What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems?

Introduction

Although democracy in general and liberal democracy, in particular, is subjected in the public view as a type of state organization that allows maximum inclusiveness of all people in the political system, there are still some limitations and dilemmas, which can relate both to the specific historical circumstance and the development of human society as such. The question regarding the limitations of democratic political systems, from the perspective of the modern critiques aimed at classic liberal democracy, should be answered in the avenue of moral constraints, such as the concept of justice, equality, and disruptive justice.

Get your customized and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done
with 15% off on your first order

Thus, the objective of the paper is to discuss the background of the question of to what extent and in which spheres can liberal democracy can be constrained and to analyze the implications of the limitations of the concept of liberal democracy in the utilitarian perspective and their more recent interpretations. In particular, it is paramount to focus on Nozick’s theory of entitlement as an opposition to the traditional framework of liberal perspective, as well as to identify a variety of the moral constraints of liberal democracy as such, particularly, about Rawls’s understanding of justice, Nozick’s views on disruptive justice, and the position regarding the distribution of freedom between the society and an individual.

Background of the question

Whereas classical theory of liberalism, as it appears in the works of John Stuart Mill, democratic society is perceived as a merit of every person having equal rights in the context of such society, which as Jeremy Bentham believed could be achieved by ensuring the maximum potential economic freedom for each individual,1 some of the views of both John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, as well as their contemporary James Mill, need certain interpretation.

First of all, it is substantial to point out the fact that the historical epoch of different philosophical views on democracy should be considered. While for the representatives or contributors to the utilitarian ideas, who mainly lived in 18th and 19th centuries, individual freedom and human rights were a particular practical objective2, the later critiques of the classic principles of liberal democracy were developed in the context of more complex societies, which is why they pose a question of not only equality and justice but also the conditions under which those concepts could fully actualize.

Secondly, in utilitarianism and libertarian perspectives, such as Nozick’s interpretation of state, government, and political systems, there are quite different perceptions of the very conceptual basis of the democratic system. While, in ethical framework of utilitarianism, Bentham establishes the idea of law as a certain societal regulator that applies universally, Nozick is more skeptical about the idea of law requirement. 3 In a way, this aspect of his philosophy can be perceived as a reference to a milder form of anarchism, but, most importantly, it draws a strict distinction between the modus operandi and conceptual frameworks used by utilitarian philosophers and more recent libertarian thinkers.

Merits and limitations of the concept of liberal democracy in the utilitarian perspective

John Stuart Mill underlines the ability to exercise the power given to an individual within the state and the power that the state can impose on that individual as the primary attributes of a legitimate liberal democracy.4 In other words, there is an ethical predisposition that the mere existence of legitimacy and the rule of the law can be sufficient for a democratic society to provide each individual with their personal and economic rights. The main value of the model of liberal democracy, as proposed by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham is that was not posing any particular moral challenges on the individuals in such society. However, one of the reasons for that (and one of the aspects of critique addressed to the representatives of classic liberalism) is that it lacked realism. In particular, the major constraint of such set of approaches was that it presumed that the society consists of individuals who are a priori interested in political life and are ready to be its active participants. Nevertheless, in the context of the actual world, and especially considering modern political circumstances, it would not be realistic to expect each member of the society to articulate their interests.

Our academic experts can deliver a custom essay specifically for you
with 15% off for your first order

According to Macpherson, Mill supported representative democracy, but, in a way, the utilitarian interpretation did not expand on many of the limitations related to such model, in particular, the main problem was that the system prioritized the majority vote without any regard (except for the legal grounds) for the rights of those who cannot represent their interests or to do it as successfully as the majority can.5

Nozick’s theory of entitlement as the opposition to the traditional framework of liberal perspective

Among the key concepts discussed in Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, there is a significant aspect of the certain opposition between entitlement and equality. According to Nozick, the fact that economic equality should be considered an objective of the political system is a major constraint for a democratic society.6 On the other hand, the principles of entitlement also, in many ways, dismiss the common understanding of economic justice as a basic principle of a democratic society by means of viewing and analyzing the idea of understanding private property in the context of liberal democracy.

The ideas of justice in acquisition, justice in transfer, and rectification of injustice underline the fact that, according to Nozick, the modern understanding of the relationships between individuals, society (and government) and property ownership is limited in its ability to evolve.7 In particularly, it is important that Nozick points out the fact that he spoke narrowly “of current time-slice principles.”8 However, such approach, unlike utilitarian or egalitarian perspectives does not predetermine any universal application but rather intends to represent an unhistorical model of disruptive justice.

In such a way, “historical principles of justice hold past circumstances or actions [that] can create different entitlements or different deserts to things.”9 In fact, such process may not actually fit the historical development of a particular situation. The main cause of such limitation to the democratic society is the societal perception of justice and injustice, the elements of historical principles of justice that underpin the norms of the contemporary society.

Moral limitations to the democratic society

Nozick supports his critique of the classic model of liberalism with the idea of night-watchman state, which the philosopher uses as a model to depict the relationships between a state as a provider and an individual as a client. Of course, it is significant to point out that the conception refers to natural philosophers, and especially John Locke, and analyzes whether the services of protection from basic crimes and a certain level of security provided by the society is sufficient for the limitations to individual and economic freedom that the society can exercise over that individual, and, more importantly, how the objective of merely minimizing any violations of the individual and economic freedom can affect majorities and minorities. Overall, Nozick suggests that utilitarian perspective, in which the protective mechanisms for the majority could lead to the victimization of the minorities represents a major limitation for democratic systems.

We’ll deliver a high-quality academic paper tailored to your requirements

Another limitation of the liberal democracy, according to Nozick, is the inadequate correlation between the amount of freedom that an individual handles to the society with the level of protection and benefits that he or she can receive. In terms of the understanding of justice in Rawls’s philosophy, the necessity of such actions can be explained by means of the difference principle, whereas, according to Nozick, it is only justified if the principle of disruptive justice is ignored.10 Nevertheless, both philosophers agree on the fact that traditional model of democratic society limits personal freedom and representativeness. In a similar manner, Macpherson claims that the model of party system cannot “efficiently represent the numerical weight of different interests.”11

Conclusion

The major limitations of the classic liberal democracy relate to the reliance on the legislative power of the society as the main underpinning force, applying historical justice instead of the disruptive and situational understanding of this concept, and restraining individual freedom and representativeness. Unlike traditional democracies, Rawls’s liberalism and Nozick’s libertarian thinking offer to reassess the mere relationships between an individual and the society in terms of economic and individual freedom.

Bibliography

Bentham, Jeremy. The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Macpherson, Crawford Brough. The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basis Books, 2013.

Thompson, Dennis Frank. John Stuart Mill and Representative Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Footnotes

  1. Dennis Frank Thompson, John Stuart Mill and Representative Government (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 23.
  2. Ibid., 11.
  3. Jeremy Bentham, The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 45.
  4. Dennis Frank Thompson, John Stuart Mill and Representative Government (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 23.
  5. Crawford Brough Macpherson, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 61.
  6. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basis Books, 2013), 77.
  7. Ibid., 150
  8. Ibid.,154
  9. Ibid.,155
  10. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basis Books, 2013), 182.
  11. Crawford Brough Macpherson, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 65.
What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems?
The following paper on What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems? was written by a student and can be used for your research or references. Make sure to cite it accordingly if you wish to use it.
Removal Request
The copyright owner of this paper can request its removal from this website if they don’t want it published anymore.
Request Removal

Cite this paper

Select a referencing style

Reference

YourDissertation. (2021, December 29). What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems? Retrieved from https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/what-are-the-limitations-of-democratic-political-systems/

Work Cited

"What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems?" YourDissertation, 29 Dec. 2021, yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/what-are-the-limitations-of-democratic-political-systems/.

1. YourDissertation. "What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems?" December 29, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/what-are-the-limitations-of-democratic-political-systems/.


Bibliography


YourDissertation. "What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems?" December 29, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/what-are-the-limitations-of-democratic-political-systems/.

References

YourDissertation. 2021. "What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems?" December 29, 2021. https://yourdissertation.com/dissertation-examples/what-are-the-limitations-of-democratic-political-systems/.

References

YourDissertation. (2021) 'What Are the Limitations of Democratic Political Systems'. 29 December.

Click to copy
Copied