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The Value of Democratic Principles

The Value of Democratic Principles

It’s often easy to forget why democratic principles are so important. In recent decades, many people no longer ask why democracy should be favored over alternate forms of governance, such as dictatorships or party systems that afford one candidate an inordinate amount of power. It is taken for granted. The concept of democracy is so deeply rooted into the American history in its antithetical position of birth to the monarchical and royal British system of rule in the late 18th century that most Western citizens are used to accepting the notion that democracies are superior systems of governance without questioning it.

The Current Relevance of Government Systems on a Global Stage

With the recent political turmoil across the globe, a critical evaluation of the nature of democracies in contrast to other systems of governance becomes significant. It is often the case that regimes that are clearly not democratic claim that they are democratic. The motivation behind such a huge contradiction in how certain non-democratic states are formally known lies in the idea that democracy has become synonymous with legitimacy of rule as a result of the global influence of the U.S.

Consider one of the biggest global shifts in politics this week: the possible peace, denuclearization, and reunification of North Korea with South Korea. An article in the NYTimes reports and summarizes the progress of the talks: “At a historic summit meeting, the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South, the leaders vowed to negotiate a treaty to replace a truce that has kept an uneasy peace on the divided Korean Peninsula for more than six decades.”

One of the foremost questions that should arise should the peace and reunification be successful will be the status and nature of Kim Jong Un’s power afterwards. Note that North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Of course, a long history of human rights abuses coupled with continuous and belligerent efforts to develop nuclear weapons along with a very salient dictator makes the title ironic.

If North Korea seriously intends to undergo a reunification effort, it implies that there will be some serious reorganization of government structures as the Koreas reconcile their difference. There are already preliminary signs of this activity, as with the decision by North Korea to adjust its timezone to match South Korea’s. Of course, the nature of the North Korean sense of democracy will clash with the global perspective of the term should the peace and integration of the split countries come to fruition.

An Inefficient and Corrupt Democracy is Superior to a Benevolent Dictatorship

An argument often made with regard to the benefits of a dictatorship manifests in the idea that under a wise dictator with a far-reaching vision, an autocratic state can make quicker and more efficient adjustments in comparison to its democratic counterparts. However, I argue that as long as a nation and its people have the means to exercise their rights within the context of a democratic system – that is, as long as the basic foundation of a nation’s democratic principles are not compromised – an inefficient and corrupt democracy is still superior to the most efficient dictatorship.

Even if the people in this hypothetical democratic regime suffer under the indiscretions of their elected leaders while the people of a hypothetical dictatorship prosper as a result of the reform efforts and governance centered around one individual, the democratic regime is superior in the long run. This is because a competent leader that continuously is able to prioritize and choose decisions for the citizens of his country and spurn self-interest is an exceptional case of leadership surrounding a dictatorship.

Further, as far as the long-term implications of each regime, a democracy is always superior because of the in-built political mechanisms that allow for corrections to representatives who are elected by the general population. This is to say that a corrupt democracy can be amended or fixed, while the only solution to “fix” a dictatorship usually involves a violent coup or revolution launched by the populace.

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