Why Democracy does NOT work? But it can

democracy does not work

Democracy is the government system where people have the power to choose their governing legislature. The cornerstones of democracy are freedom of association, freedom of speech, right to vote, right to life and rights for minorities. It all sounds really good, but why it has not been able to prevent the occurrence of protests and strikes? Inshort, why democracy does not work?

Literally, the word “democracy” means “rule by people”. But is it really the best idea for perfect government system? To answer that we need to dive deeper into the history and current state of democracy.


Democracy started out in ancient Greek city states, among which most notable was Athens, where people started coming together to speak for their problems and views in front of rulers of city states. Here, they directly voted on passing of new rules and laws.

When Greeks started loosing their influence on world, their direct democracy also lost its appeal. Until, Magna Carta, which is considered to be among world’s first written constitutions, was signed in 1215 AD, which meant that King of England at that time cannot do whatever he wants and has to abide some laws written in the constitution.

Nowadays, almost every kind of democracy is INDIRECT, where you can’t give your opinions directly on laws and rules but instead you can elect some people who can become lawmakers and present your interests.

In a fully-functioning democratic government system, any citizen of the country has the right to vote and the right to stand in elections to become a lawmaker and part of government.


Democracy is the most popular form of government for a reason. Those reasons are:

  • PROTECTS THE PUBLIC’S INTEREST: When public has the power to choose who governs them, they are shaping a government that then goes on to protect the rights and interests of the public.
  • PREVENTS MONOPOLY OF POWER: Due to the fact that the government is bound by an election term where parties compete to regain authority, democracy prevents monopoly of the ruling authority. 
  • IT BRINGS A FEELING OF OBLIGATION TO PUBLIC: The ruling authorities owe their success to elections by the citizens, so they would feel grateful to and socially responsible for them.
  • PROMOTES CHANGE WITHOUT VIOLENCE: The political system of Democracy can promote changes in the government without having to resort to any form of violence by giving everyone the right to vote. So, if someone wants change in the government, they have the power to vote, instead of resorting to violence.


Now, democracy centers itself on giving on everyone the right to vote, and establishing a government by the people for the people. So, if the governments are made by the people then, why in democratic countries there are hundreds of strikes and protests?

Well, there can be two reasons for that. One that democracy is not exercised the way it should be OR it is a bad idea in the first place. Let’s analyze both of them.


Democracy is not yielding its best results because it is not being exercised. According to this reasoning, the fault not lies in democracy, but the people who exercise it. It can be due to:

  • Not giving every person in the county, the right to vote: Some countries do not let women vote. In USA, people of color did not had voting rights until mid of 21st century. But still having right to vote in law is just not enough.
  • Corruption: Political parties in some of the democracies have been plagued by corrupt politicians who are focused on exploiting democratic values for personal benefits.

Now, these two are just the biggest of the reasons that are hindering democracy to yield its best results and are making democracy not work efficiently.

Maybe, these are the reasons why democracy does not work.



Democracy may not be working because it is possible that it is not a good idea in the first place. This can be the main reason why democracy does not work.

Democracy originated in Greece, but some philosophers among which most notable Socrates highly criticized the idea of giving everyone the right to vote and the right to be elected.

He argued:

“Compare the society to a ship and you are deciding to embark on a journey by sea, who would you ideally want to be in power of deciding the person in charge of the ship? Just anyone or people who have been educated in the demand of sea-travel? Obviously, the educated people. So, why then do we keep thinking that anyone should be fit to judge who should be the ruler of a country?”


Socrates’ point is that voting in an election is a skill, not a random intuition, and like any other skill it needs to be taught systematically to people.

Socrates were not an elitist. He did not say that only the elite and educated should vote. He proposed that only those who have educated and those who think about choosing the ruler rationally and deeply should vote.

He was opting for intellectual democracy, instead of right to vote by birthright.

Socrates argued that by right to vote by birthright, it becomes very easy for candidates to exploit the public’s desire for easy answers.

He asked to imagine an election debate between two rival candidates:

“One candidate who was like a doctor and the other who was like a sweet shop owner. The sweet shop owner would say about his opposition that look, this person has done a lot of evils on you, he gives you bitter potions and tells you what to eat and not eat, he will never serve you feasts of many tasty and various other things like i will”

What would be the response of the audience? Do you think the doctor would be able to give a counter argument?

The answer that i hurt you and bitter potions in order to help you would cause an uproar in the audience.


Socrates argues that democracy can only be as much good as much the education system that surrounds it.

Now, not every country has very high literacy rate and as the result a lot of countries have elected a lot sweet shop owners and not doctors.

Dr. Allama Mohammad Iqbal, a poet (national poet of Pakistan) said:


Democracy is a system of government; where

People are counted, not weighed

Allama Mohammad Iqbal, Zarb-e-Kaleem-169-Jumhooriat


Now, dictatorship is never the answer.

Democracy is a good idea but democracy by birthright is not.

Winston Churchill once said:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

 speech, House of Commons, November 11, 1947.—Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963, ed. Robert Rhodes James, vol. 7, p. 7566 (1974)


Why do you think democracy does not work?

Should there be restrictions on who should have right to vote or become a candidate on basis of education?


Democracy should be replaced by some other system?

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