Pros of a Democratic Setup – UPSC GS2

Context:
  • China’s development over the last century has been impressive. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty and also social indicators have improved dramatically.
  • Whereas, India’s developmental record has been much more mixed. Since the 1990s, the Indian economy has grown impressively, but it remains far behind China in its global competitiveness.
  • Improvements in basic social development indicators have lagged. Recently, Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen have pointed out that India has actually fallen behind Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • Many educated Indians think India’s problem is that it is just too democratic. Unlike China, making and implementing key decisions about public investment and various reforms is problematic and challenging in a democratic setup.
  • However, the claim that less democracy is good for development does not stand up to comparative, theoretical, and ethical scrutiny.
Why democratic regimes are better than non-democratic regimes?
  • Authoritarian states barring China have not performed better than democracies.
    • Africa and West Asia, where authoritarian governments have dominated, remain world economic laggards.
    • Similarly, the Latin American military dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s had a terrible economic and social record. It was with the return of democracy and the “pink wave” of Left populist parties that prosperity and social progress were ushered in.
    • In Taiwan and South Korea, their transitions to democracy saw their economies moving up to the next level and become much more inclusive.
  • Examples from Indian states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu suggest that democracies nourish inclusive society.
    • Kerala and Tamil Nadu have done more to improve the lives of all their citizens across castes and classes than any other State in India.
    • Both states have also had the longest and most sustained popular democratic movements and intense party competition in the country.
    • In contrast, in Gujarat, where a single-party rule has been in place for nearly a quarter century, growth has been solid. But it is accompanied by increased social exclusion and stagnation in educational achievement and poverty reduction.
  • Assumption that the authoritarianism model of decision-making can rise above the challenges in a democratic setup is false.
    • Democracies are in fact more likely to meet the necessary conditions for successful decision-making.
    • Because, elected representatives, need to answer to a broad electorate if, they want to win elections.
  • Democracy allows for forms of negotiation and compromise that can bridge across interests and even balance otherwise conflicting imperatives for growth, justice, sustainability, and social inclusion.
  • The Welfare policies such as National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right To Information, the right to food, and other programs are a testament to how democracy can master even the most complex policy goals.
  • Democracy promotes equality by endowing all citizens with the same civic, political and social rights even as it protects and nurtures individuality and difference.
    • Whereas in China (authoritarian state) the cost of development is huge.
    • The party-made great famine took some 35 million lives.
    • Cultural Revolution has made enemies out of neighbours.
    • One child policy devastated families and erased a generation.
    • Ongoing violent, systematic repression of the Uyghur Muslim and Tibetan minorities