The great philosopher, Plato, hated democracy as practiced in Ancient Athens.The Athenians practiced direct democracy, a system in which all citizens within the city-state had equal say in state affairs. This system was so unworkable that Plato preferred philosopher king to be in charge or a benevolent dictator of sort.
The problem is that the system of monarchy is hereditary, so while the first dictator may be benevolent, successive ones may indeed be malevolent. The monarchy system may also have a disadvantage of the king being the citizens’ imbecile.
Today we practice representative democracy, a marked improvement over direct democracy but every political system has its own problems. One of the problems of representative democracy is that the fool has an equal say in public matters as the wise therefore in some instances majority of fools are able to decide the fate of the nation. Any system that operates by shear majority is in peril unless the citizens are educated. Liberal democracy is more prone to popular sway if the citizens are not well informed.
How do citizens sort through ideas and viewpoints from politicians if they themselves don’t know much about the issue, as Thomas Jefferson said, “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be”.
Though Americans are among the most educated people in the world, the demands of modern life make it practically impossible for ordinary people, many of whom are one paycheck away from financial disaster to take time to learn about important issues of the day.
Many have surrendered their independent thoughts to what they see and here on television or radio, repeating whatever the press says as gospel truth without any critical analysis of their own. Others simply assume that if they repeat what they hear from media commentators and personalities then people will see them as smart by association or mimicry.
Though the media often provides unbiased analysis of events, some uninformed expressions of political ideas ever put across have come from the popular media organisations. Some disappointed citizens have all but given up on the government.
They see democracyas an endless string of arguments based mainly on half-truths and misinformation. Some actually yearn for the simplicity of the olden days when one person was in charge but among the political systems known to man and especially, since the idea of human quality has become widely accepted, democracy has become the expected political system in every society except those ruled by force. According to Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others, since life itself is a struggle” .We should expect that the nature of that struggle is itself another struggle.
Democracy then is the social and political struggles of people living in a free society. How these struggles are decided have shown throughout history that men do not act for the good of all but for their self-interests and government is instituted to mitigate this selfishness.
According to James Madison “human passions have divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity and rendered them much disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good” .This human propensity is the very reason why government is instituted among men.If men were angels declared Madison,no government would be needed.
Democracy is a means to an end not an end itself. Man is indeed a political animal hence politics and for that matter democracy is unavoidable.
By Abena Dugan, Focus FM, KNUST, Kumasi