Challenges and Critiques of Democracy

Introduction

Even though democracy has been hailed as the most appropriate basis of public governance, it has been associated with several challenges. Besides, there have been many scholars who have provided critiques of its ideals (Yu, 2010). Based on these facts, this essay discusses specific issues regarding policy, governance, and critiques of democracy.

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The Immigration policy Issues

Immigration is one of the most debated and publicly discussed public policy matters in the United States (Wrench, 2007; Voss, 2011). The discussions about immigration focus on two main issues: the national identity and the economy of the United States (Sen & Mamdou, 2008). Some individuals think that immigrants pose a big burden on the United States’ economy, whilst others think that they have a lot of benefits to the country (Zhao, 2010). Nonetheless, critics of the policy argue that the United States authorities have not done enough to properly and fully assimilate immigrants into American society (Marchi, 2009).

There have been several attempts by the authorities in the United States to execute advantageous immigration policies (Voss, 2011). Towards the end of the 20th Century, the government of the United States had set some limits on the number of immigrants who could legally live in the country (Voss, 2011). The issues of immigration have become more intense due to the increasing number of multiracial immigrants coming to the United States (Voss, 2011).

Democracy and the Issues of Immigration

The issues of immigration in the United States constitute a serious problem that American authorities have come to acknowledge the difficulty involved in the process of finding a solution (Dunn, 2009). It is important to note that matters about immigration are directly linked to issues of human rights, which are recognized all over the world. Therefore, it is a fact that democracy poses a great challenge to the process of solving the problem of immigration (Dunn, 2009).

The authorities have argued that the reason for the immigration policy is to limit the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States to secure the borders and enhance security within the country (Thangasamy, 2010). This is said to be especially important due to the event of the terrorist attack that took place in the United States on September 11, 2001 (Thangasamy, 2010). The individuals against illegal immigrants argue that undocumented immigrants only drain the US economy as they utilize the country’s resources (Battilossi, 2010). Besides, they argue that the immigrants are taking jobs that would otherwise be done by the American citizens (Voss, 2011). To this end, it is evident that the issues of immigration constitute a major problem in the United States. In response, the federal government has come up with immigration policies that are specifically meant to deal with the problems brought about by illegal immigrants (Borjas, 2007).

However, the implementation of the policies has not been without challenges due to democracy. Different critics have argued that the policies violate internationally recognized human rights (Stana, 2007). For instance, some individuals enter the United States as they escape political turmoil and repressive governments in their countries; most of these individuals find themselves as illegal immigrants in the United States (Wilkinson, 2007). In such a case, deporting the individuals out of the country amounts to an affront on human rights (Wilkinson, 2007).

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The Critiques of Democracy

Plato is one of the prominent critics of democracy. One of his criticisms is that democratic self-governance cannot be possible because ordinary individuals do not have the knowledge to run or govern a state (Schindler, 2008). In this case, Plato advances the argument that the ordinary people who may rule because of democracy are not well vast with such issues as military strategies, situations in other states, economics, and the confusing complexities of ethics and laws (Schindler, 2008). Besides, Plato contends that such individuals are not willing to seek knowledge, because the self-discipline and efforts an individual should have are things that most people do not enjoy (Santas, 2010). Due to this, individuals tend to only elect politicians who entice them with appearances and vague talks. What Plato implied in his argument was that uneducated ordinary people were not able to elect competent politicians who could run a state (Santas, 2010).

The other critic of democracy was Socrates. According to him, democracy by its very nature is a corrupt political system (Colaiaco, 2013). In his argument, Socrates stated that most individuals were contented with a superficial comprehension of the most urgent human issues; however, when given the chance to hold greater power, their shallowness inevitably resulted in injustices (Colaiaco, 2013). This means that democratic governance processes are most likely to be headed by incompetent individuals whose corrupt nature results in injustices (Colaiaco, 2013).

Looking at Plato’s arguments, the criticism implies that policy made in a democratic environment may not be effective as those who are in charge may not be properly educated to understand the formulation of effective and efficient policies. Besides, Socrates’ arguments mean that corrupt individuals are the ones who drive or conduct the affairs of the government. As such, they can only come up with ineffective policies that only serve their interests. The arguments are rebuttable assumptions.

The Validity and Constructiveness of the Critiques

As discussed in the earlier sections, democracy has been hailed as an appropriate form of governance. However, the criticisms against it can be termed as valid and constructive to some extent. Concerning validity, Plato thought that the average individual was not sufficiently knowledgeable about the matters or specific political causes to be able to make sound judgments (Connolly, 2010) In this case, Plato rightly implies that an individual would only make use of his subjective common sense and experience to formulate opinions and then use those opinions to vote for politicians. The average person may not possess wisdom that might enable him to participate in choosing competent rulers of his state (Connolly, 2010).

In terms of constructiveness, Plato’s criticism offers an opportunity to examine the weaknesses of democracy. Democracy has been accepted in many states are the most preferred form of governance (Connolly, 2010). However, rarely are its weaknesses examined to governance. The criticism is constructive in the sense that it enables the identification of the setbacks of democracy. With these facts in mind, it is possible to determine the limit or extent to which democracy may be appropriate during the governance process (Connolly, 2010). For instance, having known that democracy may make it possible for incompetent individuals who lack the required knowledge to become rulers, it is possible for a state to come up with strategies that allow only individuals with certain levels of enlightenment to hold certain positions in the government (Connolly, 2010).

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Socrates also criticized democracy on the basis that it was a corrupt political system. Many contemporary scholars have acknowledged the validity of the argument; research studies have shown that democratic governance is associated with different types and levels of corruption (Salkever, 2009). Hence, the studies validate the criticism of democracy by Socrates. On whether Socrates’ criticism of democracy as being corrupt or not, it is important to examine its effects in terms of governance and policy formulation (Salkever, 2009). First, it is worth pointing out that democratic governance is a competitive process in which representatives are chosen through democratic voting systems. In this case, corruption has been used as a tool to get into power; politicians use bribes to secure the supports of electors and opinion holders to win elective positions (Salkever, 2009). Moreover, since the democratic process is competitive, and everybody has a right to vie for positions, studies show that corruption has been a significant part of democratic processes (Blake, 2009). Based on this, Socrates’ critique of democracy has helped to expose the ills of democracy in society (Salkever, 2009). The critique can be considered as a pointer to how power corrupts individuals who seek and get it. In this case, society can determine and effectively deal with the sources of its problems.

The Destructive and Invalid Nature of the Critiques and the Rebuttals

Plato’s argument that democracy allows individuals without the ability to guide them to rule can be considered invalid and destructive to some extent. Concerning invalidity, Plato’s argument was simply theoretical and was not substantiated through any empirical evidence (Recco, 2009). Moreover, Plato tended to presume that it was the ruler who made all the decisions within the government, a situation that is not possible in a democratic environment (Recco, 2009). Therefore, a ruler who lacks knowledge may still be as effective as a knowledgeable ruler, especially if he has a team of educated and knowledgeable advisers (Recco, 2009). Plato’s criticism might be destructive in the sense that it tried to create tension between those who are considered knowledgeable and those who are seen as lacking the knowledge to rule, which are recipes for conflicts within the society (Recco, 2009).

Socrates’ criticism of democracy as being a corrupt political system might also be both invalid and destructive. It might be invalid because it does not take into account the fact that different democratic countries have different levels of corruption (Faulkner, 2008). Besides, the criticism did not consider the fact that democracy has a principle of the separation of powers among the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, and that these arms of the government play oversight roles to check on the excesses of one another; the principle lessens issues of corruption among individual leaders (Faulkner, 2008). Plato’s critique might not hold because leaders do not rule in isolation. Anybody can be an effective ruler so long as he surrounds himself with knowledgeable and competent advisers (Faulkner, 2008). This implies that a ruler without knowledge can work with experts to take care of citizens’ interests. With regards to Socrates’ criticism, it is worth pointing out that corruption is found in every form of governance. What makes the difference is how the existing laws deal with issues of corruption (Faulkner, 2008).

Conclusion

The critiques of democracy have some level of validity and effect. However, what has come out during the evaluation is that the criticisms have made numerous assumptions about democracy. One of the assumptions is that rulers rule on their own without involving competent advisors. The other assumption is that no laws are dealing with corruption.

References

Battilossi, S., & Reis, J. (2010). Financial Systems and the State in Europe and the USA: Historical Perspectives on Regulation in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century [Walden library version]. Web.

Blake, C. H. (2009). Corruption and Democracy in Latin America. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Publishers.

Borjas, G. (2007). Mexican Immigration to the United States [Walden library version]. Web.

Colaiaco, J. (2013). Socrates Against Athens: Philosophy on Trial. New York, NY: Routledge.

Connolly, W. (2010). Pluralism in Political Analysis. New York, NY: Aldine Transaction.

Dunn, T. J. (2009). Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement [Walden library version]. Web.

Marchi, R. (2009). Cultural Phenomenon [Walden library version]. Web.

Recco, G. (2009). Athens Victorious: Democracy in Plato’s Republic. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books.

Salkever, S. (2009). The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Political Thought. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Santas, G. (2010). Understanding Plato’s Republic. Winchester, Hampshire: John Wiley & Sons.

Schindler, D. C. (2008). Plato’s Critique of Impure Reason: On Goodness and Truth in the Republic [Walden library version]. Web.

Sen, R., & Mamdouh, F. (2008). Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization [Walden library version]. Web.

Stana, R. (2007). Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Verification System: Congressional Testimony. New York, NY: DIANE Publishing.

Thangasamy, A. (2010). State Policies for Undocumented Immigrants: Policy-Making and Outcomes in the U.S., 1998-2005 [Walden library version]. Web.

Voss, K. I. (2011). Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America [Walden library version]. Web.

Wilkinson, M. J. (2007). Our Last Best Hope- President John F. Kennedy: Why the United Nations Stumbles and What the United States Should Do About It. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.

Wrench, J. (2007). Diversity Management and Discrimination: Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities in the EU [Walden library version]. Web.

Yu, K. (2010). Issues in Contemporary Chinese Thought and Culture, Volume 2: Democracy and the Rule of Law in China [Walden library version]. Web.

Zhao, X. (2010). New Chinese America: Class, Economy, and Social Hierarchy [Walden library version]. Web.

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