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Democracy? You think you know?
Democracy? You think you know?

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1 Is democracy really such a good thing?

Politics is vital to all of our lives. The way our schools and businesses are run, how we travel and make a living, even how we see ourselves – it all depends on political decisions. And we are all democrats today. We have elections, parties compete, we vote, and the winners govern us. But how often do we ask: is democracy really a good thing? Is there another way?

We take it for granted that democracy is a good thing and the best political system. But many people complain that democracy is messy because there is too much talk and argument; that it is inefficient because it takes too much time; and that it does not get decisions right because people have to bargain and compromise too much.

Shortly after World War II, Winston Churchill famously said: ‘Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.’ This implies that democracy is deeply imperfect but that there is no better alternative.