Is Democracy Overrated?

By Graham Glover


I think it just might be…

Ask yourself, what’s so great about democracy?

Freedom? One can certainly be free without a democratically elected government. To suggest there is no liberty without democracy is simply ignorant. To that end, what is it about democracy that makes us “free”? Can’t a benevolent monarch or dictator protect the freedom of a people and nation? Maybe even better than a democratic leader?


Representation? Yeah right. Tell me how well the United States Congress is doing in representing your interests. This is not a blanket condemnation of all who serve in elected office, but we fool ourselves if we think politicians are not concerned primarily with protecting and advancing their own interests.

Participation in the process? Uh, not so much. Especially here in America. We Americans say that we cherish democracy, but seldom turn out more than 60% of our electorate to vote (and that is for national elections). Local election turnout is oftentimes in the single digits. So much for cherishing our right to vote.

Speaking of our electorate, why is it that everyone over the age of 18 should be able to vote? You can’t possibly believe all of our voters are rational or that they make truly informed choices. But to suggest any sort of stipulations (other than being a citizen) on voting is to be called an elitist and an enemy of democracy. Have we not come to regard the decisions of the masses as our political god? I’m not convinced the masses know or do what is in their best interests or the best interests of their community/nation. Show me, please, where the electorate makes wise and prudent decisions…


Consensus? I’m no statistician, but I’m not sure our nation has ever been as politically divided as it is now. President Obama’s dream of a “purple state”, where allegiances to Republican Red or Democratic Blue are no more, seems like a pipe dream. And we Americans seem to be ok with this, as we regularly elect presidents and congresses, governors and legislatures, from opposing parties. Our votes seem to encourage political gridlock even while our polling seems to decry it. Go figure.

Pragmatic? See above. We are a deeply politically divided nation, which means there is little give and take when it comes to policymaking. Our elected officials care little about doing the right thing, about making pragmatic compromises on policy (not on belief), because they are more concerned with being reelected (all hail democracy!) than doing what needs to be done.

It’s what the U.S. champions? Unless of course the people of Venezuela, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Crimea, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, the “stans” (former Soviet States), etc., etc. elect people the U.S. Government doesn’t “like”. Again, we champion democracy as Americans, but when other countries choose leaders we don’t like, democracy all of the sudden becomes less appealing to us. Oh the irony…

Do you understand why I think democracy might just be a little overrated?

The conundrum I face is whether it should be reformed or replaced?

I can’t imagine many Americans calling for a return to a monarchy (even though we seem to be comfortable with another Clinton or Bush in the White House). Nor do I envision a dictator sweeping to power in a nation that has protected the “right” of private citizens to own over 300 million firearms.

But can democracy be reformed and to that end, what should be reformed? Congress struggles to pass a budget each year, and spends more time politicking than governing, so I have no hope that our democratically elected officials have any inkling or ability to reform the system of which they are a part and in to which they seek to remain.

So, I ask you, readers of The Jagged Word…what should we do with our democracy?