Apr 16, 2020 in Comparative Essays

Comparative Democracy Essay

Are Good Governance and Democracy Indissociable?  

Nowadays, democracy is one of the most common forms of government. Democratic system is typically found in countries where middle class occupies a significant place in social structure. This form of government flourishes in states that have achieved a high level of social and economic development. In case a state cannot provide necessary welfare to all citizens, it is impossible to achieve social harmony and stability, and establish strong democratic principles. Democracy implies recognition of such principle as equality, freedom and active participation of citizens in the political life of their country. However, without a good governor, this political system cannot be achieved, since he/she ensures equality of opportunity for citizens, enforcement of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and sovereignty of the people. Therefore, good governance and democracy are indissociable.

A term democracy is of the Greek origin. The etymology for the term democracy recommends that it evolves from two Greek words - demos – people and kratos – power (Lansford, 2007). Therefore, democracy literally means rule of people. The classical definition of democracy belongs to the American president, Abraham Lincoln (Lansford, 2007). According to him, democracy is power of the people elected by the people and for the people (Lansford, 2007). The etymology of the word democracy raises a number of interrelated principles, without which this political system cannot exist. In the book Democracy, it is written, “this concept means the ultimate authority over governmental policies and decisions rests with the people” (Lansford, 2007, p. 9). Traditionally, it is believed that ancient Greek Athens is a prototype of democracy. Formation of democracy as a system began much later, in the XVII-XVIII centuries (Lansford, 2007). Primarily it developed in European countries such as England, France, and Holland and later in the United States.

The fundamental principle of democracy is sovereignty of the people. Thus, people are the sole and supreme source of all power in the country. However, there is a need for an experienced governor to organize people. Society chooses representatives whose activities they can influence, as well as specific mechanisms for monitoring government activities and adjusting their actions and decisions in-between elections. Therefore, democracy is a form of government where people participate in decision-making process and take responsibility before the society, either through freely elected representatives or directly. Thus, if representatives act in the interest of public, they participate in real democracy. Nevertheless, if they consider only interests of the leaders, they practice the power elite theory. Democracy and political decision-making system in modern states is not the same thing.

In fact, democratic system in the modern world can be either in the form of self-government - local direct democracy, when both subject and object of government are the same, or in the form of imperative mandate. Democracy expects the development of solutions to come from bottom to top, to begin with common people and end with governors and politicians. On the contrary, authoritarianism assumes independence of the ruling elite from the population and its autonomy in decision-making. Therefore, in democratic states, governors make decisions together with the citizens of the country. In accordance with the liberal ideology, democratic political system has to provide the majority with power while maintaining the rights of the minority. Society and people in general are not considered a monolithic formation that expresses a unified will, but it is a number of independent individuals who stand for their personal interests. A good governor recognizes the absolute priority of interests of individuals over the interests of state. 

Democracy includes a number of elements and principles, which protect human rights. In the book Models of Democracy, it is sated that “elements of democracy are necessary to protect the governed from the governors, and to protect the governed from each other” (Held, 2006, p. 43). Democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. A good governor introduces human rights to the legal framework, as it is the foundation of democratic states. In the constitutions of democratic countries, the first article protects human freedoms and rights. In the book The Politics of Human Rights, it is affirmed that “human rights are universal in the sense that all human being possess human rights by the mere fact of their human existence” (Carey, Gibney, & Poe, 2010, p. 11). In the countries with totalitarianism and authoritarianism, the freedoms and rights of people are usually neglected. Good governance recognizes that every person from birth is endowed with certain inalienable rights and freedoms, such as right to life and right to freedom. 

It should be noted that people are different. They differ in skin color, gender, religion, political views, and sexual orientation. However, despite all the dissimilarities, all people are equal. A concept of equality traditionally implies equal opportunities and rights for men and women. In particular, equality implies the possession of an equal influence and equal opportunities, a fair sharing of the responsibilities and burdens, and a sense of confidence that a person will not be exposed to violence. Thus, a good governor should protect citizens and their right to equality. In a democratic state, there is neither prejudice nor racism. A governor should eradicate these forms of disrespect towards people. Government in a democratic state should constantly indicate that human rights are identical for all people, regardless of their gender, race, religion, nationality, political views, and others.

Freedom of speech is a highly important aspect in a democratic state. It includes a human right to express freely thoughts, especially the ones regarding politics and religion. All people have a right to have an argument with other people and a right to express their opinions openly and without the fear of punishment. However, this right should not insult other people. Thus, good governance should respect the right of everyone to express their thoughts and ideas although it is true only if they do not insult others. In some democratic countries, there are a number of laws restricting freedom of speech. For example, it is forbidden to express discriminatory or racist opinions during an official debate - whether orally or in writing. Freedom of speech applies to every individual, allowing him/her express their thought on radio, television and newspapers.

Another important characteristic of all democratic states is freedom of organization. It usually means several different things. First, a person has a right to be a member of political parties and organizations, which protect his/her interests without the risk of repression or persecution. Besides, a person has a right to express his/her views by participating in legal demonstrations (Urbinati, 2008). Good government should secure these rights of the citizens. It is known that in many totalitarian states, people are not allowed to organize peaceful demonstrations and join political parties. Moreover, these rights are also neglected in the democratic states with poor governance. Therefore, such countries cannot be called truly democratic. In addition, a characteristic feature of all modern democracies is pluralism. It represents recognition of many different interrelated but independent social and political groups, parties, organizations, ideas, and installations in the political life that are constantly competing. Pluralism as a principle of political democracy is antithetical to monopoly in any form. Thus, a good governor should ensure a principle of pluralism in a democratic state, despite the fact that in this way he/she creates competition for himself/herself. 

Leaders and citizens should constantly incorporate democratic principles and forms of organization of political life. Otherwise, democracy can regenerate into ochlocracy. In ochlocracy, a principle of civil liberty is replaced by the arbitrary rule of the crowd (Ishiyama, 2012). It serves as a master of the situation dictating its will to policy-makers and public authorities. Therefore, to prevent the emergence of ochlocracy, a good governor is essential. He/she strengthens the democratic regime ad prevents attempts of usurpation of state power.

A term democracy means power of the people – the majority of citizens. Therefore, a democratic country is a country with the power of its citizens. Democracy is considered the most widespread form of government as practically all modern states are democratic. For democratic countries, a principle of freedom, equality, and active participation of citizens in the political life of the state is usually typical. It should be noted that democracy is possible only in the states with a high level of economic and social development. It is associated with the fact that a high level of country’s development cannot be formed without observance o democratic principles. In democratic states, people exercise their power through the elected representatives. Thus, the fate of the country depends on the chosen representatives. A good governor enforces different rights and freedoms that are typical for a modern democratic state. Besides, democratic government ensures the existence of pluralism in various spheres such as political, social, and economical. In such a way, it is possible to state that good governance and democracy are indissociable. 

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