May 15, 2019

Problems of Democracy

The problem with democracy is not about having too little of it, the problem is when we have too much of democracy (Flinders, 2014) Matthew Flinders has emphasized a very good point about how too much of democratic powers not just from the politicians but also through citizens has been thought to be detrimental to a nation’s prosperity. Several aspects of hyper democracy such as Flinders described as excessive sensitivity of politicians to social networks, 24-hour media coverage, and such gives the citizens too much of the wrong kind of freedom to do things and not through the deeper and more developmental types of democratic practices.

Being listed by Diamond (2003) as a Semi-liberal Democracy during the time of his writing is truly on point in my honest view. Just a couple of years after the second EDSA revolution, wherein the people ousted former President Joseph Estrada and promoted a new leader in the person of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, nationalism was still strong. Almost every Filipino felt like a winner when they collectively empowered each other to succeed against corruption through the case of President Estrada. Though during the 2004 elections, several issues such as the famous “Hello Garci” scandal was exposed which presented President Arroyo to be manipulating the votes in her favor which led her to another 6 years in the executive office. Though there may have been an election, what’s behind all the numbers were not transparent.

Reading further through Diamond’s enumeration, what trickled me was the fifth item which is Pseudodemoracies (electoral authoritarian regimes). Though I am not questioning the results of the 2016 elections with respect to the nation’s pulse at that time, being a democracy wherein the executive branch is in control to be supreme over the other branches and segments of the government and is not accountable horizontally through citizens nor vertically through other state actors (Diamond, 2003). We can clearly see reports of human rights violations being justified by unjustifiable reasons by the patrons and supporters. A government being fueled by the faces of post-truth politics, fake news proliferation, and ad hominem wars on social media fighting for their colors. At first, I was amazed by such display of political activity from the netizens, but judging from their social media responses and engagements, it’s very miserable to read their conceptions of events. Having too much freedom to express their thoughts without really organizing their thoughts through facts doesn’t make them any better in engaging. It’s like people waging wars without any weapons even body parts, just a sea of roars and yells.

The democratization of nations on the past decades was at very fast rates. As much as we can see progress in shifting the governments from authoritarian regimes such as those of Latin America and totalitarian regimes through the fall of the Soviet Union, we can also see examples of nations failing even through embarking on the journey of the free, democracy. Though the power did shift to the people, the quality of life of the citizens were also a big factor to the nation’s progress. As Fukuyama (2015) presented through his paper, it is important that the quality of living of the citizens before a nation shifts to a democracy becomes the key determining factor to the long-term success of its transition. Established democracies have shown better living conditions and quality of thinking of its citizens long before the transition was made. Before the power shifted to the people, they should have been empowered and educated. He is not a supporter of authoritarianism, though a much bigger control is needed, and a necessity of enforcement should be prevailing especially during the early years of democracy. Because going back to Flinders’ talk, having too much democracy will only lead to chaos. What more to a budding democracy which we can personify into a newborn who still is incapable of doing things on its own. Enforcement of the law can be made truly positive if that power will be backed up by the citizens faith that it is all being done for the betterment of all and not just for the interest of a few. Law enforcement which is transparent but does not violate human rights and the constitution.

There are a lot more problems to democracy which is not limited to corruption, clientelism, and vote buying. But the first step to solving these problems is to accept that these situations are prevailing and think of ways, collectively, on how not just law enforcement can control this but every citizen can do their part as well. Educate the people, and as much as the government can, provide empowerment because in the end, the quality of democracy can only be measured by one factor, the quality of its citizens.

References:

Diamond, L. (2003). Moving Up Out of Poverty: What Does Democracy have to Do With It?

Flinders, M. (2014). The Problem with Democracy. Retrieved from TEDxTalks: http://bit.ly/2BCeCQz

Fukuyama, F. (2015). Why is Democracy Performing so Poorly? Retrieved from Journal of Democracy, Vol 26, Number 1: http://stanford.io/1SVQpSN