Pros and Cons of Democracy

Pros and cons of democracy: Winston Churchill is generally considered to be one of the greatest democratic wartime leaders of the 20th Century.  Churchill was well aware of the shortcomings of democracy, but believed it to be the best system.
Pros and cons of democracy: Winston Churchill is generally considered to be one of the greatest democratic wartime leaders of the 20th Century. Churchill was well aware of the shortcomings of democracy, but believed it to be the best system. | Source

Winston Churchill once stated that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other systems that have been tried (or words to that effect).

For many in the Western World, it can often be taken for granted that a democratic system is superior to all others, but as Churchill implies, it can still have many flaws as a system.

The word: "Democracy" originates from an ancient Greek word that meant "rule of the people" and originally referred to the political system that existed in places like Athens in the 5th century BCE. Not all the population in ancient Greece were allowed to vote, however, slaves and women were excluded.

Modern democracy has its roots in 17th Century England and America, although there were still large segments of society who were not allowed to vote at that time. It wasn't be until the 19th and 20th centuries that suffrage (the right to vote) began to expand to include virtually everyone.

In this article I look at the pros and cons of democracy, listing the relative advantages and disadvantages of such a system.

Pros of Democracy

  • Democracy is fairer because it lets the people living in a country decide who is going to rule them. Other systems, such as absolute monarchs, military dictatorships, theocracies, etc. rely on a small clique or cabal of people, or an individual, or arbitrary methods such as hereditary birth for deciding who will rule, bypassing the wishes of the majority of the population.

Did You Know?

  • Out of the 193 countries that belong the United Nations, 167 are democracies, which translates as 87%!
  • One third of people in the world still live in an autocratic system, however, that's the world's most populous country, China, is not a democracy.
  • Other autocratic countries include: North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Qatar.

  • Voting is an excellent way to establish legitimacy for a leader, or government in the modern world. This is because he or she can argue the right to being leader, on the grounds of being chosen by the people via an election. This promotes political stability.
  • Democracy is an effective way to ensure a smooth transition, when governments and leaders change. Where there is an absolute monarch, or dictator, arguments can often develop as to who is the rightful successor, leading to political strife and even civil war in some cases.
  • Democratic systems are good at ensuring openness and keeping a check on corruption. This is because rival political groups are constantly attempting to expose government mistakes and crimes. This level of accountability does not exist in most one-party/autocratic systems, where criticism of the government is often made very difficult.

Advantages and disadvantages of democracy: Barak Obama - the current democratically elected president of the USA.
Advantages and disadvantages of democracy: Barak Obama - the current democratically elected president of the USA. | Source
  • The democratic system can act as a safety valve for the discontented. Citizens know that they have a vote and that the leader/government may well change at the next election, so they are less likely to resort to rioting, general strikes, or violent rebellion.
  • Democratic governments are less likely to go to war. This is because they generally need the will of the people behind them, whereas an autocrat can often take his/her country to war on a whim.
  • Democracy encourages a sense of belonging for its citizens. They can participate fully in the political processes and feel a sense of ownership.

Quotes About Democracy

"In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme." Aristotle

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Winston Churchill

"Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Cons of Democracy

  • There is a tendency towards short-termism. This is because leaders/governments are generally elected to serve over a specific length of time (typically around 4 or 5 years) and concerns over getting re-elected often mean that they often don’t look beyond the next election. Some social, environmental and economic problems require much more long term solutions, however.

Did You Know?

  • The world's oldest recognized democracy is the United States of America , which adopted the system of elected politicians after its birth in 1787.
  • Libya is the world's youngest democracy, becoming one after the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in 2012.

  • The tyranny of the majority is a constant threat to minority groups, as a leader or government may only serve the interests of the largest social groups and ignore, or even repress the rights of others.
  • Some countries argue that their cultural history simply does not lend itself to democratic systems of government and that other forms of government work better. The Western concept has its roots in Ancient Greek and Roman European culture, and may not be suited to Eastern and African countries.
  • Democracy can result in unwieldy coalitions, or endless squabbling and political deadlock. Other political systems can find it easier to proceed in a unified direction. It’s argued by some that ancient Rome achieved more under the autocratic Caesars than it did under democratic rule.
  • A fully functioning democracy relies upon an educated and informed public. The political process can be manipulated and distorted by corporations, wealthy individuals, a biased or poor quality media, and special interest groups.

Downing Street has been the official home of the British Prime Minister for over 300 years.  By tradition, the Prime Minister lives at number 10 and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) lives next door at number 11.
Downing Street has been the official home of the British Prime Minister for over 300 years. By tradition, the Prime Minister lives at number 10 and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) lives next door at number 11. | Source
  • Democracy panders too much to the needs of the individual and encourages people to vote selfishly, thinking purely in their own interests, rather than for what is best for the country as a whole.
  • A conflict of interest can sometimes occur, where a politician, or government has to decide between acting in the best interests of the country, and increasing their chances of re-election. Often they will choose the latter.
  • Elections take up a lot of time and vast amounts of money can be spent on them. It could be argued that all the millions spent on political adverts might be better spent on other, more beneficial things.
  • The democratic process encourages politicians to make promises that they know they can’t keep, in order to be elected. This creates public cynicism and disillusionment in the long run.

More Quotes About Democracy

"The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting." Charles Bukowski

"To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain." Louis L'Amour

"Democracy is the road to socialism." Karl Marx

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Comments 28 comments

HSchneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Excellent Hub, BigBrains2. You summarized the pros and cons of democracy very well. Churchill had it right. Democracy is very messy but it is the best system we have.

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Churchill's a hero of mine and I think he got it right about democracy.

Great Hub

pramodgokhale profile image

pramodgokhale 2 years ago from Pune( India)


I am an Indian, Photo of Churchill displayed hurt me . we Indians dislike Churchill. He was the villain in our freedom struggle.

Many isms and systems had been tested , some succeed and some failed.

Democracy is a soft system but allows to vent individual feelings or expressions. this system allows us to change government and make a way to install new government if old government under perform.

i enjoy democracy and freedom of expression .

India was not a nation state but a fractured state with 500 hundred princely states , under British regime it became on state and made it powerful under single roof.

Indian democracy with flaws is the only sustained democracy in third world. Do not compare with Japan and Korea. India is a plural country with many faiths, languages, tribes and still struggling with literacy and poverty eradication.

So something is better than nothing.

mySuccess8 profile image

mySuccess8 2 years ago

Very well explained pros and cons of pure democracy. In real democracy, even some of the pros can lead to cons when candidates resort to immediate populism instead of long-term improvements for the country and population as a whole, which this Hub has also discussed. Great Hub and congrats on HotD!

peter565 2 years ago

What you say is very true. If you look at history, democracy state usually have better chance to survive against corruption and ruler misusing their power. But the problem is that, if this country's people have problem, then the leader frequently still need to bow to public pressure, more then dictatorship. For example the US needed to went through multiple president till slavery can be abolished, despite none support the slavery in the Southern state. But it also play a major role in keeping a nation prosper. One of the reason Europe could become the most powerful region in the 19th century was democracy, it ensure only capable people get to run the country and during the 19th century, when Ottoman Empire and China, the originally two most powerful nation had incompetent Kings, it was Europe's turn to take the lead.

bibliopola profile image

bibliopola 2 years ago from Istanbul

Great Hub. In these days I wonder whether the cons of Democracy is more than the pros. :(

Rhonda Lytle profile image

Rhonda Lytle 2 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

While I can't say I agree with every point, you make some great ones. Congrats on a most well deserved award for this article! It's really well laid out, concise and fair to both sides. Kudos!

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 2 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I'm glad to see a piece like this get Hub of the Day. Congratulations, BigBrains2. A real "thinking" article. Over the years, I've come to think that democracy isn't about the will of the people to decide who governs them so much as forcing politicians to go to the well of the people every now and then for legitimacy. You don't have to fool all of the people all of the time-- just 51% of those showing up at the polls every few years.

old albion profile image

old albion 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

First class research and quality. Obama has aged so much since your photograph. Presentation is tip top as are the images and videos. Well done.

voted up and all.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Congratulations on HOTD. For all its ills and shortcomings, I'll still take democracy hands down. Voice and choice is better than none.

Vaibhav Mittal profile image

Vaibhav Mittal 2 years ago from Gurgaon, Haryana

Amazing article! I am yet to make my first hub and this one is deeply inspiring. :)

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Congratulations on HOTD! This is very deserving of the accolade. This is quite interesting and thought provoking. Democracy is still the best type of government overall, but I have to agree with your cons too. No government style is perfect and there is no utopia but so far it meets our needs here in the U.S. Yes, it is quite the great and successful eclxperiment.

vineliner57 profile image

vineliner57 2 years ago from Bloomington, IN

My comments may seem a bit harsh, but it's my opinion that Democracy is the biggest obstacle to individual freedom ever invented. It has been described as "Two wolves and a sheep voting on what is for dinner".

All that those in charge have to do is convince a small majority that their message is the right message (using whatever means are necessary), and individual rights go out the window.

The U.S. is actually supposed to be a Constitutional Republic, where the rights of the individual take precedence. Sadly, corporate interests have taken over our country.

Sue B. profile image

Sue B. 2 years ago

Congratulations for getting Hub of the Day! This was an interesting hub and I think you outlined the pros and cons of democracy well. I would agree that it does not seem to be the ideal approach to governing but then- what is?

I am surprised you had so many grammatical errors on your hub. I would recommend not approving my comment and re-reviewing the hub and correcting them. Please let me know if you need help finding them.

Despite grammar, your ideas did come across and I thought your hub was interesting.

SAQIB6608 profile image

SAQIB6608 2 years ago from HYDERABAD PAKISTAN

North Korea is autocratic? I doubt

Overall Well written Hub

Kept on going ahead

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award. Democracy is always an interesting study. From early Greeks to Roosevelt, the cons standout. That education is still promoted as the safeguard is chilling to consider because we apparently have not learned from history, but the fact remains, that is what people have embraced. Have you read The Great Republic from Sir Winston Churchill?

cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

cmoneyspinner1tf 2 years ago from Austin, Texas

Vaguely remember Churchill saying something or other about democracy. The ideal of democracy is a wonderful thing. Even if you can not (or rather it might not be so easy) to practically apply all of the principles, making a genuine earnest attempt to realize the ideal – i.e. “the dream” - is far better than any other systems of government that take away an individual's liberty to govern themselves. I have lived in America all of my life and think to myself – 'If our democracy is so bad, why do we even have a problem with illegal immigrants? If the USA sucks, there are other parts of the world to immigrate to.' So I know this HUB isn't about bashing America or democracy, as a whole; but just wanted to throw in my two cents anyway. Oh! My other two cents to “those in charge” is: QUICK DICKING AROUND WITH THE VOTING PROCESS!! My peeps in Texas know what I'm talkin' about. :) Congrats on being chosen as HUB of the Day.

Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 2 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

Winston Churchill had a bad habit of saying exactly what he felt even if it offended others. In this he was right democracy is the worst form of government apart from everything else we have ever tried. I believe that he said that at the time he lost the post war election. He was envisioning the change to a salaried parliament and the effect this would give in enabling businesses to have undue influence on parliament.

Time has proven he was correct to have reservations. A nicely presented and interesting Hub well deserved the Hub of the day awarded!

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

The 'democracy by the ancient Greeks wasn't a 'one man one vote' system as only the aristocracy had the vote, and it was only a few of them!

The Romans a system that while it wasn't democratic as we know it there were some merits to it that gave society strength and allowed the leaders (in the earlier days of the republic) to make decisions for the benefit of their society as a whole. It was when they went away from this to almost a system of a monarchy that things began to unravel.

Thief12 profile image

Thief12 2 years ago from Puerto Rico

Really good article. Congrats on the HOTD as well!

Robert Sacchi profile image

Robert Sacchi 2 years ago

A tyrany of the minority is also possible in democracies. This can happen two parties, or coalitions, are almost evenly divided. A party with a single agenda can play the role of kingmaker. The result a bunch of laws passed to buy this single agenda party. Yes, this also happens in non-democratic systems.

NScarpediem profile image

NScarpediem 2 years ago from Philippines

There's no such thing as a perfect system. But for me, democracy is still the best.

techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

Great blog-- I particularly appreciate the pros and cons style and am ruminating on your list of "cons"... hadn't realized there were so many! Congratulations on the HOTD! Voted up and pinned!

Drwahid Pirzada profile image

Drwahid Pirzada 2 years ago from Ahmedabad, India

Congrats on hub of the day selection.

sharonchristy profile image

sharonchristy 2 years ago from India

Loved your hub BigBrains2. It was very lucid and understandable. Very informative too!

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

Wonderfully written and laid out.

Your overview of the positives and negatives of democracy show why democracy works when it works and doesn't work when it doesn't work.

If we don't have problems with short term thinking and pandering exclusively to the influential, democracy really is the best way to do things.

Joe 7 weeks ago

Really love your work good job on the pros and cons

douglas 6 weeks ago

This is a really good information SITE

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