Does Democracy Address Insecurity?

Democracy effectively addresses insecurity. Do you agree, why or why not?

Democracy does, and does not effectively address insecurity, in some aspects it curbs it, in others it accelerates it. Consequently, this minor essay will examine avenues in which democracy addresses and fails to effectively address insecurity. It will conclude that despite the short-term pitfalls of transitioning to democracy, and the dangers of democratic governance without a strong institutional foundation with strong checks and balances, that it has the long-term potential to effectively address insecurity both within and outside a States borders.

Regardless of whether established democracies provide stability, transitional democracies often create a large amount of instability, especially when converting from a more authoritarian political system, and generally experience their worst period of instability during this juncture.[1] A lack of unity and cohesion can cause greater domestic instability for a population within the short-term, aside from an increased likelihood of war with other States, during this period large scale ‘ethnic cleansings’ may occur.[2] As democracies are traditionally linked with a primary ethnicity, a ‘purge’ has a likelihood of occurring before a strong institutional democratic base can form, often against ethnic groups who refuse to assimilate with society, as well as individuals linked to previous political administrations. Ironically however, whilst democracy can create much greater instability for a state in the short-term, in the long-term this political system can potentially create very strong and politically stable governance for the State.[3] This can be demonstrated in the prominent military, economic and cultural role the United States plays in contemporary society today, despite engaging in the mass extermination of Native Americans only a century prior.[4]

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Democracies which do manage to establish themselves and overcome their shortcoming during the transition period can effectively address instability, both domestically and internationally, however there are severe limitations which can inadvertently result in greater instability also being formed if not implemented effectively.

Theoretically capitalist States are very effective at addressing insecurity, domestically they can help alleviate income inequality among their poorer citizens, and internationally they help formulate economic interdependence between States.[5] Whilst bilateral trade is not always from an equal economic standing, with one side often more dependent on the other, such as in the case between China and Taiwan, when two States are of similar economic standing it can prove a great stabilising factor in preventing conflict.[6] This is evident in the lack of open conflict between the USA and China in decades.[7] As economies of this magnitude continue to intertwine, avoiding conflict and instability between them becomes increasingly in their interests.

Other theoretic models, such as the Liberal Democratic Peace Theory argue further points where even greater stability can be gained under democratic governance, considering that there is a historic precedent of democratic states not going to war with one another.[8] However, there are also aspects of this theory which highlight how democracies can result in greater instability occurring internationally, as democratic states can ironically themselves create new wars in the process of spreading democracy throughout the world, trying to force it through non-peaceful means on States who are either unwilling or unprepared for such massive political change.[9] This results in a world of democratic states seeking perpetual peace through perpetual war, leaving the world itself in a constant state of instability.[10]

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Domestically democracies can provide other major avenues of stability for the State, one of the most prominent being the division of the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative branches of government into separate branches independent from one another.[11] The establishment such a comprehensive system of checks and balances can ensure the moderation of power of appointed officials and their political parties, and ensure that they operate within the law.[12] The effectiveness of such a process can be seen in U.S President Donald Trump, with his controversial executive orders on implementing travel bans for foreign individuals being blocked by the judicial branch of government because they were found to be unconstitutional.[13]

However, the greatest strength and weaknesses of democracies in addressing insecurity lies within having an inclusive political process, with a sense of inclusion encouraging non-violent solutions to political issues.[14] An example of this can be seen in the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the main nationalist group involved in ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland in the 20th century, who ceased their armed campaign in large part because of the political concessions provided to them in the 1995 Good Friday Agreement, which allowed them a platform to continue their struggle for independence through non-violent channels.[15] Consequently, the ability of democracy to promote change in the government and political system without having to resort to any form of political violence is one of the greatest stabilising factors which democracy can provide a State, so long as an inclusive attitude is maintained.

However, whilst democracies are meant to promote inclusion, in certain States a ‘tyranny of the majority’ culture exists, wherein no attempt is made by the ruling party to govern all their citizens equally and achieve national unity for its supports and detractors, who may be ideologically polarised based around ethnicity, religion, language or self-identity.[16] Such exclusion from the political process can enflame tensions between various groups within a State and result in these excluded groups emigrating, resulting in a depleted workforce, or in more extreme cases, developing a complete disenfranchisement with the political system, taking up arms against the State and plunging it into further instability.[17]

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Henceforth democracy possesses the potential to create stability within a States borders so long as strong institutional foundations are in place with comprehensive checks and balances and a healthy electoral system which promotes inclusion over alienation.  However, it is often not effective at addressing insecurity within other States borders when trying to spread its political model to states either unwilling or unprepared for political change through violent means. In States, which are transitioning to democracy, even if done so via peaceful means, short-term instability will likely occur within the State, however if they endure the process the potential long-term stability which the State can gain can prove timeless.

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