Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Problems associated with democracy

Problems associated with democracy

In my previous blog with the title “liberals versus conservatives” I explained the government and its responsibility to society and also how liberals and democrats believe the state should function in society. The blog was able to create public discourse on social media and that was the point of the article. To be consistent with sustaining the public discourse I will unpack on the problems that are associated with democracy.

Government exercises authority over people to create a society that is organised in a way that the elected officials envisage. There is a political struggle between different parties to lead in government as elected officials. The struggle varies in different countries and can either be armed or peaceful. The struggle is won by one party that represents an ideological view of a particular class, tribe, group or individuals and once inaugurated to lead in government the winning party has a responsibility to meet the expectations of its electorate. Let’s say party X won with 55% and party Y lost with 45% the social and economic policies of party X will be imposed on party Y. It is this factor of democracy that leads to social unrest and violent strikes because party Y resists the imposition of laws that they disagree with and do so by striking. Democracy is a chef of social unrest because every protest has an element of a political motive force. Another factor is that the voter turnout of eligible voters is very low in many countries. For example in 1994 85.53% of the eligible voters in South Africa voted, the figure has dropped to 59.34% in 2014 of eligible voters that voted. This is an indication that citizens are losing interest and faith in democracy to be able to address their pressing problems.

Parliaments are the backbone of all democracies and people are told that the parliament is a representation of everyone in the country. In reality the people are absent in the decision making in parliament and that creates disconnection between the people and the parliamentarians. The parliamentarians are also never punished it they do not implement laws and economic objectives that they promised people in the run-up to the elections. Each MP in South Africa represents 130 000 citizens however those MPs do not consult with each of the people they represent and mainly keep links with their respective political parties and get a mandate from their political parties. We are told that the parliament is a representation of the people but the mandate that parties carry are not from the people but from their respective parties. A parliament becomes the parliament of the winning party. Another problem is that votes can be bought by the rich and that disadvantages the poor as they are unable to compete in the elections.

A political party comprises of people who share the same belief, belong to the same region, have a common perception and a common interest. The party that wins the elections then imposes its values, believes and interest to the whole country. The people who live in a country have a diversity of interests, ideas, values and temperaments and the imposition by a party that won elections is not liked by many communities. The reason why political parties are formed is to rule over a nation and not only members of the party. The existence of many political parties intensifies the struggle for power to lead in government and these results in opposition parties attempting by all means to undermine the position of the party that rules by denouncing and criticising in public on everything. In some instances the opposition parties can raise a good solution in parliament to solve a social problem and the party that rules can use its majority to reject those great suggestions because they would not want to be seen as agreeing with the opposition. A ruling party agreeing with the opposition would give the opposition the ammunition to state in public that the ruling party is useless and does what they say and use that to get some votes of the ruling party. This battle between the parties can be at the expense of higher social issues being overlooked. Opposition parties always cast doubt on the ruling party even if the achievements and plans of the ruling party may be beneficial to society. This results in members of the society being the victims of the struggle of power between the political parties. This struggle is unfortunately very destructive to the society as a whole. Another problem is that parties can be bribed from either inside or outside.

These problems associated with democracy are not only South African problems but are a global phenomenon present in all democratic countries. I would like this article to spark a debate so feel free to comment and indicate whether you agree with my explanation or not. Most importantly I would like to get some suggestions from you on how these problems can be solved or if you believe that an alternative system of governance from democracy would be better for the nation. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Liberals versus conservatives

Liberals versus conservatives

There are different philosophical theories that individuals have regarding how society should behave and the role of the government in human behaviour. There has historically been public discourse regarding the nature of the governments control and its limit on human behaviour.

The government can be defined as the “conduct of conduct”.  The first conduct in the definition means to lead or to guide with planning done in advance. The oxford dictionary defines it as “the manner in which an organization or activity is managed or directed”. The second conduct in the definition refers to individual direction and how individuals conduct themselves. The oxford dictionary defines this as “the manner in which a person behaves, especially in a particular place or situation”. Putting these senses of “conduct” together entails the government playing an essential role in varying degrees to control and limit human behaviour within a set of laws that are put in place. The deviation of individuals from these laws put by the state has repercussions that vary from different states based on the political and philosophical objectives of the elected government officials.

This then brings me to the two different outlooks of government that exist which are liberal and conservative. There are many more but for the purpose of this article I want to focus on these two only and how each of these outlook view the role of the state in society, laws and in which way people must be governed. Firstly I will define the terms liberal and conservative


Liberals have the opinion that the government must be at the forefront of ensuring that there are equal opportunities for all. Believe that individuals should be open to new ideas and respect the opinions and behaviours of others even if they differ from one’s own. Liberals also believe that traditional values should change over time. They also favour free trade and moderate political reforms. They also believe that the government must be able to solve problems.


Conservatives believe in liberty, free markets and personal responsibility, private ownership and having socially conservative views. They are not easily open to new ideas and respond to most new ideas contradicting traditional values with contempt. They also believe that individuals should be empowered to solve their own problems and that people must be given freedom to peruse their own goals.

Below are the different arguments that liberals and conservatives have. The arguments are just a summary of their views and I did not go into great detail in explaining each.

Each woman should be given the freedom of choice to decide what happens to her body. A fetus is not a human being therefore it does not have individual rights. The government should also provide tax payer funded abortions for women who can’t afford them to minimise their risk of being subjected to unsafe and illegal abortions that put their lives at the risk of dying.
Abortion is the murder of human beings and that life begins at conception. A baby that is unborn has separate rights that are different from those of the mother and those rights should be respected. Opposed to government funding of abortions and also support the laws that prohibit abortions.
Death penalty
The death penalty should be abolished as it is cruel and inhumane. Due to the inefficiencies of the justice system it places people that are innocent at the risk of being killed. The appropriate punishment for the crime is imprisonment.
The death penalty is an appropriate crime for those who took the innocent lives of others. An eye for and eye.
Free market capitalism is competitive, innovative; create many opportunities and a high living standard for all. The private sector should not be burdened with excessive government regulations.
A market system where the governments regulate the economy is best. Citizens must be protected from the greed of big businesses as the state is driven by public interest unlike the private sector that is driven by private interest that tends to be at the expense of the public.
A person should be given the choice to die with dignity therefore euthanasia should be legalised. A person who is terminally ill should be given the right to choose when to end his suffering and pain. It is wrong and immoral for the government to unduly prolong pain the pain of terminally ill patients. Euthanasia would not lead to doctor assisted suicide of non-critical ill patients as it will only be done only on terminally ill patients. This will reduce health costs and make services available to those who need them.
Euthanasia should not be legalised because it is immoral and unethical to deliberate on when the life of a person should end or to allow a person to choose when he wants to end his own life. The pain of suffering people should be eased by using medicine and compassion. Euthanasia will lead to the assisted suicide of non-critical patients. This practice devalues a human life and many religions prohibit suicide and euthanasia.
Climate change and global warming
The increased production of carbon dioxide through burning fossil fuels is causing global warming. Proposed laws to reduce global warming should be introduces and there must be a sin tax for polluters.
There is a change in global temperature that is natural over long periods of time. The proposed laws will not help the environment in any way and will cause a significant price increase for all. It is also unfair and immoral to make people pay for global warming when they did not cause it.
There are millions of South Africans that who cannot afford healthcare therefore there must be a free low cost healthcare. There should be equal health care for all and the privatisation of health care will result in the poor not being able to afford it. This would increase illnesses in poor areas and decrease the life expectancy of the countries working population that pays tax. 
Supports the free market health care as it is competitive and provides better services. All South Africans should have health care but the question is who should pay for it. The free health care by the state runs at a higher cost and everyone receives the same poor quality health care. The challenges of those who are not ensured will be addressed within the free market system and that the government should not control health care.
Supports legal immigration and believes there should be amnesty for those who enter SA illegally. Also believes that undocumented immigrants have the right to all educational and health benefits that citizens have and that it is unfair to arrest illegal immigrants.
Only supports legal immigration and is opposed to amnesty for those who enter SA illegally. Those who break the law by entering SA illegally do not have the same rights as those who are in the country legally. The borders must be made to be very secure and also vigorously enforce current immigration laws.
Private property
The government has the right to grab private land with compensation to the owner for a public purpose.
In most cases it is wrong for government to grab private land because ownership rights of private property owners must be respected.
There should be high taxes for the rich and a large government to address the economic injustices and inequality. A large government should provide for the needs of people and reduce inequality. Taxes allow the government to create jobs and also care for the needs of the poor.   
Lower taxes and a smaller government that has limited power will improve the living standards for all. Lower taxes have high incentives and enable people to save, invest and start their own businesses. The additional money that people saved through low taxes would be spent by them and be the income of other individuals. Government programs make people lazy rather than encouraging independence and work.
Supports long term welfare as it becomes a cushions the poor who are facing economic hardship. It protects the poor.
Opposed to long term welfare and believes that opportunities should be provided for people to be self-reliant. It is more moral to make people self-reliant than to depend on the government for provisions.

These are some key arguments that liberals and conservatives have on the role of the government in society. These views cannot be consolidated and create a friction of ideological differences between the two. I consider myself as a liberal and would like to get your input on my analysis of conservatives and liberals. Feel free to debate this matter with me because the point of this blog is to create public discourse as I am open to hear your views and ideas even if I may not agree with them.