Democracy — A Collective Value of Crowds, and Not Just Collective Wisdom.
Democracy is a puzzle that philosophers and political scientists have been trying to solve for eternity, and a layperson is trying to understand it ever since. Many concoctions of democratic systems have been tried. Some have failed, others survived. Research is not conclusive enough to suggest causative relationships between factors like economic growth, development, and level of democracy or, for that matter, to indicate the effectiveness of democratic systems in general to whether they provide the best decision making for all. Nonetheless, it is worth pursuing on account of having been proven that “democracies can make collectively wiser decisions as compared to non-democracies on average — they are certainly not immune from making decision errors in particular cases.” 
The core discussion of this write-up is to suggest that while institutional elements like statutes, judiciary, well-informed public, the distribution mechanism of information across the population, and so on affect the quality of democracy, especially when dealing with a crisis, there also continue to prevail other factors that keep the spirit and hope of democracy alive. What are they — that make democracy so indispensable, despite the problems it is exposed to? I suppose they are a set of values and reasoned principles and not just the institutional arrangements that make the world feel the need to call themselves democratic. However, many a time, it’s only a superficial attempt.
We all like to “live in a system of government that we call democratic.”, says Bernard Crick in his book Democracy. While there is no doubt that institutional democracy is a necessary condition for good government, but there is no way that it is a sufficient condition for the same. A good government is an amalgamation of many factors, including democratic values and principles.
Non-partisanship is one such value that we need to imbibe in politicians and equally in citizens. Since to remain united, a country doesn’t need a candidate who will appeal only to a section of society or a specific group. There are higher chances of biased representatives appealing to the masses when they themselves are loaded with distorted sentiments of hatred and resentment against a section of the society. To stem such afflictions out from the community permanently is beyond the work of the constitution. It will take each one of us to raise our voice against it and not let it pass until it affects us.
Undervaluing minorities is cruel, and democracy is only a tool to set it right. But whether or not that tool gets utilized to its optimum level depends upon the values that dominate a particular society. The internal diversity of a nation can either become a bane or a boon depending upon the group values as they have the potency to change the outcome of democracy.
Democracy is restricted by these fragmentations in the community — from structural racism, partisanship, economic inequality to institutional fuzziness. Our democracy has become unrepresentative. We need to both cultivate the right values and also get them represented. This erosion of values has put our democracy under tremendous stress.
“Our system allows moneyed interest to gain disproportionate influence.”, says Ganesh Sitaraman in the concluding chapter of Democracy Unchained.
The social values form the fundamentals of any democracy, without which it’s difficult to make progress in uniting the nation with a common goal. These are moral values that can be acquired. Sometimes two values are at variance. Equality and freedom are an example of such a conflict. America has always placed freedom above all the other treasured values, so much so that it has lessened to self-centered individualism. Freedom is a value to be longed for as long as it is not selfish, unthoughtful, and stupid. It is a worthy goal provided it does not undermine the significance of other moral codes and lead to disrespect for dissimilar human rights.
Furthermore, we also have to make people realize the significance of participation in a democracy and what it means to contribute to it positively. Before condemning the system by which we are governed, it is essential to scrutinize whether we have done our part well. Have we been performing our civic duties? A lack of the same can also have corrosive effects on democracy, leading to the blurring of ethical vision, leaving behind only the formal procedures. Weaknesses in democratic values can make democracy vulnerable to assault by authoritarians — something the world witnessed in different parts of the world in the last decade.
To attain honesty, justice, and equality, we need to learn to act in harmony. There is so much congestion in our social and political lives due to dead-end stances we choose to take on issues as scientific as climate change, air, and water. These are things that can be resolved purely from a technical standpoint. We need strong stances and institutional structure to make values such as political, social, and economic equalities real. But above all, what needs to be set right, as mentioned above, is the underlying structure that forms the foundation of institutional foundations, i.e., our morals, conscience, and norms. Conscience and morality are essential to a blooming society and healthy politics. They are social structures that make the task of constitution easy. Together, they can manage and channel all conflicts — from political disagreements to protection against discrimination based on race, color, nationalities, or gender divisions. Democracy has a higher chance to sustain with low but better-distributed wealth with values of tolerance and inclusiveness firmly rooted.
Crick, B. (2008). Democracy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
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The Ethos of Democracy
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