Democracy, Freedom and Self-governance
For a long time, people have used the concept of democracy to claim that they are self-governed. In many cases, countries that hold regular elections claim to be democratic. According to Przeworski, democracy is a system that allows people to use competitive elections to select their elite leaders (23). With different definitions of democracy, countries use the idea of regular elections to define democracy. However, what is clear is that democracy defines the relationship between the people and their government. Based on the concepts of minimalist and deliberative democracies, it is evident that democracy empowers people to be part of their government. The paper argues that the value of democracy lies in its ability to help people to govern themselves and exercise their freedoms. For democracy to have value, it should give people the freedom to choose their leaders, force government to serve interests of society and allow people to participate in governance.
A valuable democracy enhances freedom and self-governance by enhancing people’s freedom to choose their leaders. According to Przeworski, governments represent the people in a democracy thus necessitating the participation of people in electing them (27). The freedom to choose a country’s leadership ensures that individuals are free to make their decisions without coercion. In this case, individuals act collectively but express their personal decisions. Since people that come into power after an election are a product of the expression of people’s views through the ballot, then the voters can say that democracy helps them to achieve self-governance. Herbamas agrees with this perspective arguing that freedom to participate in elections serves as the gateway through which people assert their interests in self-governance (2). Thus, participating in elections gives democracy the value it requires to help people exercise their freedom and self-governance.
Additionally, democracy enables people to demand services from governments thus enhancing freedom. According to Herbamas, democracy requires the government to program itself based on the interests of society (1). In this case, democratic governments operate in line with public interests. Charron and Victor agree with this assertion and argue that democratic governments improve the quality of governance to serve the interests of the public (445). Such governments embrace regulations and decentralization of power to ensure the will of the people is at the center of the decisions and policies of the political institutions. Democratic governments are accountable to the people since they represent public interests (Jelmin 5). The need to serve public interests influences democratic governments to involve the people and civil societies in the formulation of policy thus enhancing self-governance.
Also, democratic governments allow people to express their view and enjoy different liberties. For instance, as Herbamas points out, in deliberative democracy, individuals enjoy the freedom of speech and political participation (2). In this case, people act as autonomous authors of a free and equal society. With the freedom to challenge the government to serve the public interest, democratic societies can institutionalize liberty and achieve self-governance. According to Przeworski, democracy allows people to change governments without violence (45). Allowing people to change the government demonstrates the freedom that people extract from democracy. Also, democracy attains its true value when it allows the people to check the excesses of the government through the elected officials. Herbamas asserts that there is a need for the constitution to tame the state apparatus to enhance the separation of power (7). Taming state power prevents the government from taking away the rights and interests of the people that enhance self-governance in a democracy. Thus, without compelling the government to serve public interests, democracy cannot have a value to the people.
Moreover, democracy has a value when it enhances political discourses that help people to be part of the government. In this case, the political discourse between individuals and the government ensures that the government is accountable to the people (Jelmin 9). However, unlike through elections where the people can force their will through the ballot, in deliberative democracy, the people deliberate with the government through political parties, civil societies and government agencies (Herbamas 7). Przeworski asserts that in the absence of political competition, political parties can reach a consensus that allows people to be part of government without electing new officials (47). In such cases, democracy empowers individuals to govern themselves and enjoy the freedom of correcting the government.
There are, however, assertions that democracy cannot lead to self-governance and freedom when it is based on elections. For instance, Przeworski asserts that governments that come into force through elections represent majority interest but not collective interests (26). The author further asserts that elections entail the imposition of a will over a will since the government may not represent individuals that lose elections. These assertions demonstrate that democracy only gives freedom and self-governance to the people whose party wins an election. However, these arguments are insufficient since they do not consider the fact that in a democracy, elections allow people to express themselves. Also, they fail to consider that the parties that lose elections can use consensus or claim service for their people from the government without victimization. Thus, since ensures that people can express themselves to the government through political parties and civil societies, then it enhances freedom and self-governance.
In conclusion, the value of democracy rests on its ability to enhance freedom and self-governance. Although minimalist and deliberative democracies differ on the approaches that people should use to govern themselves and enjoy liberties, they agree that democracy succeeds when people are actively involved in the activities of governance. Democracy achieves its goals by enabling people to choose their leaders. Since democracy allows people to participate in governance, it helps them to push the government to serve their interests. Although there claims that elections alone may not enhance self-governance, they provide the platform that people use to establish a relationship with the government. Thus, democracy empowers people to be active in activities of governance and helps them to push for their interests.
Charron, Nicholas, and Victor Lapuente. "Does democracy produce quality of government?" European journal of political research 49.4 (2010): 443-470.
Habermas, Jürgen. "Three normative models of democracy." Constellations 1.1 (1994): 1-10.
Jelmin, Kristina. "Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery." (2012).
Przeworski, Adam. "Minimalist conception of democracy: a defense." Democracy’s value (1999): 23-55.