Is democracy the best possible political system

Bundestag election 2013

Since its inception in antiquity, democracy has repeatedly met with criticism and at times even with enmity. In addition to political polemics, there is also well-founded criticism that names problems that are related to democracy and that are generated by it. But knowing about them must not shift the standards of criticism so far that democracy is not given a chance. The saying of the English statesman Winston Churchill of November 11, 1947 in a speech in the House of Commons still applies: "Democracy is the worst of all forms of government - apart from all the other forms that have been tried from time to time." Or, with As one democracy researcher put it, "the second best democracy is still better than the best non-democracy." Democracy may only be viewed as the lesser evil, but on the other hand it combines so many advantages that it can be described as the best known form of rule .

One of these advantages is their ability to learn, which puts them in a position to face even great challenges, to overcome problems and to process their disadvantages in such a way that they emerge stronger from crises. [...]

A solution has also been found for the so-called paradox of democracy. If it is understood as an unlimited majority rule, then this majority would also have the option of abolishing democracy. Today's democracies create obstacles to self-surrender. On the one hand, the simple majority rule comes up against the limits of the law and the constitution; on the other hand, democracy tries in advance to counter such efforts that demand the abolition of democracy - be it by force or by parliamentary channels.

Democracies have also learned to deal with fundamental societal problems. They can mediate between state and society better than non-democratic systems. Through representativeness and responsiveness [feedback of political action to the interests of the people they represent] of their institutions, they take up problems from society and defuse them by processing them into generally binding decisions. [...]

Democracy is the only form of rule that allows citizens to sanction rulers without having to eliminate the political system itself. Political leadership can be changed because in a democracy there is only temporary rule. [...] A minority can become a majority. Transparency enables control and protects against abuse of power. Conflicts can be overcome without the adversaries having to resort to violence. And above all: Only the will of the citizens, articulated in elections and votes, justifies and legitimizes the making of collectively binding decisions. Only democracy offers people the chance to fully participate in will-formation and decision-making, and to take their affairs into their own hands.

From: Hans Vorländer: Democracy - the best form of rule, in: Federal Center for Political Education (Ed.): Democracy. Information on political education, Bonn: bpb 2004, www.bpb.de/izpb/9207/demokratie-die-beste-herrschaftsform (28.08.2012).

Work orders:
  1. The text gives arguments as to why democracy is the best form of rule. Write these arguments down.
  2. Compare the arguments with your list of the pros and cons of democratic decisions. Why are freedom of opinion and interest in politics (e.g. also voter participation) important for democracy?
  3. How do you rate the chances of free opinion formation and political influence in your country? Discuss your positions.