Assessing the Limits of Democracy
The US Constitution proclaims the former British Colonies of North America intend to build a nation ruled by its People. Aside from providing a list of government powers and the rights of its People, the Constitution begins by stating the intent to form a more perfect union. Quite clearly, the Founders of the United States of America understood democracy has its shortcomings. By recognizing these limitations as they did, the People of today can compensate for those faults.
The heart of any form of democracy revolves around the input of the People. Democracies not only identify the need of the People to support their government and its policies for a healthy society to exist, they recognize the value of consensus. When people from all walks of life have input, policies are more likely to properly address the needs of the People and the Nation. This makes the People the greatest strength of democracy.
Unfortunately, the need for consensus can also be the greatest weakness of a democracy. When a country is deeply divided on key issues, problems can fester for years and create long-term damage. Meanwhile, consensus among the populous can also foster unhealthy policies as common misconceptions can be difficult to dispel, even in the face of expert consensus. Additionally, large groups of people tend to be fickle, because they are susceptible to emotional responses and short-term reactions to current events.
What came out of a divided Constitutional Convention in 1787 was the constitution of the world's first modern democratic republic. Due to consensus, diversity created a Nation that provided both structure and limits on the democratic rights of the People. This great accomplishment was based on foresight, wisdom, and an understanding of human faults. A pure democracy could vote away democracy, but guaranteed freedoms and well-defined government structures balance the will of the people with boundaries designed to maintain democracy in the face of public sentiment.
The greatest strengths of a democracy are also its weakest as people tend to be shortsighted and this can destroy the democratic nature of a country as well as make the government ineffective. By imposing a structure to minimize the fickle nature of the People and protect minority or disenfranchised majority perspectives, a democracy can be preserved. Moreover, democracies are not perfect, but the benefits of a democratic government far outweigh their limits so long as a proper governing structure exists.