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The flaws of democracy

Nov 24,2018 - Last updated at Nov 24,2018

How right is he/she who said that politics has no religion; meaning it is corrupt and insensitive to ethics, morality and honesty. Anywhere one looks these days, one notices that the emerging world order is being conducted with little or no regard for truth and honesty. Above all, money talks the loudest in interstate and intrastate relations in the past, as well as in contemporary times.

Back in the 16th century, Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli theorised in his political thesis that the "end justifies the means!" This demoralising standard for conducting state affairs finds expression in such leaders as US President Donald Trump and his peers in many parts of the world, who epitomise the Machiavellian thought and incarnate the leadership model that he advocated. The tragedy lies in the fact that Machiavellians not only get away with their unethical mindset, but prosper and seem to get stronger and their grip on power strengthened. The fate of mankind is, therefore, in the hands of those who lack the faintest streak of morality.

What then are the existing antidotes to Machiavellian rulers? Democracy, especially the pluralistic kind, could offer the answer, just maybe, because arguably there are good and bad democracies. The late British prime minister Winston Churchill was quoted as saying that "no one pretends that democracy is perfect all the time". Churchill has also been credited with saying that "democracy is the worst form of government".

The trouble with, or rather the shortcoming of, democracy stems also from the fact that participation in the democratic process is seldom high, which renders it hostage to perhaps the active and assertive minority view. What is worse, many voters taking part in elections are not always the most sophisticated kind or are informed enough to make intelligent judgments. Moreover, in many nations, democratic results are not necessarily governed by popular vote, but rather by a complicated criteria that may permit a minority to prevail over the majority. Look at what happened to the last US presidential elections in 2016. At a time when Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, had won the popular vote, President Trump was declared the winner because he won the so-called electoral vote, which discounts the true majority vote. Democracy can also produce evil leaders. The late German leader Adolf Hitler rose to power arguably by winning the popular confidence and support after his appointment as chancellor in 1933. To be sure there are other examples to verify this conclusion.

On balance, democracy appears to offer the best results in nations that enjoy optimum homogeneous culture, common ethnicity, shared religious values, common history and heritage, good economic conditions, respect for human rights in word and deed and, perhaps above all, popular discipline and educated public participation. These conditions or prerequisites could be found in abundance in Scandinavian countries but rarely in other parts of the world. Yet, until mankind can find a more sophisticated and bona fide system of governance, democracy is, indeed, the least evil option.

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