Well-functioning constitutional, republican, liberal (= prioritizing liberty) democracies have four significant advantages relative to illiberal regimes:
- Everyone can have confidence that their leaders will have a fair chance at gaining power. This confidence comes because the Constitution denies the leaders currently in office the power to entrench themselves by tyrannizing their opposition. Inclusive, fair, and competitive elections are a good sign that the spirit of a republican and liberal constitution is being upheld, equally for all.
- Political corruption and injustice are both reduced when equality under the law and freedom of the press backstop accountability through elections.
- It is difficult to exclude any group from political participation permanently – those excluded will see a direct path to empowerment through voting rights, while some in power will see an opportunity for new allies. In the U.S., over time, with struggle, the right to vote has been extended to include people without property and wealth, women, young adults, and people of all colors, ethnicity, and religion.
- There is constant pressure to improve policies, pressure that comes from competitive elections, and from competitive policy making. This pressure, together with good ideas coming from all corners of society, may be a good part of the reason why most liberal, republican democracies tend to have much higher standards of living (amenities, wealth, happiness) than most other countries.
Excerpted from America: Democracy or Republic?
Image: Myanmar Coup. Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters.