Are Well Informed Voters A Pre Requisite for Democracy?
U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as: Government of the people, by the people, for the people.
In modern times, Democracy is believed to be a form of government, where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law.
In order to deserve the label ‘modern democracy’, a country needs to fulfill some basic requirements such as Human Rights, Separation of Powers between the institutions of the state, Freedom of opinion, speech, press and mass media, Religious liberty, General and equal right to vote (one person, one vote)and Good Governance (focus on public interest and absence of
Success demands the ruler as well as the ruled to be capable of forming their own opinion and making an evaluation of it, in proper perspective so the act of choosing the right person is the arduous part of a functioning democracy. To elect a representative who possesses the capability to reconcile the conflicting interests of separate groups is a complicated exercise and demand the acumen of a perspicuous person. Here comes the role of education. Uneducated mass are incapable of electing the suitable party or person. It must be borne in mind that the choice has been always the best among the available alternatives on the part of the electorate. Education per
se provides a window to the world. Nevertheless, how much one chooses to see depends more on the factors like the vision and the desire to behold than on the size of the window.
Education brings long-term benefits in legitimizing and strengthening democracy. Education proliferation enables the common man to develop the maturity required to sustain and develop democracy as a dependable political system. An educated person understands the need for norms of tolerance; education can restrain a person from adhering to extremist doctrines and increases one’s capacity to make rational electoral choices as well.
The evidence on the contribution of education to democracy is even more direct and strong on the level of individual behaviour within countries, than it is in cross-national correlations.
Aristotle sought to avoid democracy, largely on the grounds of popular ignorance: “What are the matters over which… the general body of citizens… should properly exercise sovereignty? It is dangerous for men of this sort to share in the highest offices, as injustice may lead them into
wrongdoing and thoughtlessness into error” (Aristotle 1946: 124). Several millennia later, American radicals agreed with the diagnosis, but proposed a different solution. Thomas Jefferson prescribed “two great measures, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength:
1.That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.
2. To divide every county … [so] that all the children of each will be within reach
of a central school in it" (Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1810, in (Jefferson 1903-04), v. 12, p.393).
Benjamin Franklin agreed: “Nothing can more effectually contribute to the Cultivation and Improvement of a Country, the Wisdom, Riches, and Strength, Virtue and Piety, the Welfare and Happiness of a People, than a proper Education of youth” (Franklin 1962 : 152-153).
Recognizing the deep merits of the question, we stumbled upon the question in Edition 4 of Multiply Debate, titled,
“Are well informed voters a pre-requisite for Democracy?” on 27th August, 2017 at 2 PM.
Moderator: Syed Jalal Ali Shah – Director Public Relations – Center for Development – Pakistan
Ms. Mashal Ahmed – Academic Expert on Social Engineering
Mr. Nosherwan Shahid – Advisor at Adam Smith International and Global Shaper at World Economic Forum
Ms. Madeeha Shahid Rana – Director Communications(Hashoo Group) and Influencer
Mr. Saad Sultan – President, Center for Development – Pakistan
Interested in attending?
Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/centerfordevelopment