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News Is democracy good for the developed alone?

  1. Jun 15, 2011 #1
    Technically a democratic government is the best form of government because the people can choose their own leaders and political parties depending on their believes and faith in a party or a person so,the people of the country will have the power or the right to let the government continue if it is doing it's job well i.e 'developments in all aspects' and it(govt) can be removed from power after one term if the people are not satisfied with the way the government is conducting it's activities, so the democratic system appears to have an inbuilt system to prevent the corrupt to remain in power for long enough to damage the country's economy and stability.

    this is a crude way to explain the logic behind the democratic system, but for this system to work successfully we have to take one thing for granted, that is the decision making ability of the common people when electing a person or a party to power i.e the people who elect their leaders to power should have good principles and ideologies and education in order to decide which leader or which party can really benefit the country in terms development,security,stability etc.....in the developed world literacy rates sore over 90% and people are educated in well established institutions,they have money so they don't worry about their own survival as a citizen.,so when are given a chance to elect their leaders can really think for themselves and do what their conscience tells them to do.

    The the story in the developing and undeveloped countries is completety different ,the literacy rates ae much lower, a very significant percentage of people have little or no education ,some people are in a state where they can only think about gettting 3 meals a day and solid roof sleep under . The people in this kind of poor situations cannot be made to think about their country’s development and welfare of humanity and things like that ,they are in deperate struggle for survival ,when these people are given a right to vote (I am not against their right to do so) ,the corrupt take advantage of the situation of these people and offer them money or food just for a short period in order to grab their votes ,when in a country the poor outnumber the rich ,and educated people are a minority ,the corrupt people easily come to power and eat into the countries economy ,resources and even if they are caught it is only a matter of time before they come back to power again!!
    As long as they can bribe their way through the elections and win.

    In my country (india) criminals stand for elections and win,but who are the people who elect them? It is the same kind of people I have mentioned above .Immpressive GDP growth rates are not clear indicators of development,the rich get richer ,the middle class get richer but the poor (over 200 million) are not getting their fare share of the growth. India ranks one of the lowest in the world in terms of GDP per capita, Every kind of government has advantages and disadvantages so a combination of two systems has to be in place.It is true that Indian economy is growing but this growth is not at all uniform..we are still the country which has the largest number poor people in the world in any one country.The malnutrition rates are still almost equal to those countries in sub saharan Africa,less than 20 out of a 100 children who join primary school make it to college.
    India's black economy is half the size of it's white.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2011 #2
    Are those problems you describe caused by democracy alone? Else, how are they caused? Would despotism be any better? What about the intrinsic class stratification that is in India?

    While I have a hard time placing blame on democracy for these issues, I don't think it may be the most efficient way to solve some of the societal problems that you describe. Have things been getting better since independance or worse?
  4. Jun 15, 2011 #3
    There are a couple of points I would make in response to you shashankac655. Firstly, it seems to me that you have an unduly rosy coloured view of democracy n the West. Corruption remains a serious problem among politicians in all countries of the West. It is important not to overstate it, the extent of the problem does vary from country to country, and there are some countries whose politics is characterised more by public service than by personal greed, but the problem is most definitely not unique to less developed countries and I don’t believe that there is any country that is entirely free of the problem. Also, electorates in all Western nations are perfectly capable of making bad choices and frequently do. One of the key points about democracy is that the responsibility for those bad choices, and the consequences of them, come back to those same electorates.

    I do quite understand and accept the scale of some of the problems that India, as a nation, faces. I have to say, my understanding was that the poor of India number a good deal more than 200 million. Whatever the case, perhaps the best indication is to survey the history books to see how it has usually turned out in the past. I would suggest to you that Jawaharlal Nehru is extremely unusual, if not completely unique, in being a man who governed his nation for nearly seventeen years in a manner than can be regarded as largely just and even handed. Generally, when one person rules for so long, the consequences for fairness and justice within the nation are not good. It may well be that there are many aspects of democracy in India that strike you as less than ideal. But generally, politicians being answerable to the people they govern tends toward better government. It is something that won’t happen overnight, but some of the recent things that I have read suggest that India is progressing at quite a pace at the moment.

    There is an old, famous quote, the source of which I don’t remember, but which makes the point that democracy is an absolutely terrible political system. It is just far better than any of the alternatives.
  5. Jun 16, 2011 #4
    mege,i am not blaming democracy for these problems ,i am asking you can democracy solve these problems?how long will it take ?

    And yes there is caste discrimination in India ,my question is is democracy 'designed' in a way keeping mind these kind of problems( i think NO)...Democracy in a way was designed by keeping in mind the western mindset and society.

    .i am anxious to know how our next door neighbor(china) appears to be doing so well without democracy,i know about china's human rights status,but look at it's progress..

    " Since 1978 hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty: According to China's official statistics, the poverty rate fell from 53% in 1981 to 2.5% in 2005. However, in 2006, 10.8% of people still lived on less than $1 a day (purchasing power parity-adjusted).The infant mortality rate fell by 39.5% between 1990 and 2005,[13] and maternal mortality by 41.1%. Access to telephones during the period rose more than 94-fold, to 57.1%.
    In the 1949 revolution, China's economic system was officially made into a communist system. Since the wide-ranging reforms of the 1980s and afterwards, many scholars assert that China can be defined as one of the leading examples of state capitalism today."(from wikipedia)

    India's track records are modest compared to China.
    I know there is corruption in China too, but the severity of the punishment in china is far greater than in india so, the corrupt will have think twice about what they want to do.In India high level ministers enjoy a lot of immunity from the law ,even if they found guilty of corruption,serious actions are rarely taken against them,if they get arrested they bail themselves out in no time and continue with their corrupt practices.

    There is a joke in india that if you want to be a union minister the primary requirements are you should have committed at least one murder or one scam that amounts to at least a few million rupees

    what does this suggest?.....neither pure democracy nor pure communism is good but a communist country with some sufficient levels of liberalization and capitalism is the best form of of governament for underdeveloped and developing countries.

    Maybe the ugly truth is that the rights and freedom of people have to be restricted to some extent for sometime for their own good and for their own progress.
    As the standard of living improves ,people will demamd more freedom and rights and the governments will become more tolerant,(this is happening to some extent in China) ,then we may conclude that it is good for a country to evolve into a democracy rather than start from it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2011
  6. Jun 16, 2011 #5
    I think you have that backwards. That's an ugly lie, not an ugly truth. China is better off today because of their shift away from communism, toward capitalism, not because of past restrictions on liberty. Is there any reason, other than the propaganda of communists and socialists, to believe that restricting liberty increases, rather than decreases, prosperity?

    Of course this isn't a direct function of how democratic a country is: theoretically free market capitalism, and its resulting prosperity, is perfectly compatible with an absolute monarchy while communism, and its resulting poverty, is perfectly compatible with democracy. There is no rule that requires a monarchy to restrict liberty or prevents a democracy from doing so.
  7. Jun 16, 2011 #6
    If a democratic government restricts liberty,even if it is for good reasons,it will never be reelected again!!!.....in a country like mine the ruling party will be more concerned about remaining in power than about doing anything good with it's power!!
  8. Jun 16, 2011 #7
    The point Al68 is trying to make is that one musn't confuse communism with loss of liberty.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  9. Jun 16, 2011 #8
    Well, not quite. Obviously, communism is a loss of liberty by definition. My point was that it's not automatically precluded by a democratic government.
  10. Jun 17, 2011 #9
    I am a little wary, A168, I recently came a cropper and had a post deleted because I went off on a tangent discussing a different issue with someone who was not the OP on that thread. But I am not following your line of argument exactly, and I am interested in understanding the point you are making. Democracy and communism seem incompatible to me. Certainly, I accept that governments that are democratically elected, and thus have a fond belief in the notion that they ‘have a mandate’ for whatever they do, are not above restricting the liberties of the electorate that elected them. But the key point is that the electorate then has the power to remove that mandate and to give it instead to those promising to restore those liberties.

    The thing with communism is that, as it has actually been practised, it has had very little to do with the ideals of the original French communes and nothing whatever to do with the vision of Karl Marx. They have in truth, been autocracies of a kind – outright autocracies in the case of Mao and Stalin, but generally autocracies of a politburo rather than an individual, but autocracies nonetheless. What they have never been is a genuine collective, run by the collective in the interests of the collective. Whatever the case may be, what is unarguable is that communism as it was actually practised did not lead to collective prosperity or to collective happiness.

    I understand that capitalism and democracy are entirely different concepts and it doesn’t follow that one requires the other. But history does seem to indicate to me that those two things in tandem do tend to lead to greater general prosperity – I accept that we are still hunting for the way to ensure that the prosperity is fairly distributed without damaging it.

    So, trying to tie it back to the OP, while I accept that there may be much that is less than ideal in India, they seem to me to be closer to the best path than what the OP appears to be proposing as an alternative. Ultimately, perhaps we agree on that point. So I am not really any closer to following your reasoning or understanding the point you are making.
  11. Jun 17, 2011 #10
    Yes, but notice I used the word "theoretically". My point was that liberty isn't a direct function of a democratic government, but is instead related indirectly. And it obviously not the case that a majority of the electorate is necessarily opposed to a particular restriction of liberty. No government, democratic or not, has ever existed that did not restrict liberty to some extent.
    I agree. What "autocrats" quickly realize is that in general, people just don't practice communism voluntarily, at least not on a large scale. And the ultimate vision of Marx was, and is, pretty delusional in my view. People will never all voluntarily agree to completely sacrifice all ownership rights of their own labor to society collectively, and even if they did, mass abject poverty and starvation is the only logical result.
    The simple answer is that the only objectively fair "distribution" is whatever distribution results from voluntary transactions from the time wealth is created, under the assumption that labor is rightfully owned by each laborer, and each individual rightfully has original ownership rights of the product of their labor (right to use/sell/trade as they choose). This Lockean notion that people rightfully and individually own their own labor is the foundation of classical liberalism and free market capitalism, but completely contradicts communism and socialism, and "social democracies" common in Europe, and what the U.S. has become.

    Of course anyone today who believes people own their own labor in a meaningful sense is considered a right-wing radical "for the rich" extremist nutjob. :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2011
  12. Jun 17, 2011 #11


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    This was also a concern in the US at the time the Constitution was ratified. Initially, a person had to be a male property owner to vote in most states and, for federal government officials at least, they were only allowed to vote for their representative to the House of Representatives. Each state's legislature (it's government) chose the Senators from the state and special electors chose the President (which was the source of the Electoral College).

    Sometimes, a democratic government is an evolving work in progress rather than a finished product.
  13. Jun 17, 2011 #12
    Okay, A168, now I think I understand you, and for the most part it seems to be that we do agree. I’m only not entirely convinced of the part about ‘original ownership rights of the products of their labour’. Generally, in capitalism, it is the person who provided the capital who gets profits, not the person who provided the labour. But rather than talk in general principles I think it is perhaps more useful to look at actual cases. Again, hesitating to actually name any, there are a few prominent examples of sizeable nations that have democratically elected governments and operate essentially free market capitalism, but that still have a huge wealth gap between the prosperous minority and the poverty stricken majority. What always gets me about India is that it has a middle class that is about three times the size of the entire British population. It just also has rather a large population living in poverty. There is no doubt that if it consisted only of its middle class, India would be regarded as a large and extremely prosperous nation.

    It seems to me that the key to the fair distribution of generated wealth is equality of opportunity. That involves access to education, access to healthcare, access to decent housing and a universal franchise. That tends to foster social mobility and tends towards a fairer distribution of wealth. The trouble is that it takes a bit of time to show results and the patience of electorates tends to have a short time span.
  14. Jun 18, 2011 #13
    The provider of capital buys the product of labor from the laborer, who as I said, is the original rightful owner, and as such has the right to use/buy/sell as he chooses. That's what "original ownership rights" means.
    The bigger problem with that is that all generated wealth has a rightful owner already, from the time of its creation (if you accept the assumption that a laborer rightfully owns his own labor), and that rightful ownership can only be transferred via voluntary transactions or the legitimate establishment that a particular debt is owed.

    One can label the naturally resulting distribution of wealth as "unfair" according to some subjective notion of fairness, but only if they reject the claim of the laborer to the ownership rights to his own labor, or deny peoples' right to engage in voluntary transactions.

    And using force to otherwise obtain or transfer wealth from its rightful owner is theft (in the moral, if not legal, sense), regardless of how "fair" or "good" the motive is. That will always be a major problem that cannot be overcome simply by claims of "fairness" or claims that a social agenda might have some positive result in the future.

    The bottom line is that those who object to unequal wealth must choose between their ideal of fairness, and the peaceful co-existence of free people. Equal wealth distribution is simply not the result of peace and liberty.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 18, 2011
  15. Jun 18, 2011 #14


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    I don't know about you guys but to me having the choice of two political parties is not a "real choice": its an oligopoly.

    When we go to buy a computer or food, there are many choices, and businesses have to work hard, innovate, and provide a good deal in a non monopoly/oligopoly environment.

    I'm not saying a hundred different parties is the solution, but more than two would be nice.
  16. Jun 18, 2011 #15
    This has been discussed in other threads, but there are more than two parties in the U.S. It's hard to take seriously a claim that there are only two choices based on the fact that only two parties are popular enough to be competitive.

    The word "oligopoly" means that there are few choices, not that only a few of many choices are popular or successful. When you vote for President, you have millions of choices.
  17. Jun 18, 2011 #16


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    Then enlighten me please: what choices are there besides the democrats or the republicans?
  18. Jun 19, 2011 #17


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    Within the Republican Party, you have traditionalists, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, moderates, libertarians, and (too a much lesser extent in the last 30 years) liberal factions.

    Within the Democratic Party, you have progressive democrats, liberal democrats, the religious left, the centrist wing, the conservative wing, the libertarian wing, and you could even consider unions to be a special wing of the Democratic Party.

    In the end, the Republican and Democratic candidates are virtually always the only viable candidates, so the most important fighting over which faction wins office occurs in the primaries, which is ironic since so few of the general populace bother to vote in the primaries. As far as the general public is concerned, there really are only two separate distinct groups and they'll take whatever gets spit out by the primary system. Kind of like an iceberg - most of the diversity of the political system exists below the sight line of the general public.

    And the factions within each party are very fluid. The factions can move from party to party. Traditionally, each major party tended to have viable conservative and liberal wings within their party, sometimes making it easier for a given faction to work with a similar faction in the opposite party than to work with their own party. Today the parties are more polarized than they've traditionally been.
  19. Jun 19, 2011 #18
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  20. Jun 20, 2011 #19
    "The Republic of India is the most daring,not to say most reckless,political experiment in human history.Never before was population so poor and illiterate given the vote.Given India's size,its poverty and its colonial past,the history of this experiment can certainly be illuminating for other ex-colonial countries in Asia and Africa.Given the staggering diversity of religions,languages and cultures that this experiment contains,Western nations now coping with mass immigration can learn from it too."~Ramachandra Guha
    Ramachandra Guha (born 1958) is an Indian writer whose research interests have included environmental, social, political and cricket history.
    I respect this man and his experience in this field ,but i think he is under an assumption that in India is working perfectly well,everything is going according to plan and India will be a developed country in a matter of few decades!!! but is that really so?,why can't i see this happening around me?,i don't see this happening in the newspapers,some of my friends are suggesting me that even if India becomes the 3rd largest economy after may be US and China,we will still be a developing country and we remain so throughout this century.
    If you look at the first part of what he has said this is exactly what i was asking ,has democracy being tested with a country with so much diversity in every aspect?
    I have great respect for Indian democracy even if it is not really coming out with flying colours, many people had speculated that given India's diversity ,it will slowly start disintegrating after Independence, but somehow India is turning out be one of the most politically stable countries in the third world ,we never had a single military coup,we almost never had a dictator(indira gandhi almost became one).....but i think even if the kind of government i had proposed ever comes ,you will never see a 'Stalin' or 'Hitler' in India , this problem is out of the question in India because given the diversity in the population there is no way ONE PERSON can get the good will or support from all the corners of the country.
    Is anyone here aware of the recently emerged nationwide anti-corruption agitation in India ?,this shows the frustration in the civil society with corruption ,corruption has increased in quantum proportions in India.
    2010 in India is called the ‘Year of scams’, because we saw multiple scams amounting millions or billions of dollars ,what does this tell ? economy is improving side by side with corruption ,the system is working when it comes to economy, the middle class who are around 300 million or more is good news. This may be the case when a poor country starts earning huge amounts money in a matter few years,anti-corruption bodies set up in every state of the country are like dummies designed to keep the public silent ,they are not given enough powers to take down high level officials because the people who forced set up these bodies are themselves corrupt and so they never let this body get powerful enough to do job it is actually supposed to do.

    There are 968 political parties in India, many more are coming,there is no way any party can get a majority so we have alliances the most popular ones are the UPA and the NDA ,it gets frustrating and complicated to deal with these numbers and clean parties are forced to work with the corrupt ones and for alliances to work big posts should be given to ministers from all the parties in an alliance ,this leads abuse of power .
    To be more realistic ,I know that my kind of ‘partly communist and partly liberal ‘ govt will never come in india as it is more or less deeply rooted in democracy ,what is it that we can do to make this transition of a country which houses one of the last great masses of poverty in the world to a developed state a more smooth affair?
  21. Jul 16, 2011 #20
    Hi shashankac655 , I am also an Indian. And your sentiment is shared by many Indians. Democracy doesn't seem to be solving the problems of the country. Like you I am also a believer in democracy and am saddened by the fact that it is proving ineffective.

    What most people don't realise is that the high GDP of India doesn't tell the true story. India's poor don't really enjoy any substantial benefits of this high GDP growth.

    I guess unless and until the literacy rate in the country grows change is hard to come.
    Also the diversity of the nation starts to be a problem in a democracy if the nation isn't developing. Because disgruntled people can be easily misled by corrupt politicians on the basis of their community.

    As you stated in a realistic note , the democracy is deeply rooted and is here to stay.
    While we are working under a democracy , the only solution to the impasse we have reached in the country is to have educated people.

    The nation has to develop a mindset in which an education in-sync with modern day science gets the topmost priority in the lives of people. And any positive change will at least take 20-30 years .
  22. Jul 21, 2011 #21

    Anyways, who's in favor of having to pass a test before being able to Vote?
  23. Jul 21, 2011 #22
    I am
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2011
  24. Jul 22, 2011 #23
    So ,there were restrictions on liberty even in the most well established Democracies at sometime in the past for a limited duration ,is it a "necessary evil" for all democracies to restrict liberty for sometime during the crucial stages in it's development for long range benefits ?
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