Term Paper: Democracy the United States' Support

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The United States' support for the promotion of democracy not only in the U.S. But in other countries as well is not new. Some of those who have strongly voiced the need for the enhancement of freedom and democracy include the former president of the United States, George Bush. However, it is important to note that democracy and freedom assume several forms. In this text, I will discuss the kind of freedom and democracy that should be embraced by counties that have never had these experiences. Further, I will give my opinion on whether the democracy I highlight in this case is sustainable.

Freedom and Democracy: Recommendations and Suggestions

It can be noted from the onset that democracy does not have a universal definition. However, in its application, the term 'democracy' has freedom and equality as two of its main components. Though democracy does not have an assigned meaning as I have already stated above, several definitions of the same have been floated over time in an attempt to capture the nature of the same. According to Woolf and Rawcliffe, "democracy is a system in which people decide matters together or collectively" (4). In its purest form, democracy can hence be said to be a situation whereby we have people participating equally in matters that have an impact on their lives. According to the Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report 2010, when it comes to the enhancement of counter terrorism efforts, international stability as well as the minimization of regional conflicts, the need to promote basic freedoms including religion, association, assembly and expression cannot be overstated (n.p). In that regard, it is clear that both freedom and democracy are critical ingredients when it comes to the stability of nations, regions and the whole world in general.

Regardless of the relevance of democracy and freedom, some countries have not had the opportunity of enjoying the benefits accruing from the same. In the past, some of these countries have in addition to doing without electoral processes that can be said to be free and fair also experienced instances of blatant human rights abuses perpetrated by undemocratic regimes determined to stifle popular opinion. The citizens of such countries have therefore in the past been denied the right to not only elect but also oversee power. In my opinion, the freedom and democracy adopted by such countries should take into consideration their unique circumstances.

According to Bond and Smith, democracy can assume two basic forms i.e. "direct democracy and representative democracy" (10). It is important to note that my choice of the kind of democracy countries that have never experienced the same should have is founded on both the need for sustainability and the specific circumstances of such countries. In my opinion, countries that have never enjoyed democracy and freedom should embrace the representative form of democracy which according to Bond and Smith can be "defined as a system of government where ordinary citizens do not make governmental decisions themselves but choose public officials -- representatives of the people- to make decisions for them" (13). On the other hand, when it comes to direct democracy, the primary decision makers are citizens. It is important to note from the onset that in most cases, direct democracy is considered both impractical and unsustainable. For instance, in the opinion of Woolf and Rawcliffe, "direct democracy is not practical in today's world" (5).

For a country that has never enjoyed democracy, a representative form of democracy would be most feasible as according to Bond and Smith, "representative democracies embody the three basic principles of democracy" (13). These principles are identified by the authors as interest groups, political parties and elections. Largely, these are the core democratic principles that must be safeguarded in countries that have never embraced democracy and freedom.

When it comes to elections, democracies considered representative ensure that the political system respects democratic processes by way of holding free and fair elections. In this case, elections are used as a medium for the selection of representatives. As Bond and Smith note, "representative democracies deliberately create insecurity of tenure for major officeholders" (15). It is this insecurity of tenure that forces elected representatives to respond to the needs of the majority. Otherwise, failure to respect the wishes of the voters leads to the replacement of the elected representatives during the next elections. Hence those who wish to continue exercising power must perform by fulfilling their electoral promises amongst other things. This in my opinion is an effective check as well as remedy against tyranny and dictatorship which in a way are commonplace in countries that have never enjoyed either democracy or freedom. Hence should leaders turn tyrannical in a representative democracy, citizens have an option of replacing them.

Regarding political parties as yet another key primary democratic principle, it can be noted that citizens in a democracy must be empowered to make meaningful choices so as to further enhance accountability in elections. According to Bond and Smith, that "organization that puts forward candidates for public office" is known as a political party (15-16). When there exists more than one political party putting forward candidates, an element of choice can be said to be present. Political parties in countries that have never enjoyed democracy enable voters to have preferences. Voters exercise their democratic right to vote by selecting that part they feel best represents their interests. It is important to note that in this case, the existence of several political parties out of power acts as a check on the excesses of those in power. Lastly, as Bond and Smith note, interest groups promote the communication of interests regarded common to the government. In my opinion, and as I have already stated elsewhere in this text, the basic characteristics of a representative democracy essentially reconcile with the main democratic principles I identify in the text.

Further, when it comes to sustainability, a representative democracy comes across as being more sustainable than a direct democracy. For instance, as Bond and Smith note, direct democracies possess inherent challenges which may in a way occasion both low quality policy decisions and instability (11). The authors also note that in a direct democracy, citizens need to have a well-founded grasp of both politics and government. This would be a tall order for citizens in a country that has never been a democracy. Given that most citizens in such countries grew up in a political environment characterized by oppression and violation of basic freedoms, they may not be fully informed on issues of governance. Such citizens may not be actively be involved in public issues and as a result, they may not fully appreciate the actual weight or relevance of their decisions. This could in turn provide fertile ground for manipulation.

Regarding freedoms, it can be noted that they remain some of the key features of democratic systems. Countries that have never embraced democracy need to entrench several freedoms into their political systems. Some of the important freedoms that can have a role in safeguarding democracy and hence averting a slide back to tyranny include but are not limited to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of movement. According to Piano, "an honest analysis of the state of freedom suggests that democracy is not in disarray…" (13). The author however notes that in some parts of the world, some reversible declines in democracy have been observed. This is more so the case in those states considered authoritarian. In basic terms, freedom of expression entails the freedom to voice one's opinion in a variety of ways without any fear of being reprimanded. This freedom includes but is not in any way limited to the use of a wide range of mediums to impart, receive as well as seek ideas or information. However, as with every right, freedom of expression carries with itself several duties. It is important to note that the relevance of this freedom in a truly democratic society cannot be overstated. Apart from providing an avenue for the citizenry to air their views, opinions, grievances as well as preferences, this freedom also facilitates the participation of members of the public in the making of key decisions. Thus in a country that has never enjoyed such an experience, the same could come in handy. In such a case, such a freedom would allow individuals to exercise their democratic right to not only vote but also take part in key decision making initiatives which could in one way or the other impact on their lives. This would also go a long way to further entrench accountability and participation which are critical ingredients for a society governed by the rule of law. It can be noted that in most instances, the violation of one freedom is often accompanied by the violation of another. Hence safeguarding freedom of expression would also help safeguard the other basic freedoms. However, as the Human Rights Education Associates note, significant progress has in the past been made in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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