The structure of a democracy allows eligible residents of a community to have a voice in the decisions that must be made for everyone. It is a governmental system which can be applied at local, county, state, or national levels. The United States follows this type of format, even though the structure of its government is technically a republic.
What is unique about the structure of a democracy is that the distinctive population districts all receive representation within the government. Each person is given the opportunity to share their opinion about how things should be run. Some democracies allow this voice to be heard directly, while others use a form of representation to give groups of people a say in what happens.
This structure makes it possible for everyone to be as active or inactive as they want to be when there are political decisions to be made.
Although a democracy offers higher levels of freedom to the average person, it is not free from disadvantages. It takes time to govern when this governmental structure is in place. There may be decisions that must be made immediately within this structure that do not receive an optimal outcome because of the speed issue.
These are the significant democracy pros and cons to review when comparing this form of government to other structures.
List of the Pros of Democracy
1. Democracies do an excellent job of stopping exploitation.
All government structures are susceptible to exploitation because of the individuals who are elected to powerful positions. The difference in this government structure is that the powers are divided more evenly within it. Checks and balances exist to ensure that no single individual receives absolute power over the governing process. This structure prevents politicians from explaining the general population. It requires them to represent the needs of everyone instead of pursuing their own need to obtain power.
2. Democracies encourage higher levels of economic growth.
The freedom offered within the structures of a democracy give the general population an opportunity to pursue any outcome they desire. Although legal limitations exist to prevent one person from harming another, this government type offers the freedom to look at different jobs, educational opportunities, or even living arrangements. You are given a chance to pursue what you are passionate about in life. This process makes it possible for people to stay more productive because they are always engaging with their strengths. That is why the GDP of a country which focuses on democratic structures is typically higher.
3. Democracies offer people consistency.
There is more consistency in the governing process with a democracy because the general population is given the right to vote on decisions. This structure can take different forms, but the outcome is generally the same. Each person is given an opportunity to express their opinion at their polling stations by casting a ballot. That process allows each community to either continue pursuing specific outcomes that they feel are beneficial, or they have an opportunity to switch directions and try something new.
The structure of a democracy makes it possible for each population group to come together in a way that shapes society to be beneficial for almost everyone.
4. Democracies inspire patriotism and loyalty.
The structure of a democracy is unique because it allows the general population to stand up and fight for the things that they believe in every day. Every unique perspective and opinion can be shared and safe environments because of the protections permitted in this government type. Instead of having the government direct what people should say, three, or do, everyone is given a chance to be celebrated from what they are able to contribute. This process helps people form relationships with their communities, which is how patriotism and loyalty initially form.
5. Democracies do not centralize power base.
The purpose of democracy is not to have enough power over the general population to dictate how each person decides to live their life. It prefers to place that decision in the hands of each individual. Each voter gets to have a say in the outcomes that happen every day. When elected officials are not doing their jobs properly, each community can come together with their voting power to make the necessary changes that will restore what they desire.
Every vote cast within a democracy is its own source of power. This structure is what makes it possible for each person to stay in control over the direction of their life without relying on the government to dictate what they should do.
6. Democracies promote higher levels of equality across all socioeconomic demographics.
A real democracy gives every vote the same value. If you are a person, then you have the ability to shape your destiny under this government structure. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, or identify your gender in a different way. You can come from a wealthy family, or you could struggle in poverty. It doesn’t matter what religion you prefer, what city you call your home, or if you decide to be a nice person. Your vote always has the same value. That is why democracies tend to be the dominant structure of government used in the world today.
7. Democracies encourage personal involvement with the governing process.
Each person controls their own fate within the structure of a democracy. Although their boats may sometimes be in the minority, the chance to express an opinion on any matter makes it possible to direct the governing process at any time. You get to choose whether or not you cast a ballot in an election. It is up to you to decide which policies to support and which ones you should avoid. These freedoms are not always available in the other structures of government which are used in the world today. Your personal involvement (or lack thereof) makes it possible to shape your life in the way you prefer.
8. Democracies are less likely to conduct warfare.
Although the United States is approaching its 20-year anniversary of involvement in Afghanistan, democratic systems are less likely to go to war compared to other forms of government. Warfare requires the will of the people in a majority support such actions. Other forms of government can decide to pursue conflict based on the ideas or whims of a single leader in charge of the nation. This advantage also makes it less likely for society to experience violent rebellion, writing, or coup attempts.
9. Democracies ensure a smooth transition of power.
There is a certain amount of open that’s what you can find in a democracy that cannot be found in other government structures. When governments or leaders change, the checks and balances offered by this format make it possible to achieve smooth transitions. There are no arguments about who becomes the rightful successor for any position within the government. That is because each position is either elected by the people or play that by someone who won an election in the first place.
10. Democracies establish legitimacy.
The democratic system creates a fair structure of government because voters select who will be in charge. That process requires each candidate to argue before their voters about why they are the best person to be a leader. Winning an election establishes legitimacy for political candidates that other forms of governing cannot provide.
List of the Cons of Democracy
1. Democracies require a lot of time to make progress.
Whether the voting occurs on an individual level or through representation, it takes time to tabulate the information people are providing to the government. There are circumstances when decisions must be made quickly. If a country must seek permission from qualified voters for every circumstance, the process of governing slows down dramatically. It takes longer to get money toward emergency situations, respond to attacks, or even provide social services to the families who need them.
Even when representatives cast votes on behalf of districts, the slower process of governing means they can take one to two years before any meaningful change to active legislation can take place.
2. Democracies cost a lot of money.
It is not unusual for a local election in a small town to exceed six figures in cost by the time every vote is counted. In the United States, every election since the year 2000 has cost more than $1 billion. The 2016 presidential election on its own reach that level. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there is a productivity cost that must be factored into these equations as well. Over $500 million in lost productivity occurs during the November election cycle every two years.
3. Democracies suffer from the “choir effect.”
The structure of a democracy relies on the will of the majority to make decisions. Individuals tend to form relationships with others who share their political believes. This thinking creates what is called the “choir effect.” People isolate themselves so that they only hear thoughts or opinions that agree with the own ideas. That makes it easier to discount differing ideas because no one else around them shares the same beliefs.
Polarization occurs because of the structure. Democracies encourage mob thinking because the majority always wins. If you find yourself in the minority, you’re forced to either change your beliefs or settle for what feels like an inferior outcome.
4. Democracies can focus only on the needs of the majority of times.
People who find themselves consistently in the minority when decisions are made can begin to believe that their country is trying to marginalize their position. The needs of the majority often outweigh the preferences of minority populations. This structure makes it possible for those who are in the majority to pass legislation which further limits people who disagree with them. If this process is allowed to continue on without checks and balances, it creates a system where equal rights may no longer be a priority for the entire society.
5. Democracies require voters to have sufficient accurate information.
The structure of a democracy does not work effectively if the votes that are cast on decisions are not based on relevant information. Each ballot must be cast from opinions that have been well-researched and well-thought out in order to make a positive impact on the society at large. When people vote without sufficient knowledge, it creates adverse effects, such as harmful legislation or unnecessary services. Because there is no way to guarantee that every voter will inform themselves about each decision they are being asked to make, the structure of a democracy always contains an element of guesswork.
6. Democracies encourage people to think of themselves before others.
Although there is an advantage in giving everyone a vote in how the government functions within a democracy, the decisions which are made tend to come from a selfish perspective. This government structure panders to the needs of the individual to gather votes more than it does to the needs of the community. People tend to vote based on their own interests instead of what is better for their country as a whole.
7. Democracies can still experience a conflict of interest.
The goal of people who achieve power is to maintain their status for as long as possible. That desire does not go away just because of government is structured as a democracy. Conflicts of interest take place when politicians must decide between their best interests and what the country needs from them. Although there are always people who are willing to set aside this disadvantage to help others, the average politician will look for ways to increase their chances to be reelected for they take a risk to help someone else.
8. Democracies encourage empty promises.
There is no accountability in a democracy when people vote in representatives that cast ballots on their behalf when legislation is debated. Once the individual receives a majority of the vote, they are locked into the office for a specific time unless unusual circumstances apply to the situation. That means it is in the best interest of the politician to make whatever promises are necessary to get the votes needed for them to be elected. Even if they do not keep their word, the only outcome for the average person in that situation is to vote the individual out of office during the next cycle. If that person is a senator in the United States, that’s a six-year wait.
9. Democracies can encourage political gridlock.
The polarization which keeps people from embracing other opinions affects politicians in a democracy too. It is not unusual for the checks and balances found in the structure of government to create unnecessary delays in the implementation of legislation. Even if there isn’t any political deadlock to be found, you will experience endless arguments and tell me what is coalitions that attempt to keep everything together.
These democracy pros and cons for trey a system of governing which promotes personal freedoms, a chance to pursue happiness, and the opportunity to have direct involvement in what happens every day. These benefits often outweigh the costs of democracy, but only when the proper checks and balances are instituted to protect everyone. Because of the unique disadvantages found in the structure, some countries still prefer to look at alternative governing processes to meet their needs.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.