26 Democracy Pros and Cons

democracy pros and cons

Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal vote in selecting its own leaders. It is often called “rule by the people for the people.”

It allows people to participate equally—directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws.

For centuries, this system of governance has been a beacon for success due to its ability to give citizens the power and opportunity to shape their future.

Still, with all its advantages, democracy has drawbacks, including the potential for corruption and the slow pace of decision-making.

While there are many forms of democracy (such as representative vs direct democracies), the concept of democracy explored in this article  is that of “full” or “liberal” democracy, which was conceptualized by enlightenment thinkers.

In this model, not only do people get to vote in elections, but elections must be free and fair, their must be a multiparty state where no opposition parties are oppressed, the judiciary is free and independent, and individual liberties such as the right to fair trial must be respected.

According to the World Democracy Index, the top-ranking full democracies in the world are Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden.

10 Top Advantages of Democracy

Democracy has many advantages that make it an advantageous form of government. At its best, democracy supports including freedom of speech and assembly, political accountability, the rule of law, individual rights protection, and transparency.

1. Tends to promote human rights

The democratic system is designed to assure every citizen of society the right to vote and participate.

As envisaged by enlightenment thinkers, the democratic state guarantees the right to life, the inviolability of the home, the inadmissibility of violence, self-determination, and other rights (OHCHR, 2020).

Furthermore, ‘fully’ democratic countries are expected to guarantee such fundamental freedoms as freedom of speech, assembly, and press.

2. Provides a broad range of individual freedom

Democracy is the most sought-after form of government because it provides citizens with far more expansive fundamental rights and liberties than any other political system.

Liberal-democratic countries guarantee the right to vote and run for office, freedom of assembly and expression, religious liberty, and other fundamental rights.

For example, the United States offers its citizens a range of rights, including the right to free expression and assembly, fair trial processes, and privacy protection (ACLU, n.d.).

Furthermore, as compared to authoritarian capitalism, nearly all true democracies allow individuals to start and run businesses, own their own land, and build intergenerational wealth.

3. Promotes accountability in government

Since the citizens are sovereign in a democracy, their government is ultimately accountable to them.

Therefore, this political system encourages civic leaders to act accountable and responsibly towards their constituents.

The democratic system is cherished for its transparency and accessibility of resources, granting citizens the right to oversee their chosen representatives.

Consequently, democratic leaders are held accountable for their decisions and actions by others who can overturn them if necessary.

4. Encourages citizen participation in government

Democracy promotes increased participation in all branches of government.

For exmaple, it encourages and even requires citizens to use their voice through voting or other forms of civic responsibility like volunteering, activism, and public discourse.

Such engagement empowers people with a say in how society is formed and managed.

By allowing citizens to get involved in the political process, democracy ensures that their voices and opinions are heard and taken into account in the decision-making process.

5. Accommodates for fair distribution of resources

No society can claim that its distribution of resources is as fair as possible. However, only under democracy can we see regular tweaks to how resources are distributed following a vote of the people.

This system considers diverse perspectives and concerns when deciding how to allocate them properly – thereby encouraging a fair distribution of vital resources among all citizens.

Democracy enables people to take action and implement initiatives that allow all citizens access to essential services such as public healthcare, education, and housing (Halperin et al., 2005).

6. Provides the most effective form of government

Democracy stands out as the most successful form of government because it’s most accountable to the people.

As a result, democracies have tended to be far superior when navigating economic crises and other challenging circumstances.

Any democracy gives citizens the power to voice their concerns and petition for change if needed, thanks to its effective governance systems.

7. Often forces cooperation between parties

Citizen participation in government encourages mutual understanding and cooperation among different sections of society.

When implemented well, the people who lose elections still have a say in parliament and, often, can block legislation when they team up with other minor parties.

As a result, it forces the government to cooperate with people from minority viewpoints.

For example, in New Zealand, it is the norm (with some exceptions) for no party to hold a majority over parliament, which forces parties to barter in order to get things done.

8. Prevents authoritarianism and totalitarianism

To guard against the rise of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, full democracy is the most optimal form of government.

In many multiparty democracies, the system ensures that no single individual or faction can assume control.

Furthermore, the different branches and institutions (usually executive, lawmaking, and legal branches) share power, meaning no one person or branch can impose their will without checks and balances.

Thus, democracy helps prevent the emergence of a dictatorship and ensures that citizens are granted fundamental rights and freedoms that cannot be taken away from them without due process.

9. Allows for peaceful transfers of power

In a democracy, power is peacefully exchanged through democratic elections. This system guarantees that the transition of authority happens effortlessly and without any turbulence or disruption.

Such a transfer of power also helps create stability in the system as each leader knows they will have to cede power when their term ends.

Strong constitutional democracies have clear laws as well as longstanding cultural precedent that prevent a leader from just ignoring an election and deciding to rule by decree.

10. Promotes economic growth

Most fully democratic systems have tended to lead to the election of parties that support and uphold democratic capitalism.

Such democracies encourage economic growth since it allows for open competition and encourages innovation (Heo & Tan, 2001).

Enforcement of the rule of law also helps create an environment conducive to investment and business growth. It encourages entrepreneurs to take risks and invest in new ventures, which helps create jobs and drive economic growth.

10 Disadvantages of Democracy

Despite the numerous advantages that democracy provides to people, it can also be associated with some cons.

Some cons of democracy include the possibility of government corruption and a slow-moving process when making decisions.

1. Has potential for corruption and cronyism

The democratic system offers citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders. Still, it can also give rise to corruption and cronyism (Hodgson, 2019).

Such a situation arises because politicians in a democracy are often elected based on popularity rather than competency.

It can lead to the selection of leaders more focused on personal gain and self-interest rather than the public good; and election of leaders who are best at stoking fear, division, and ethnonationalism.

Furthermore, parties often need money to advertised. In order to achieve this, they often have implied or even explicit deals where they will do something favorable for the donor once elected.

2. Has a slower decision-making process

The democratic system can result in a slower decision-making process than the authoritarian one because it requires checks and balances before things can get done.

Multiple stakeholders and parties must attain consensus to finalize any plan or policy before it is enforced.

With such multilayered deliberations, the process of making decisive choices necessitates more time than usual.

As a result, democracy can cause delays in implementing important policies, harming the economy and society.

See More: Examples of Decision-Making

3. Can be characterized by short-terminism

In a democracy, politicians are typically elected based on immediate goals and objectives.

But unfortunately, it often results in their decisions being focused on addressing current issues rather than paving the way for long-term success.

In addition, such policies tend to be focused on pleasing the voting public rather than planning for long-term sustainability or growth. As a result, it can lead to adverse outcomes in the long run (Halperin et al., 2005).

4. Opens a potential for political turmoil

A democratic political climate is often unpredictable and volatile due to rapid shifts in public opinion.

Consequently, long-term planning can be complex for any governing body as it can quickly be voted out of office before its initiatives are realized.

The possibility of such an occurrence can lead to political unrest and uncertainty, damaging the economy and society as a whole.

5. Voter ignorance

Without sufficient knowledge of the issues and policies, it can be difficult for voters to make sound decisions when they cast their ballots.

Therefore, elected officials may not be held accountable for their actions if citizens do not adequately understand what they are voting on (Somin, 1998).

For example, suppose voters are not aware of how their vote will impact the economy or society in the future. In that case, they may make a vote that they will later regret, because at the time they didn’t fully appreciate the consequences of the vote.

6. Creates conditions for media manipulation

Politicians use the media to manipulate public opinion to gain more votes. For example, they will often use the media to spread mistruths about their opponents.

As a result, it can lead to a distorted view of the political process and voter apathy and disillusionment.

Furthermore, many countries who claim to be democratic are not “full” democracies due to the fact that the democratically-elected government has taken over the media and refused to allow opposition voices to have a say (examples include Cambodia and Hungary).

7. Creates additional burden on taxpayers

Holding democratic elections can be expensive, especially when multiple parties are involved.

Elections regularly cost hundreds of millions of dollars by the state to operate and administer. Furthermore, every political party has to spend a lot of resources fundraising and advertising.

This cost can burden taxpayers and the government, as it diverts money away from other essential programs and initiatives (Kone & Winters, 1993).

8. Can lead to the exclusion of minority views

Some democratic systems can lead to the exclusion of minority views, as the majority opinion tends to prevail.

For example, if an ethnic minority has enough power at the ballot box to achieve a majority in parliament, they can pass laws that favor themselves and harm the minority groups.

If this happens, the minority groups will have no say, despite potentially representing a significant minority group within the population.

9. Can provoke growing social inequality between people

In several cases, democracies have suffered from a lack of social mobility and increasing income inequality between citizens.

This is because the system often rewards those who are already wealthy. The wealthy can wield their wealth and power by, for example, getting access to politicians, funding election campaigns, and getting favorable laws passed.

At the same time, less well-off often do not have the same access to political power. This is one of Marxism’s key criticisms of democratic capitalism.

10. Skewed trade practices

Democracies also often engage in unfair trade practices. For example, companies may attempt to sway public opinion by offering politicians financial incentives or other benefits.

As a result, it can lead to policies that are detrimental to other countries and even to the country’s own economy in the long term.

Furthermore, ethno-nationalism, which regularly wins at the ballot box, can lead to protectionist policies that can be harmful to all.

For example, the United States has been criticized for its lack of fair trade practices, which have led to increased protectionism and economic stagnation. Such a practice ultimately harms the global economy, as well as its own citizens.

Pros and Cons of Democracy (Summary)

Advantages of DemocracyDisadvantages of Democracy
Respects the will of the peopleIs overly responsive to moral panic among the voting population
Guarantees and protects human rights and freedomsOpens up potential for corruption and cronyism (this is systemic in most governmental models)
Provides citizens with a broader range of personal rights than nearly any other modelHas a slower decision-making process than authoritarian government
Promotes accountability and a sense of responsibility among leadersCan be characterized by short-terminism and inability to see beyond the next election cycle
Encourages citizen participation in governmentThe tolerance for dissent leaves potential for political turmoil
Promotes a more equitable distribution of resourcesVoter ignorance means the objectively worse party often gets into power
Provides the most effective form of governmentMedia manipulation means the voters often don’t get a full or unbiased picture of the political parties
Has achieved unprecedented levels of social harmony in many societiesElections create additional burden on taxpayers
Has checks and balances that prevent authoritarianism and totalitarianismThe majority rule element of democracy can lead to the exclusion or over-riding of minority viewpoints
Allows for peaceful transfer of power which means bad governments can be overthrown peacefullyIs often imposed upon indigenous populations without their consent
Tends to promote economic growthDemocratic nations have seen growing social inequality in recent decades, potentially due to the close ties between democracy and capitalism
The will of the people is respected.Election of a representative is often based on popularity rather than competency.
Allows for dissent, countercultures, and oppositional points of viewDemocratic parties often stir-up nationalism, xenocentrism, and ethnocentrism to get votes
When implemented well, allows for counterbalance and automatic stabilization when extreme governments take powerTends to lead to entrenched class systems, especially when paired with capitalism
Promotes free and fair contest of ideas.Exacerbates differences and division in order for parties to differentiate themselves.

Read Also: Autocracy vs Democracy


Democracy is universally praised for its remarkable capacity to guarantee citizens’ freedoms and rights while providing a platform for their representation.

This government system carries innumerable advantages, including the possibility to have broader rights and freedoms.

While democracy does have its benefits, it’s not without shortcomings. Some of them include the potential for political unrest, voter unawareness, and media manipulation by influential individuals.

Additionally, elections can become highly expensive while minority views may get overlooked, further establishing a gap between citizens with varying socio-economic statuses.

For these reasons, democracies must be carefully managed and monitored to ensure that they work for all citizens, not just those in power.


ACLU. (n.d.). The Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. American Civil Liberties Union. https://www.aclu.org/other/bill-rights-us-constitution

Halperin, M. H., Siegle, J. T., & Weinstein, M. M. (2005). The democracy advantage: How democracies promote prosperity and peace. Routledge.

Heo, U., & Tan, A. C. (2001). Democracy and economic growth: A causal analysis. Comparative Politics33(4), 463–473. https://doi.org/10.2307/422444

Hodgson, G. M. (2019). Capitalism, cronyism, and democracy. The Independent Review23(3), 345–355. https://www.jstor.org/stable/45129594

Kone, S. L., & Winters, R. F. (1993). Taxes and voting: Electoral retribution in the American states. The Journal of Politics55(1), 22–40. https://doi.org/10.2307/2132226

OHCHR. (2020). About democracy and human rights. OHCHR. https://www.ohchr.org/en/about-democracy-and-human-rights

Somin, I. (1998). Voter ignorance and the democratic ideal. Critical Review12(4), 413–458. https://doi.org/10.1080/08913819808443511

Zhao, S. (2017). Grassroots democracy and social harmony. The Politics of Peasants, 157–164. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4341-3_15

Viktoriya Sus

Viktoriya Sus (MA)

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Viktoriya Sus is an academic writer specializing mainly in economics and business from Ukraine. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Lviv National University and has more than 6 years of experience writing for different clients. Viktoriya is passionate about researching the latest trends in economics and business. However, she also loves to explore different topics such as psychology, philosophy, and more.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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