of prioritizing and addressing the concerns of the majority of the country

I guess to summarize I don't know the answer to your question. I don't think our style of democracy is perfect, and there are improvements that could be made if we had the chance to start over. But I think our system works well enough as it is to keep the majority of people happy enough to endure. I wouldn't want to risk radically changing it, since thats a feat not too many governments have pulled off long term throughout history. The risk of picking a worse system is high.
For me at least it is the best system I know. It is far from perfect, there are many things that can be fixed and should be fix, but I guess it all depends on every single individual that lives within. Communism works within the walls of a convent or a religious organization, where the objective is another than "material" and everybody is counted as "the same". But they are there voluntarily. That system as an imposition, would be a big mistake for a whole society. If that is not the case, then why so many want to leave communist countries? Why they have to close the borders and control everybody inside?
This book excerpt from The Assault on Reason gives a good description of how media and advertising have undermined much of American democracy of late. I find myself agreeing with most of the fundamental points. A quick snippet:

"Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.
I agree with that too...recent democracy has seemed to move away from some of the underlying principles.
I think the media has chipped away at the core of democracy in this country, and while democracy still works here, I don't think it can work in every country. If a country has extreme tribal factions as we see in Iraq and in African countries, I just don't think democracy can be accomplised ...well, democracy as we know it.
I would tend to agree with you Vicki2 that where there are tribal and religious factors involved it is hard to have a democracy.
Tater, Vicki,

I don't know whether I agree with you or not. I've seen it fail over and over recently, but honestly I can't say I understand why. Do you have an opinion?

I'm thinking of America as a counter example, where a major reason for its formation was religious autonomy from England. Another counter example would be the stability in Germany today, after the religious cleansing just 60 years ago. It seems like historically its possible to get from religious war to stability, it just hasn't been able to happen in recent cases.

Maybe it has more to do with things like income inequality and resource scarcity? (not even really kidding here: I'd be pissed off all the time too if I lived in a desert with almost no water, farm able land, etc.) I'm just throwing things out, I really don't understand why they can't settle down.
I think those things may enter into it, but if we're talking about the difference between the West and the East, I think religion has a lot to do with it. The interpretations of the Quran seem wider and more adaptable to fundamentalist activity than Christianity in some ways. We see a little of it with the right wingers here but it isn't nearly so violent.
Christianity was pretty violent during the Crusades, and there are always those suicide cults to throw out a few examples of Christain violence.

I would have to agree with framed that scarcity of resources is a major problem.
Is it material resources or mindset? I think the two go hand in hand. Do some cultures feel more comfortable and safe with a father figure a dictator?
In recent years I've been giving a lot of thought to some theories I've read by St. Augustine. He believed that the form of government wasn't really all that important - city state, kingdom, republic, empire, whatever. He believed that what mattered most is what value system existed in the state or culture: if the state/people value love of God and love of neighbor, it will be a good state. If they value honor/glory, it will still be a good state, but less so. If they value money, it will be even lower. The lowest of the low was if they value power.