Democracy Arguments For and Against Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer


Contrary to other ideas in political science such as justice and liberty, democracy is a term that can be easily explained. It mainly relates to the government by the majority. Although characterizing democracy is not difficult, the latest political theory is often left this out. No strong argument is provided by political theorists regarding the reason for representative democracy.

On the other hand, if any is given, it lacks strength. One would anticipate that great literature can be created from the reasons for the promotion and institution of democracy. On the contrary, popular literature does not delve so much into why democracy is desirable, but instead, get to explain the reasons for the improvement of the current democracy. This essay examines what different philosophers have had to argue both for and against democracy.

Arguments for Democracy

One of the arguments is that democracy is important because it can be embraced and made deliberative. This implies that deliberation of a dialogical nature is vital to the democratic society. When democracy is made deliberate in a given society, instead of people’s mere adaptation to circumstance, their preferences are not only informed but also made clear.

Democracy also helps to remove points of difference among people without necessarily making them agree. At times, democracy requires that people be compelled to embrace a general perspective. As such, both their imagination and empathy are stretched. In the same vein of the deliberateness of democracy, selfish concerns can be separated from public-oriented considerations thus encouraging public reasoning for participants who are free and equal (Sosa & Villanueva 287-288).

Research also indicates that making democratic to be more deliberative is likely to result to other benefits such as legitimizing all decisions that are arrived at, encouraging the powerless to voice their concerns in decision making, promoting transparency among group members and enhancing outcomes that are just.

Another argument that favors the importance of democracy in deliberation is one that aims at making deliberation democratic and not vice versa. This implies that whenever there is democratic deliberation, then the probability of reaching the truth based on reliability increases with the presence of a democratic decision-making regime.

Moreover, democracy enhances the proper allocation of resources to appropriate uses. This argument is supported by the fact dictatorial leaders are not fully accountable to citizens and do not have motivations to put the total output into maximum use. Instead, they focus on their selfish ends.

Consequently, democracy ensures that property rights are protected hence allowing investors to have a long term perspective. Besides, allowing free flow of information ensures that the quality of economic decisions made is high (Dahl 448).

Arguments against Democracy

In attempting to argue against democracy, Gordon takes on several philosophers who have argued in favor of democracy. He does this by revealing how such arguments fail to hold water when based on democracy because, in his perspective, the proponents of democracy do not express the desirability of democracy as it were. A good example of writers who have omitted this fact is Bernard Barber.

He dismisses other philosophers on this matter arguing that a just political order can only be reached at through a discussion and not by avoiding it. Questions of distributive justice can properly be dealt with by individuals rather than by philosophers alone since it would be undemocratic to do the reverse. However, Barber does not clearly explain why people should value democracy.

His concern is that individuals thinking on their own can reach wiser decisions than a group of individuals discussing the same issue. He’s satisfied with the fact that Rousseau concurs with the issue. If he were to be correct about this empirical matter, then it would be sound to conclude that if democratic governance would guide a society, then it would be prudent to arrive at decisions in such a society through discussions.

Although this point is still devoid of the desirability of democracy, it centers on the importance of democracy in discussing policy publicly. Deliberating on issues publicly is not a compulsory ingredient for democracy. For instance, during the nineteenth century, there was no democracy in the British government although public issues could be discussed broadly (Gordon para.5).

Plato presents a couple of arguments against democracy. First, Plato describes democracies as societies that are anarchic. He believes that societies that are democratic are marked with anarchy. For example, his attack describes governments that are democratic for being libertarian in such a manner every citizen can carry out their life issues in a way that appeals to them.

In this way, he asserts that people mistake anarchy for freedom. Plato criticizes democratic societies again by asserting that since they are characterized with anarchy, they are devoid of unity. They are not united on two fronts. First, due to the lack of political structure and are not politically organized. Second, democratic societies do not have a leadership structure since everyone can speak on political issues.

Second, Plato argues that democratic societies are likely to adhere to what their citizens want hence lacking any concern for the good of all. If anarchy is what features in democracies, then every individual has the freedom to choose what will ultimately benefit him or her. These choices may clash and encourage people to value their own needs rather those of others as well.

This is a clear pursuit of personal desires which may encourage loss of the common good. Since citizens have no idea of what ruling is, it happens that they pursue their passions and not the reason because reason cannot be applied in such pursuits. Any leaders that are elected through democracy are therefore servants who are out to satisfy the individual desires and appetites of the citizens.

Plato further argues that citizens who are guided by democracy are likened to individuals who grope in darkness since they do not have what it takes to execute governance (Kofmel 20). Moreover, Plato lists two more difficulties. First, numerous individuals falsely believe that they have adequate political proficiency that can qualify them to take part in political issues.

Citizens are not bothered by the fact that on account of their political standing, they are entitled to an equal political voice with each other. Second, when people get involved in a philosophical investigation with each other, they are more concerned with winning arguments instead of the following truth.

Therefore, even though citizens may be endowed with enough political expertise, it may be concluded that they will not be able to manage it effectively (Kofmel 21). The best remedy to this problem is to limit popular involvement in politics and allowing those who have sufficient political know-how in matters of governance to take the lead in the political decision-making process. Such are the people who can guide the citizens into achieving their common good.


Democracy is a term that is perceived differently by different people. Arguments put forth in favor of it are that it encourages fair allocation of resources, sound decision making especially by the powerless and allows for transparency and justice through deliberation.

Arguments against democracy are that it is not the best option for decision making, it encourages anarchy and hence lack of unity and that democracy encourages people who do not have sufficient political expertise to be involved in decision making. This results in a lack of common good.

Works Cited

Dahl, Robert. The Democracy Sourcebook. NY: MIT Press, 2003. June 19, 2011.

Gordon, David. What’s the Argument for Democracy?, 1992. June 19, 2011.

Kofmel, Erich. Anti-Democratic Thought. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2008. June 19, 2011.

Sosa, Ernest & Villanueva, Enrique. Social, Political and Legal Philosophy, Volume 1. Malden, USA: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. June 19, 2011.

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