A democracy is a form of government where eligible members of a state or the entire population has a voice in the decisions that must be made. When eligible members represent distinct population districts, they are usually elected to provide this representation. Democracies can also occur in business structures and during personal decisions.
The primary advantage of democracy is that it is one of the fairest systems of government that has been created. Every person has a voice, either on their own merit or through an elected official, which allows them to influence the policies and procedures that are developed for governing. Everyone can be as active or as inactive as they wish to be with the political process.
The disadvantage of a democracy is that it is a rather inefficient form of governing. Because everyone has the opportunity to offer their opinion, it takes time for a decision to be made. In times of crisis, help can be delayed because all policies and procedures are subjected to a voting process. In a true democracy, every person would need to vote on every decision before something could be accomplished.
Here are some additional pros and cons of a democracy to think about when studying the various forms of government structures that are available today.
List of the Pros of Democracy
1. It encourages personal involvement.
In one way or another, it is the people who control their own fate under the scope of a democracy. They can choose to vote or choose not to vote. They can vote for certain policies and against others. Whether they are in the majority or not, there is always the possibility of freely expressing a personal opinion. That is a level of freedom that other forms of government do not always provide.
2. It promotes equality.
Within a democracy, every vote is weighted with the same value. It doesn’t matter what your gender identification happens to be. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. It doesn’t matter where you live, what religion you prefer, if you’re a jerk, or if you’re the nicest person who has ever lived. Everyone gets a vote with the same value, even if it is through an eligible representative, and that basic structure promotes equality on a vote level.
3. It decentralizes governmental power.
A government with power over the people can dictate how populations live their lives. In a democracy, the governmental power is decentralized because it lies in the hands of each voter. If an elected official isn’t doing their job, then they can be voted out of office during the next election. In a true democracy, each vote is its own source of power. That makes it easier for people to stay in control over the direction of chasing their dreams.
4. It inspires loyalty and patriotism.
A democracy enables people to stand up for what they believe. It gives them a chance to express their unique perspectives and opinions in a safe environment. Success can be achieved together because the differences people have can be celebrated instead of being feared. This gives people the best chance possible to work towards policies, procedures, and legislation that can benefit as many households as possible.
5. It provides societal consistency.
Voting on decisions provides more consistency in government when compared to a government that changes over in power every time a new political party is elected as a majority. People who are given the power to vote are able to maintain the momentum they want on specific legislative items so that, over time, society can be shaped in a way that benefits virtually everyone.
6. It stops exploitation.
Any form of government is at-risk for exploitation by individuals with power. Because that power is distributed within a democracy, there are more checks and balances in place to ensure that no one is given a form of absolute power. At a core level, the people are always those that have the most power, no matter what an elected politician might say.
7. It encourages GDP growth.
People within a democracy are given the opportunity to be whatever they wish to be. By allowing people to pursue their passions, the GDP of a nation is usually higher. Economic opportunities have more stability. Households have an opportunity to form in whatever way suits their needs the best.
List of the Cons of Democracy
1. It requires voters to be well informed to be effective.
In a democracy, it is possible to cast a vote without having any knowledge about what is being voted on. For this governmental structure to be effective, it is necessary for every voting individual to be well-versed on the subject matter being voted upon. Without that knowledge, an unnecessary or potentially harmful piece of legislation could be passed.
2. It focuses solely on the needs of the majority.
Within the structure of a democracy, those who find themselves in the minority on a decision will feel like their country didn’t listen to their ideas and perspectives. If someone finds themselves in the minority on a consistent basis, then they may begin to feel marginalized. The majority could even attempt to enact policies that harm the minority without protective structures in place to prevent such an action.
3. It encourages a herd mentality.
People tend to stay in their comfort zones. More than ever before in the US, people are maintaining friendships within their own political party, but rarely outside of it. Neighborhoods, communities, and even states become polarized because people search for their comfort zone. A democracy, over a long period of time, encourages mob thinking because it discourages the idea of an open mind. Each vote is an us versus them scenario.
4. It is costly.
Every vote that is taken in a democracy has a monetary cost associated with it. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, $544 million in lost productivity occurs during a US Presidential election on Election Day. Since 2000, every election cycle in the US has cost more than $1 billion. At the local level, it is not unusual for mayoral, city council, and school council elections to exceed $100,000 in costs.
5. It requires a lot of time.
Voting requires time to make changes to legislation. Sometimes, however, a decision must be made very quickly. Imagine if the US had to conduct a nationwide vote after an attack by North Korea before a response could be authorized? Even in a representative democracy, the amount of time that it takes to pass meaningful legislation can extend beyond one year quite frequently.
The pros and cons of democracy show us that it is a system of government that promotes freedom. That freedom comes at a steep cost, however, and some societies may decide that other forms of government are better suited to meet their needs.
How do you feel about the pros and cons of a democracy?
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.