Is Democracy a Failure? Essay Writing Service

Is Democracy a Failure? Essay

The political idea of the nineteenth century, born in the American French Revolutions of the eighteenth century, was democracy. To be sure, there were also in Western civilisation remarkable forces working for the maintenance of the autocratic principle. But its representatives were stigmatised as reactionaries. The future belonged to a government by the people. This was the hope of everybody who believed in progress, who stood up for higher standards of social life. It was, above all, the young rising bourgeoisie which fought for this idea. In the twentieth century, however, the intellectual political situation has changed. The immediate effect of the First World War- it is true – seemed to be a victory of the democratic principle. The newly formed states adopted democratic constitutions. The German Reich the most.powerful bastion of monarchy, became a republic. But the ink on the peace document of Versailles was not yet dry when in Italy the Fasciest government came into power and in Germany the National Socialist party began its victorious drive.

Together with them a new political doctrine was advocated, passionately oppressed to democracy and proclaiming new way of political salvation, dictatorship. There should be no doubt that great attraction which the new idol exerted over the bourgeoise intelligentsia not only in Italy and Germany, but everywhere in the Western world. And although Fascism and national Socialism have been destroyed as political realities in the Second World War, their ideologies have not disappeared and still or indirectly, counteract the democratic creed. A more dangerous adversary than Fascism and national Socialism is Soviet Communism, which is fighting the democratic idea -under the disguise of a democratic terminology.

Democracy thus stand discredited in the twentieth century. It is true that the ideals “liberty, equality, fraternity” for which democracy stands, seem to be empty words, not because they are destitute of content and of human interest, but the emotion that attaches to them is largely artificial. An active sense of liberty is only aroused when it is assailed, or else when it is directed to some positive achievement of an opportunity. Mere non-interference has no emotional value for one who has never suffered or feared interference. A slave set free to starve has no true liberty. Opportunity is needed to give a real content to liberty. A realisation of these common places is required to strip the false glamour for fine sounding words. A still more futile contribution to democracy is the term “equality”. For men are not born equal, nor do they become equal in any intelligible meaning of that term. Neither in health, or strength, or intelligence, or goodness, or circumstances are they mental make-up they are more alike different, and that equality of circumstances and opportunities is a sound ideal. But, the point is that their equality and similarity are uninteresting, it is their differences that evoke our interest. It is only so far as equal opportunities bring inequalities of achievement by giving free scope to natural differences of capacity that they are valued. If equality of opportunity led to abolition of all differences of social status and of standards of living, though such a reformation might give some substance to the sentiment of fraternity, it would diminish the interest which attaches to Inequality. In fact, inequality is only desired and valued in so far as it provides opportunity for the emergence and expansion of inequalities in nature and achievement.

In dealing with the third person of democratic trinity, “graternity” the charge of unreality takes a somewhat different shape. For unlike the other two, fraternity does not make a positive appeal. It is a wild exaggeration of the feeling which men entertain towards strangers even of their own nation, Patriotism does, indeed, carry some regard for the well-being of other members of one’s own nation, and can evoke a willingness to undergo efforts and sacrifices for the national well-being, But here the sentiment of national brotherhood is nourished and stimulated by a variety of interest and fears that arise directly from the failure to realise the wider brotherhood of man. If there were no outside nations for competition-and possible conflict with our own, the sense of brotherhood in a nation would be feeble and infrequent in its appeal, ordinary feelings of sympathy and goodwill towards our neighbours would not deserve so strong an epithet. As for the wider brotherhood of man, the appeal of humanity; which inflamed the early prophets of democracy it is as misrepresentation of tt! feelings of ordinary men and women towards their unknown fellows. The indifference with which almost all of us receive the tidings of some famine or other catastrophe, destructive of lives in China or Bolivia, attests the unreality of human brotherhood.

But it is not merely on account of the emptiness of the ideals of democracy, but because of certain defects in the actual working of democracies, that democracy has been discredited in the modern world. During the World War I no democratic system met its challenge effectively. Openly or covertly every belligerent state organised itself in terms of a more or less extensive dictatorship. The questions were asked whether democracy hard that inherent efficiency necessary to cope with its problems whether the social question could be solved through the forms of classic democracy, whether disparities so vast as these revealed in the most advanced society could be bridged in terms of peaceful evolution. The conquest of Russia by Marxian socialism brought to power a body of men for whom political democracy was an unedifying mirage. The democratic state merely means the dictatorship of the capitalist that it must accordingly be taken from him by a revolution in which the working classes would, through the dictatorship of the proletariat, seize the state and control the means of production in the interest of the masses. Democracy for them was an ideal incapable of realisation until the power of property had been overthrown. It was only when men were economically equal through the successful socialisation of the means of production that a thorough-going dictatorship could be abandoned.

In the feverish post-war atmosphere the dramatic Russian exercised a wide fascination, and its communist theory became the most complete challenge to the democratic principle since rhe French Revolution. Attempts to imitate it were frequent, notably in IfInga{Y and Germany. Inevitably it also produced its antithesis expressed in various forms of which perhaps the most striking was the Fasciest dictatorship in Italy. Bust underlying them all was a common philosophy based on the rejection of all democratic principles as involving an anarchy incompatible with the vigorous organisation required by the state. These principles. it was claimed, destroy the unity of the state. They dissipate in discussion the energy which is needed. Parliaments are overwhelmed with work so that rapidity of action is impossible for them. The average man is too incompetent and uninterested in the issues which must be decided to have an effective opinion about them. The technicality of modern problems means government by the expert, and democratic methods are held to be irrelevant to his decisions. Even the friends of democracy now doubt the validity of some of the assumptions of traditional democratic doctrine and are skeptical as to its work ability in traditional forms with the present-day social environment. The point to the difficulties – material and psychological or spiritual- that democracy has to confront. They feel that the justification for democracy, as to traditionally understood, may have rested upon certain sociological and philosophical assumptions no longer accepted, and its success may have been dependent upon practical economic and social conditions that no longer prevail. They recognise that democracy – either because of the unsuitability of the environment or the intrinsic defects of the theory itself does not accomplish actually what theory expects of it. Democracy, it is feared, suits only the conditions of small-scale industry.

Large-scale industry creates industrial disputes within the societies organised politically as democracies. and the former rather than the latter make the decisions that affect most seriously the welfare of the masses of workers and consumers. They do this directly through their power to fix the income and living conditions of the workers and the cost of the necessities of, life for inhabitants generally. They determine indirectly the decisions of the agencies of democracy through their control of the means whereby the social opinion upon which democracies depend is formed. Democratic institutions, accordingly, do not solve the pressing problems for the masses in present-day industrial society. They do not remove poverty, the uncertainties of unemployment, or the wide inequalities in the distribution of wealth. workers look increasingly to other devices than democracy when they have issues of vital importance to settle. They use the organised strength of their unions to force employers into collective bargains or they resort to some of the shorter custs of’direct actin’. Moreover, when a political democracy plays a part in settling these and other social problems, it has now to act on a territorial scope that fits the extensive units of contemporary industry. Consequently its most important agencies are so remote from the masses of people that they lose all touch with popular opinions and desires. Finally, philosophers and psychologists are no longer confident that men normally act under the influence of their reasoning faculties. They are skeptical concerning the power of the masses of men _ however well they may be equipped with democratic political agencies _ to teach decisions based on rational analysis of alternative programmes of action intended to bring about that protect their interests and satisfy their desires.

Some contemporary observers hold, moreover, with many earliest writers, that popular government has not actually existed even in countries whose constitutions have been nominally democratic, that democracy has accordingly never been a valid theory, either as a political ideal or as .a description of political facts. They write of the ‘false assumptions’ the ‘receding tide’, ‘the impossibility’ of democracy, and of the ‘historical necessity of oligarchy’. The challenges of the right and the ability of democracy to survice come now form both conservative and radical quarters; and they appear in the varied forms of emotional appeal, rational criticism, and revolutionary action. Before the World War II Mussoliniand later-Hitler were loud in their insistence that they had discovered .the political institutions appropriate to the twentieth century, and they were the prophets of the new world order. And they lost no opportunity of .proclaiming that the democracies were decadent. The charge proved to be only too true in the case of France. When military came in 1940 incomplete the long process of decry caused by national divisions and political corruption. The democracies of Britain and U.S.A. did put up a heroic flight, and in the post-war world they are greatest champions of the democratic form of government. Thus democracy has not failed though it has to bear a terrible strain from the communist quarters.

Democracy is not a perfect form of government but it is decidedly better than the other forms so far devised by men, because it only can give opportunity to every individual for self-development. It has so far met many challenges, and on its survival depends the future of the human race. Its success depends upon the existence of a civic sense among the people generally; a rational like-mindedness and an imaginative sympathy that in some degree transcend economic and cultural differences, and a general disposition among the people to put into high governmental office the sort of person who act largely under the influence of such attitudes. It presupposes also that citizens have enough intellectual and moral vigour to withstand persistent deception by demagogues and to apply some discriminating judgments to the policies of their chosen leaders.

In the second place, democracy if it is to succeed, needs free and informed discussion of governmental affairs. The people do not govern merely by having a right to choose their governors. They must have also the opportunity to understand and criticise what these officers are doing. A democracy, therefore, requires a system of general education, an intelligent and independent press, and freedom of association and discussion. Education must be general not merely in the sense that it is available ot all but also that it is not over specialized or mainly factual, and it must be a sort of supply the incentive and develop the potentialities for free and effective thinking on political questions. Public authority must, if the private press does not, provide means for supplying the citizens with correct and intelligible description and interpretation of aims and methods of those who hold public office. And all citizens must have full opportunity for association, discussion, and peaceful protest, democracy, is not so much the right of each to have his ideas adopted as it is the right and opportunity of each to have his ideas heard and to hear the ideas of all others. Moreover, if democracy, as representative government, is to be competent to grapple successfully with problems of property and business control, it must secure on officialdom that is in reasonable sympathy with its economic policies. This condition cannot be fulfilled unless the ladder of education is broad enough to enable the children of the workers to enter the upper grades on the public services, central and local, in numbers approximating to their voting strength as citizens. For only thus can representative government be extended from the parliamentary into the administrative sphere .

Posted on February 26, 2016 in Essays

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