Student Academic Essay

Article By: Simon Link

“Fine in principle but a failure in practice.” How far do you agree with this assessment of democracy?

Democracy, first created by Greek philosophers and thinkers, is a government system intended to serve the people by a small group of selected officials. This system works very well if the people are educated and the selected are wise. But with today’s world, as can be seen in American democracy; the system has been tarnished by greed and corruption to feed on those with no power, for the sole gain of the powerful. In practice, democracy has strayed from its origins and no longer is a true democracy.

Corruption is a very big problem in democratic capitalistic countries, as the ones with riches, control the country. Transparency, that is public access to the actual financial records of global banks run by democratic governments have been concealed. The very democratic institutions that were supposedly created to assist countries, primarily 3rd world countries, to gain economic and social stability, have been implicated in corruption. The International Monetary Fund or IMF has provided loans to unstable economies in return for certain conditions to be met; conditions which have left the country in even more dire condition. Due to corruption, nations have lost their resource wealth; they have had to pay back loans to the IMF through giving up their resources. The IMF has taken food right out of peasant’s mouths, with the selling of their corn stocks in order to cover interest payments for the loans. Other IMF and World Bank policies throughout Africa and Latin America have included slashing social programs; including firing teachers and health workers, unfair trade regulation and selling of public utilities and state property. These systems do not care whether the country which has taken the loan goes into further economic crisis, as long as they profit.

The fact that citizens of democratic societies are uninformed and therefore without the means to exercise true democracy to stop corruption is a key reason that corruption continues.  The results of a major American research study were depressing; a majority of the population were unable to solve simple problems or even read properly. If the people are unable to know the truth, the government can misuse their power and people would still vote for them. Media is filtered by government-owned networks, this means the people only know the partial truth.

Most people are unable to formulate their own ideas, if they do, they are not vocal about it or are not heard. As minority groups such as the American Indians, are still considered socially inferior; these people can protest all they want, but due to their social status they are not heard. They continue to face the challenges of losing ever more of their land to the government, for oil pipelines and mining without being compensated.  

True democracy will probably never happen as long as greed is a part of human nature. Dr Peter Eiger, previous director of the World Bank, said that in the 25 years that he worked for the World Bank, systematic corruption had hindered countries from achieving their goals to help end poverty, end violence, and most importantly; end the suffering of people. Dr Eiger says

today’s global picture of corruption looks much brighter. Attitudes have changed; corruption is no longer seen as the norm but rather as a global crime. “Fighting corruption and strengthening democracy go hand in hand.”  In strong democracies, governments are accountable, information is transparent, the press is free, citizens are informed and engaged, and civil society is strong. The same ingredients that make a true democracy, is the recipe that can end corruption.  

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