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paradoxes of democracy

 Paradoxes of democracy

The unresolved paradoxes of democracy are said to be endemic to all forms of democracy.

  1. The first one given by Richard Wolheim (1984) “A voter believes, and has good reason to believe, that a ban on deer hunting is the right policy, and therefore votes for the ban. The majority votes against the ban. The voter,  being a reasonable person and a democrat, must now believe contradictory things: that the  ban is justified (by the best reasons) and that it is not justified (because the majority opposed it). The voter is caught in a clear paradox, according to Wolheim’s view.” A person has a reason to oppose a policy but the majority on the other hand supports the policy and through democratic methods the policy gets implemented. Now because a person is a rational being as well as a democrat, is torn between two ideas- a) he uses his rationality, takes all factors into consideration while deciding his conclusion or b) being a democrat he/she will believe that what decisions are taken by the democracy is the best one. The decision taken by democracy was in direct contrast to what he/she personally through rationality chose to decide, so in this situation both of these decisions must be followed by him and this leads to a paradoxical situation. So one needs to console oneself when one knows that their views are correct but have to go with the popular view of democracy, the policy would be implemented even if it is wrong because it has been voted for by the popular majority. The idea is knowing that something wrong may be implemented if the majority votes for it. The idea is that even if some opinion is wrong, the person accepts that wrong policy because it was a decision decided by a democratic deliberation. Even if the majority is wrong we must understand that  the majority by its power has the right  to implement the wrong policy.  For example- beef ban in certain states have been implemented due to majority support, the ones living there against the beef ban must keep their beliefs and accept the policy even though they are not in favour of it. This paradox also is one of the many reasons why we have so many caste and religion based poll alliances, for the sole reason to mobilise the votes of these groups. 

  2. The second paradox of democracy was implemented by Anthony Downs (1957). He goes on to elaborate that “no citizen is excluded from the benefits of election results or from the more general bodies of continuing the democratic system itself.” Let's take an example of India here, India is a densely populated country with about 912 million people of the voting age. One single individual’s vote won’t make such of a difference in the outcome of the elections, will one vote change anything? Is a question that many registered voters who chose not to vote reason out. The process of casting votes demand time, energy and money to go to the polling booths and caste a vote. The minuscule weightage of one vote makes spending time money and energy quite irrational, cost effective and uneconomical to a person. There are two distinct situations here, so if everyone thinks rationally and comes to the same conclusion that it is irrational to vote than nobody votes, the next that people want to vote are irrational. Anthony Downs tries to say here that in this paradox voting and rationality cannot coexist. Some notable rational choice theorist, William Riker and Peter Ordershook (1968) bring to terms a “utilitarian account of human beings as cost benefit calculators” saying that the these large number of voters vote by assuming a moral  satisfaction of living up to democratic moral duties and democratic ethic of casting votes, thus voting is a rational exercise keeping in mind the utilitarian approach. 


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