‘Cynicism is laziness masquerading as wisdom.’ The most common argument against democracy is that voters are uninformed. Yet voters don’t have to be policy experts to make reasoned choices. We all rely on ‘information shortcuts’ to make decisions. Be it political parties, opinion leaders, experts, campaign events or media reports, there is a wealth of information out there to help the average Joe form a political opinion. Sure, you can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.


A democracy relies on its citizens to make informed choices. Yet study after study shows that people simply don’t know enough about the issues. People are often duped into voting against their interests. That’s through no fault of their own: we evolved from primitive apes – our brains may be perfect for hunting in the African savannah, but it surely isn’t fit for understanding all the intricacies of health insurance or tax reform. On the contrary, we’re all prone to falling prey to a very long list of cognitive biases.


What makes a successful political system? Happy citizens? Peace? Prosperity? Rule of law? Lack of corruption? Democracies are leading the way in all of these areas. It’s not rocket science: giving a people a voice in government provides them with more dignity and improves the quality of decision making. The overall result is better for everyone.


George Washington dreamed of a democracy with no political parties. Yet just a few decades after his death, the United States was headed down the path to civil war. Human beings are tribal by nature and democracy merely serves to further divide the population. All democratic systems devolve into partisan groups, damaging public wellbeing. One need look no further than the world of 2018 to see how polarized democracies can get.


People died to defend democracy. There were wars and revolutions fought to ensure that all citizens would have a say in how their country is run. It would be foolish to throw that all away on a whim. In the days of yore, the only way to throw out an incompetent government was through violent means. It’s easy to point to autocracies with booming economies and argue ‘we need to imitate them.’ But what happens once economic growth slows down in those countries? It won’t be pretty. In a democracy, on the other hand, we can peacefully ‘throw the bums out.’


The dominance of the European and American democracies on the world stage is a historical fluke. The industrial revolution and the post-WWII reconstruction helped them boom. The rest of the world is catching up now.
Other political systems have thrived and prospered without democracy. Look back in history, and it’s chock full of examples: the Romans, the Chinese Tang dynasty, the Indian Gupta dynasty, the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate, etc., etc. Today we need only look at China, Singapore or the Gulf States to see the same. You don’t need democracy to run a successful country.

IMAGE CREDITS: (C) BigStock – Alexandru Niko