Sample Research Paper: The Pros and Cons of Democracy

Research PaperPolitics
Jan 19, 2022

The concept of democracy is synonymous with freedom, liberty, and equality. It is a system of government that provides members equal power over decisions. Democracy is a direct contrast to autocracy which makes it an appealing system for common citizens. It provides benefits to private individuals, businesses, and the overall growth of a state. Currently, most countries adhere to democratic forms of government as it gives citizens power whether through direct or representative democracy. Despite these benefits, democracy also has detrimental effects on organizations. Democratic systems can lead to the poor exercise of authority and manipulative pursuit for power. This essay will discuss the pros and cons of democracy and its effects on the development of a state.

What is democracy?

Democracy is one of the many forms of government, which can include communism, socialism, monarchy, and theocracy. It is a collective decision-making method that provides its members with equal power over the decision-making process (Christiano and Bajaj, 2021). Democracy highlights collective decision-making and equal opportunities for any group. This characteristic is prevalent in a direct democracy where each member possesses equal votes. However, some forms can promote power inequality and disregard normative questions. In a representative democracy, members will need to vote for a representative who will make the final decisions. This is the most common form of democratic governance today as citizens conduct elections to choose a leader or president. This gives the representative more power in comparison to the authority of common citizens. Despite the difference between the forms, democratic governance requires the collective decision-making of citizens or representatives.

The Advantages of Democracy

Positive Development

Democratic forms of government can promote the positive development of an organization or country. According to Halperin et al. (2010), democracy and development have a compatible and complementary relationship. As a country conducts democratic decision-making methods, it can expect development that benefits the interest of its members. Democracy considers the interest of each organization member, such as the public, politicians, and entrepreneurs. Since these parties possess equal power to vote, democracy can lead to policies that satisfy their needs. Additionally, democratic structures allow the impeachment of ineffective leaders. Members can utilize this feature to secure a country’s welfare and remove representatives with selfish intentions.

Since democratic governance considers a wide range of interests, it can promote positive growth in the business sector. Advantageous policies for businesses and trade can lead to stable economic growth (Halperin et al., 2010). Business owners, investors, and the public can exercise their democratic power to support policies and regulations that can be financially sustainable for a country. They may support laws that limit the authority of international organizations and promote local businesses. Alternatively, the freedom from democracy allows businesses to conduct international operations which can benefit a country’s economy. This highlights democracy’s complementary relationship with growth as freedom leads to many opportunities.

Establishment of Good Laws and Policies

Aside from the creation of policies that promote economic growth, democracy’s instrumental value can result in the establishment of good laws. Democratic government members have the opportunity to express their needs which can lead to the creation of certain laws and policies (Christiano and Bajaj, 2021). As members express their needs, leaders and representatives must take the information into account in the decision-making process. If a large population argues about gun control , representatives will need to establish laws as a solution to the issue. Equal power and the wide consideration of interests in a democratic structure provide this opportunity to the members despite the influence that representatives may have in the process.

Additionally, the large number of participants in the decision-making process makes democracy a reliable approach in politics. Participant competence, independence, and cognitive diversity promote an insightful decision-making process (Christiano and Bajaj, 2021). In the creation of laws and policies, representatives may utilize the assistance of various experts along with the accounts of the public. This can include multiple participants with different opinions, expertise, and perspectives. While the public cannot directly change or create laws, representatives may aim to satisfy public demand which leads to the creation of laws and policies that benefit the citizens.

Public Autonomy

The public’s inclusion in the decision-making process promotes critical thinking and independence. According to Christiano and Bajaj (2021), members of democratic societies can develop autonomy since they can defend their rights instead of obeying the aristocracy. They develop careful reasoning and argumentative skills since their decisions are integral in politics. Through this, democracy promotes public justification of laws since members vote for the leaders who establish policies. The public’s approval and vote for a leader justifies the policies that they will legislate. In some cases, individuals can develop enhanced moral qualities as they realize that their arguments can affect other members’ lives. The autonomy that comes from democracy further illustrates the factors in the establishment of good laws and the positive development of a state.

Liberty and Equality

Liberty and equality are concepts synonymous with democracy since they are obvious advantages. These concepts are intrinsic justifications for democracy (Christiano and Bajaj, 2021). Since members of a democratic government have equal votes, they have equal rights and authority in decision-making processes. While some arguments dictate that other forms of democracy can lead to inequality, the equal voting power of citizens constitutes the notion that democracy leads to equality. Through the equality that democracy provides, individuals gain liberty. Their equal power and votes provide them the opportunity to express themselves and argue against the leadership. The collective decision-making in democratic structures both exercises the liberty and equality that citizens possess.

Disadvantages of Democracy

Issues with Solving Problems

While democratic decision-making benefits from cognitive diversity, the large number of participants can also cause problems. According to Dryzek et al. (2019), the opportunities of every citizen to express their opinions can make it difficult to identify problems and prolong the decision-making process. A large number of participants indicate multiple perspectives that may complement or contrast each other. The existence of opposing parties can result in uncivil behaviors, such as violent rallies, defamation, and unethical actions. Rallies and disruption of peace can prolong decision-making processes while other unethical actions cause more issues. For example, certain organizations may call for additional deliberation regarding the legalization of medical marijuana which will prolong the decision-making process. These organizations may be part of large anti-drug groups or are private companies that perceive medical marijuana as competition. 

The varying views of these members along with their power to vote in a democratic structure give them the influence to prolong issues. The Hobbesian argument states that democracy is inferior to monarchy since its members are concerned with their personal needs (cited in Christiano and Bajaj, 2021). Members in the business sector are likely to vote for decisions that benefit trade and their industries. Private individuals may prefer to agree with policies that grant them liberty and equality. Political representatives are likely to accept decisions that align with their political views and agenda. This is a significant disadvantage of democracy as it can promote self-focused decisions instead of the common good.

Corruption

Corruption is prevalent in any form of government and most countries face problems regarding the issue. However, multiple studies have established that democracy and corruption have a close relationship that relies on various factors (Kubbe and Engelbert, 2017). Certain elements of democracy can promote corruption while others can hinder its growth. According to Podobnik et al. (2022), weak democratic norms can result in corruption while strengthened democratic norms can suppress corruption. Weak democratic norms contain parochialist groups that are prone to corruption while strengthened democratic norms can have altruist groups that support anti-corruption reforms. In a setting with weak democratic norms, a candidate may employ manipulative methods to acquire votes and power. The Hobbesian argument supports this as well as some candidates may put their self-interest over the common good.

Undermining Decision-Making Requirements

Political decision-making requires a certain level of expertise to secure the needs of the public and the state. Plato argued that democracy is inferior to other forms of governance as its collective characteristic allows unqualified individuals to make political decisions (cited in Christiano and Bajaj, 2021). Democracy offers each citizen equal power to vote and influence the decision-making process. For example, a licensed diagnostician and a novel writer have the same power in political decisions regarding abortion. The diagnostician is a medical expert and understands the beneficial and harmful effects of the procedure. Alternatively, a novel writer may rely on their emotions to help them decide. This illustrates the potential gap in knowledge between members with equal power. Plato’s argument questions the efficiency of democracy as it allows unqualified individuals to influence important issues.

Additionally, since unqualified individuals can affect political decisions, this can lead to biased results. Hainmueller and Hangartner (2019) conducted a study that revealed an increased risk of discrimination in a direct democracy structure. The researchers conducted the study in Switzerland and involved participants to approve the naturalization of citizens. They found out that citizens are likely to reject qualified applications based on their biases while representatives and politicians consider judicial review which enforces them to approve qualified applications. This study showcases the detrimental effects of allowing unqualified individuals to make political decisions. They are inclined to base their decisions on their preferences instead of facts and accomplished requirements.

Conclusion

The prevalence of democratic structures indicates that democracy is an effective form of governance. It provides citizens with equality, liberty, and autonomy through their equal power to vote. Cognitive diversity results in the establishment of good laws and policies which further leads to the positive development of a country. However, advantages like autonomy, liberty, and equality can result in various disadvantages. Cognitive diversity can cause issues regarding the identification and solution of problems. The liberty from democracy allows corruption to develop in certain democratic norms. The citizen’s influence in political decision-making can undermine expert views. The advantages and disadvantages of democracy illustrate the complexity of the system and its positive and negative effects on the development of a state.

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Reference List

Ahlstrom-Vij, K. (2021). Why We Should Stop Fetishizing Democracy. Journal of Philosophical Research. Available at https://doi.org/10.5840/jpr20211011179. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Christiano, T. & Bajaj, S. (2021). Democracy. The Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democracy/#DemoDefi. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Dryzek, J., Bächtiger, A., Chambers, S., Cohen, J., Druckman, J., Felicetti, A.,...Warren, M. (2019). The Crisis of Democracy and the Science of Deliberation. Science.org. Available at https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/science.aaw2694. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Hainmueller, J. & Hangartner, D. (2019). Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities? Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Switzerland. American Journal of Political Science. Available at  https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12433. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Halperin, M., Siegle, J., & Weinstein, M. (2010). The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace. Routledge, pp. 126-164. Available at https://gsdrc.org/document-library/the-democracy-advantage-how-democracies-promote-prosperity-and-peace/. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Kubbe, I. & Engelbert, A. (2017). Corruption and the Impact of Democracy. Crime Law Soc Change. Available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-017-9732-0. Accessed January 18, 2022.

Podobnik, B., Jusup, M., Korošak, D., Holme, P., & Lipić, T. (2022). The Microdynamics Shaping the Relationship Between Democracy and Corruption. Royal Society. Available at https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2021.0567. Accessed January 18, 2022.

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