Final Chapter 7 - Outcomes of Democracy Outcomes of...

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Outcomes of Democracy 89 Chapter 7 Outcomes of Democracy Overview As we begin to wind up our tour of democracy, it is time to move beyond our discussion of specific themes and ask a general set of questions: What does democracy do? Or, what outcomes can we reasonably expect of democracy? Also, does democracy fulfil these expectations in real life? We begin by thinking about how to assess the outcomes of democracy. After some clarity on how to think on this subject, we proceed to look at the expected and actual outcomes of democracy in various respects: quality of government, economic well-being, inequality, social differences and conflict and finally freedom and dignity. Our final verdict – positive but qualified – leads us to think about the challenges to democracy in the next and final chapter.
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90 Democratic Politics How do we assess democracy’s outcomes? Do you remember how students in Madam Lyngdoh’s class argued about democracy? This was in Chapter 2 of Class IX textbook. It emerged from that conversation that democracy is a better form of government when compared with dictatorship or any other alternative. We felt that democracy was better because it: z Promotes equality among citizens; z Enhances the dignity of the individual; z Improves the quality of decision- making; z Provides a method to resolve conflicts; and z Allows room to correct mistakes. Are these expectations realised under democracies? When we talk to people around us, most of them support democracy against other alternatives, such as rule by a monarch or military or religious leaders. But not so many of them would be satisfied with the democracy in practice. So we face a dilemma: democracy is seen to be good in principle, but felt to be not so good in its practice. This dilemma invites us to think hard about the outcomes of democracy. Do we prefer democracy only for moral reasons? Or are there some prudential reasons to support democracy too? Over a hundred countries of the world today claim and practice some kind of democratic politics: they have formal constitutions, they hold elections, they have parties and they guarantee rights of citizens. While these features are common to most of them, these democracies are very much different from each other in terms of their social situations, their economic achievements and their cultures. Clearly, what may be achieved or not achieved under each of these democracies will be very different. But is there something that we can expect from every democracy, just because it is democracy? Our interest in and fascination for democracy often pushes us into taking a position that democracy can address all socio-economic and political problems. If some of our expectations are not met,
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This note was uploaded on 01/19/2012 for the course SOCIAL 3so taught by Professor Stevejoyce during the Fall '09 term at Central European University.

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Final Chapter 7 - Outcomes of Democracy Outcomes of...

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