As the trust in American Politics continues to dwindle, I have been reflecting on what it means to live in this country. Since I was a little kid, I have always been told that this is the greatest country in the world, with unlimited freedoms and unmatched opportunities.
Many recent historical controversies, like the NSA scandal for example, have forced me to evaluate the current state of this country and, in my opinion, it looks relatively bleak. The economy is in the toilet, social injustice is still widespread and the current president has an approval rating below 50 percent. So, with empirical evidence such as this, it made me ask myself if democracy is indeed the best form of government. Americans have held on to this ideal that what we do is undeniably the best, and I think this mindset needs to change. If we do not look ourselves in the mirror, we should not expect anything to change.
With that being said, I think democracy is the best form of government, but the United States is not a good example.
First off, I should state that — technically speaking — the US is not a democracy. It is actually a republic — which was purposely implemented by the founding fathers. They were afraid of what is known as a “direct democracy,” which gives ultimate power to the people. What we have is a republic, which gives the people the power to elect others to represent the people. The two terms are so often confused that Webster’s Dictionary’s definitions of the two terms are nearly identical. Regardless, democracy is rooted in freedom, representation of the people and the protection of basic rights. Democracy naturally enforces these ideals, unlike autocracy or fascism. For this reason, I believe democracy (or in the US case, a constitutional republic since they are so closely related) is the best form of government.
So, if democracy naturally enforces these ideals, the US should exceed in the protection of these freedoms. But they do not, and this is why the US is a bad example. For example, the NSA has spied on countless Americans, breaching their right to privacy. They could listen in on any phone call or look into any email under the protective excuse of “fighting terrorism.”
Although the US is a bad example, democracy tends to correlate with prosperity. In 2013, the Legatum Institute in London published a study detailing the top-10 happiest countries using the prosperity index. Democratic countries dominate the top 10, furthermore supporting the correlation. Essentially, democratic countries appease their residents better than those who are not democratic.
Although there have been many recent blemishes on America’s track record, our form of government supports freedom and prosperity. The people should have the power to elect others to represent themselves. Other forms of government do not promote personal freedoms and constitutional rights similar to those of a democracy, which needs to exist in today’s world. The system is not necessarily broken, it’s just those who we put in power are incompetent and immoral. Just like Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
Chris Chipman is a junior English major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.