How Do We Assess Democracy’s Outcomes
Democracy is a better form of government when compared with dictatorship or any other alternative.
It was said that democracy was better because it :
- Promotes equality among citizens
- Enhances the dignity of the individual
- Improves the quality of decision-making
- Provides a method to resolve conflicts, and
- Allows a room to correct mistakes
Over a hundred countries of the world today claim and practice some kind of democratic politics: They have format constitutions, they hold elections, they have parties and they guarantee the rights of citizens. While these democratic elements are common to most of them, these democracies are very much different from each other in terms of their social situation, their economic achievements, and their cultures. Clearly, what may be achieved or not achieved under each of these democracies will be very different.
Sometimes we expect everything and anything from democracy. Our interest in and fascination for democracy often pushed us in taking a position that democracy can address all socio-economic and political problems. If some of our expectations are not met, we start blaming the idea of democracy or we start doubting if we are living in a democracy. It can only create conditions for achieving some things. The citizens have to take advantage of those conditions and achieve those goals. Moreover, democracy is just not related to many other things that we value. Democracy is not a magical remedy for all our social ailments.
Accountable, Responsive, and Legitimate Government
They are some things that democracy must provide. In a democracy, we are most concerned with ensuring that people will have the right to choose their rules and people will have control over the rulers. Whenever possible and necessary, citizens should be able to participate in decision-making that affects them all. Therefore, the most basic outcome of democracy should be that it produces a government that is accountable to the citizen, and responsive to the needs and expectations of the citizens.
Is the democratic government efficient? Is it effective: Some people think that democracy produces less effective government. It is of course true that non-democratic rulers do not have to deliberate in assemblies and worry about majorities and public opinion. So, they can be very quick and efficient in decision-making and implementation. Democracy is based on the idea of deliberation and negotiation. So, some delay is bound to take place.
The democratic government will take more time to follow procedures before arriving at a decision. But because it has followed procedures, its decisions may be both more acceptable to the people and more effective. So, the cost of time that democracy pays is perhaps worth it.
Democracy ensures that decision-making will be based on norms and procedures. So a citizen, who wants to know if a decision was taken through the correct procedures, can find this out. She has the right and the means to examine the process of decision-making. This is known as transparency. This factor would often be missing from a non-democratic government. We can expect that the democratic government develops mechanisms for citizens to hold the government accountable and mechanisms for citizens to take part in decision-making whenever they think fit. If we wanted to measure democracies on the basis of this expected outcome. We would look for the following practices and institutions; regular free and fair election; open public debate on major policies and legislations and citizens’ right to information about the government and its functioning. The actual performance of democracies shows a mixed record on this. Democracies have had greater success in setting up regular and free elections and in setting up regular and free elections and in setting up conditions for open public debate. But most democracies fall short of elections that provide a fair chance to everyone and subject every decision to public debate. Democratic governments do not have a very good record when it comes to sharing information with citizens. All one can say in favor of democratic regimes is that they are much better than any non-democratic regime in these respects.
In substantive terms, it may be reasonable to expect from democracy a government that is attentive to the needs and demands of the people and is largely free of corruption. The record of democracies is not impressive on these two counts. Democracies often frustrate the needs of the people and often ignore the demand of the majority of their population. The routine tales of corruption are enough to convince us that democracy is not free of this evil. At the same time, there is nothing to show that non-democracies are less corrupt or more sensitive to the people.
There is one respect in which democratic government is certainly better than its alternatives: the democratic government is a legitimate government. It may be slow, less efficient not always very responsive or clean. But a democratic government is the people’s own government. This is why there is overwhelming support for the ideal democracy all over the world.
Economic Growth and Development
If we consider all democracies and all dictatorships for the fifty years between 1950 and 2000, dictatorship has a slightly higher rate of economic growth.
Evidence shows that in practice many democracies did not fulfill this expectation. The inability of democracy to achieve higher economic development worries us. But this alone cannot be the reason to reject democracy. The difference between less developed countries with dictatorships and democracies is negligible. Overall, we cannot say that democracy is a guarantee of economic development. But we can expect democracy not to lag behind dictatorship in the respect.
Economic Outcome of Democracy
Within democracies, there can be very high degrees of inequality. In democratic countries like South Africa and Brazil, the top 20 percent of people corned more than 60 percent of the national income, leaving less than 3 percent for the bottom 20 per cent population. Countries like Denmark and Hungary are much better in this respect.
|Rates of economic growth for different countries, 1950-2000|
|Type of regimes and countries||Growth rate|
|All democratic regimes||3.95|
|All dictatorial regimes||4.42|
|Poor countries under dictatorship||4.34|
|Poor countries under democracy||4.28|
|Inequality of income in selected countries|
|% share of national income|
|Top 20 %||Bottom 20 %|
Reduction of Inequality and Poverty
Democracies are based on political equality. All individuals have equal weight in electing representatives. A small number of ultra-rich enjoy a highly disproportionate share of wealth and incomes. Not only that, their share in the total income of the country has been increasing. Those at the bottom of society have very little to depend upon. Their incomes have been declining. Sometimes they find it difficult to meet their basic needs of life, such as food, clothing, house, education, and health.
In actual life, democracies do not appear to be very successful in reducing economic inequalities. The poor constitute a large proportion of our voters and no party will like to lose their votes. The situation is much worse in some other countries. In Bangladesh, more than half of its population lives in poverty. People in several poor countries are now dependent on the rich countries even for food supplies.
Democracies usually develop a procedure to conduct their competition. This reduces the possibility of these tensions becoming explosive or violent. No society can fully and permanently resolve conflicts among different groups. But we can certainly learn to respect these differences and we can also evolve mechanisms to negotiate the differences. Democracy is best suited to produce this outcome. Non-democratic regimes often turn a blind eye to or suppress internal social differences. The ability to handle social differences, divisions, and conflicts is thus a definite plus point of democratic regimes. But the examples of Sri Lanka reminds us that democracy must fulfill two conditions in order to achieve this outcome :
- It is necessary to understand that democracy is not simply ruled by majority opinion. The majority always needs to work with the minority. So that governments function to represent the general view. The majority and minority opinions are not permanent.
- It is also necessary that rule by the majority does not become a rule by the majority community in terms of religion or race or linguistic group, etc. Rule by majority means that in case of every decision or in case of every election, different persons and groups may be can form a majority. Democracy remains democracy only as long as every citizen has a chance of being in majority at some point in time. If someone is barred from being in majority on the basis of birth, then the democratic rule ceases to be accommodative for that person or group.
Dignity and Freedom of The Citizens
Democracy stands much superior to any other form of government in promoting dignity and freedom of the individual. Every individual wants to receive respect from fellow beings. Often conflicts arise among individuals because some feel that they are not treated with due respect. The passion for respect and freedom is the basis of democracy. Democracies throughout the world have recognized this, at least in principle. This has been achieved in various degrees in various democracies. Democratic regimes do not always value the liberty of their citizens in practice.
- Yet, for societies, which have been built for long on the basis of subordination and domination, it is not a simple matter to recognize that all individuals are equal.
- Take the case of the dignity of women. Most societies across the world were historically male-dominated societies.
Long struggle by women has created some sensitivity today that respect and equal treatment of women are necessary ingredients of a democratic society. That does not mean that women are actually always treated with respect. But once the principle is recognized, it becomes easier for women to wage a struggle against what is now unacceptable legally and morally.
- In a non-democratic setup, this unacceptably would not have a legal basis because the principle of individual freedom and dignity would not have the legal and normal force there.
- The same is true of caste inequalities.
- Democracy in India has strengthened the claims of the disadvantaged and discriminated caste for equal status and equal opportunity. There are still instances of caste-based inequalities and atrocities, but these lack the moral and legal foundation. Perhaps it is this recognition that makes ordinary citizen value their democratic rights.
- People believe that their vote makes a difference to the ways the government is run and to their own self-respect.
- Expectations from democracy also function as the criteria for judging any democratic country.
- Democracy examination never gets over. As it passes one test, it produces another test. As people get some benefits of democracy they ask for more and want to make democracy even better. The fact that people are complaining is itself a testimony to the success of democracy.
- Outcome: Result, consequences or output.
- Characteristics of Democracy: Promotes equality, enhances the dignity of the individual, improves the quality of decision making, provides methods to resolve conflicts, accommodates correct mistakes.
- Alternative forms of government than democracy: Monarchy military rule by religious leaders.
- Elements/constituents of democracy : Formal constitution, election, political parties, constitutional rights.
- Monarchy: The government ruled by the monarch or king of the country i.e., monarch or king is the head of the country.
- Dignity: The word denotes privileged position, honorable rank, or importance is given to any particular post or personating.
- The outcome of democracy: Political equality and political justice social equality and social justice, economic equality and economic justice, dignity to the individual.
- Measures for a democratic outcome: Regular free and fair elections, open public debate on major policies, right to the information given to the people.
- Economic Development: It refers to the growing advancement of the country in the way of providing better facilities and services to the individual.
- Transparency: Right or means to examine the process of decision making.
- Accountable: Responsible, answerable, legitimate to the individual/post and their needs and expectations.
- Poverty: It is a socio-economic phenomenon which in general terms is the denial of opportunities to lead a long, healthy, creative life and to enjoy a decent standard of living.
- Inequality: The absence of equal opportunities, equal treatment, and equal status at any level, social-economic or political is known as inequality.
- Measures to sustain democracy :
- Unity in diversity
- Historical background of the country.
- Tolerance power among people
- The feeling of nationalism and patriotism
- peaceful co-existence
- International peace and understanding
- Civil Liberties: These are privileges or rights thought to be valuable in themselves and important for the functioning of democracy.
Very Short Answer Type Question
- Why is democracy preferred as the better form of government than dictatorship?
- What is the dilemma regarding the practical aspect of democracy?
- What are the basic elements of democracy in a practical sense?
- In what ways are democracies different from each other?
- What thought should be put in to assess the outcome of democracy?
- What should be the basic outcome of democracy?
- What is the importance of casts of time in decision-making?
- What do democracies ensure regarding decision-making? What can we expect from democracy regarding its outcome?
- Is the democratic government efficient and effective?
- List out the factors for economic development. Do democracies produce economic development?
- Examine the forms of economic inequality in democracy.
- Do democracies appear to be successful in reducing economic inequalities?
- What do you mean by civil liberties?
- How has the dignity of women been ensured in a democracy?
- List out the merits and demerits of democracy?
Short Answer Type Question
- How can we measure democracy on the basis of its expected outcome?
- In what ways a democratic government is better than its alternatives?
- Examine the political outcome of democracy.
- Write a note on the economic outcome.
- Discuss the social outcome of democracy.
- The ideals, principles, and norms of democracy require certain conditions to be implemented. Explain the statement.
- When was democracy introduced in India? Examine its relevance?
- Discuss the factors that denote the successful working of democracy in India.
- Explain any four outcomes on which democracy has failed.
- “Democratic government is a legitimate government.” Explain?
- “To accommodate social diversities democracy must fulfill some basic conditions” Explain the basic conditions.
Long Answer Type Question
- How do we assess democracy’s outcome?
- What outcome can one reasonably expect of democracies?
- Can or should democracy be judged by its outcome?
- Does democracy in India meet these expectations?
- What sustains democracy in India?
Multiple Choice Question
1. When was democracy introduced in India?
(A) 1947 (B) 1952 (C) 1950 (D) 1954
2. Political outcome signifies –
(I) Accountable and responsible government
(II) Military rule
(III) Legitimate government
(IV) Restricted popular participation
(A) (I), (III), (IV) (B) (I), (II), (III)
(C) (I) and (II) (D) (I) and (III)
3. The basic elements of democracy –
(I) Liberty and equality
(II) Fraternity and national unity
(III) International understanding and broader outlook
IV) Universal adult franchise
Consider the statements –
(A) (I), (II) and (III) (B) (I) and (II)
(C) (III) and (IV) (D) All the above
4. Social outcomes cover the area like –
(I) Dignity and freedom of citizens
(II) Ban on child labor
(III) Untouchability and discrimination
(IV) Gender equality
(A) I, II and IV (B) I, III and IV
(C) II and IV (D) I only
5. What is the rule of economic growth in poor countries under democracy during 1950-2000.
(A) 4.28 % (B) 5.6 %
(C) 6.79 % (D) 4.7 %
6. In which country, more than half of its population lives in poverty –
(A) India (B) Srilanka
(C) Brazil (D) Bangladesh
7. ……………… is the democracy in which the citizens rule themselves.
(A) Indirect democracy
(B) Direct democracy
(C) Military democracy
(D) All the above
Q.8 ……………… is the democracy in which the citizens elect their representatives.
(A) Direct democracy
(C) Indirect democracy
(D) None of these
9. About ………………. percent children are not going to school.
(A) 30 (B) 40
(C) 50 (D) 60
10. ………………… percent people are still living under the poverty line in India.
(A) 15 % (B) 19 %
(D) 22 % (D) 26 %