Essay #1. Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choices are prepared to choose wisely.
(Examiner will pay special attention to the candidate's grasp of his/her material, its relevance to the subject chosen, and to his/ her ability to think constructively and to present his/her ideas concisely, logically and effectively).
Question #1. Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choices, are prepared to choose wisely.
One of the most easy and beautiful definitions of democracy was given by Abraham Lincoln-’Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.’ The form of government which is based on majority has many advantages. It is elected by the people, so its legitimacy is unquestionable in the sense that while choosing the government people have exercised their right to franchise for choosing the governments which they think would fulfill their aspirations and lead them to their desired and deserved destinies. A majority based government was also praised by thinkers like Aristotle because it will give power to the poor and represent the will of the poor people rather than rich people because the poor are usually a majority. Aristotle said, ‘In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.’ However, majority based governments are prone to carry the prejudices, fallacies, values, and preferences of the people who are in majority.
Majority may be guided by considerations which are affront to the principle of equality and justice, freedom and liberty. Majority may decide to form a government which safeguards its interests, privileges and dominant position vis-à-vis minorities. In such a situation what is the guarantee that democracy would succeed in achieving it avowed goals of liberty and equality, justice and development to all? It is, therefore, vitally important for democracy to succeed that people make an educated and impartial decision to choose the best and the most talented leaders in terms of vision, values and ability to deliver development and justice. The statement of great American President Franklin D. Roosevelt- ‘Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely’. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education- needs to see in this perspective.
Democracy is a government elected by the majority of the citizens of a country. All eligible citizens are meant to participate equally - either directly or, through elected representatives, indirectly - in the proposal, development and establishment of the laws by which their society is run. Several variants of democracy exist, but there are two basic forms, both of which concern how the whole body of all eligible citizens executes its will. One form of democracy is Direct Democracy, in which all eligible citizens have direct and active participation in the political decision making. In most modern democracies, the whole body of eligible citizen remains the sovereign power but political power is exercised indirectly through elected representatives; this is called a representative democracy or democratic republic. But there may be many gaps in the cup and the lip. In the first instance if the majority do not turn up for voting then democracy does not remain representative. For example, when the voter turnout is small or the winning political party or the leader musters less than fifty percent of the eligible votes, then such a government cannot be said to be representative in the true sense. Secondly, the democracy often ends up representing the powerful and the privileged and ignoring the powerless, the voiceless, the meek, and the poor. Thirdly modern democratic elections are marred by brazen and unscrupulous use of money and propaganda to influence of the opinion of the people. The tailored mandates through monetary considerations, all pervading advertisements and power packed election campaigns may or may not represent the real will of the people. Propaganda is also a very important part of modern democratic elections- it is often based on the belief that an untruth repeated several times may be taken as truth. Propaganda may be divisive, emotive or based on a very narrow group interest blurring the vision of the people and obstructing their capacity to take right decision. Plato was very cryptic in his remark on democracy- ‘Democracy... is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.’ This remark tells us about forced equality among people with different abilities and qualities by democratic governments in the name of equality and justice. Laski therefore pointed out that democracy has a tendency to become a ‘mobocracy’ devoid of vision and reason and more enthused by slogans, charisma, passion, and narrow group interests. In such a circumstance, people need to have lots of information and sufficient education to choose wisely the democratic governments which can bring prosperity, justice and happiness.
The man who gave the most popular definition of democracy, the great American President Abraham Lincoln, rightly warns against the failure of people in choosing right governments- ‘Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.’ Choosing a government wisely means that people vote for their shared national dreams, collective well-being, socio-economic progress, peace and happiness, and not on the basis of narrow interest or to safeguard their unjust privileges and dominance. Woodrow Wilson explains such ironic situations- ‘The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.’
People who vote for formation of democratic governments are prone to be misled because of a variety of reasons. Lack of education and information along with economic insecurity are the most important reasons that make them vulnerable while making decisions. They vote on the basis of propaganda, advertisement, monetary considerations, only because the truth is kept away from them, untruth is rained rather bombarded on them and they are not in a situation to keep them insulated or remain in their elements to take right decisions. In electoral language a popular term i.e. ‘wave’ has been devised to explain such situations, which sways the people in a particular direction, even when it may not be the best or right choice. ‘Waves’ are created and they do not lead people, they compel. Popular psychology is tailored by the political parties through excessive use of media and money, slogans and false promises etc.; individual voters have no option but to be swayed. It all happens because people do not have sufficient education or information. While lamenting on the peoples’ information level Winston S. Churchill goes to the extent of giving an argument against democracy. He says, ‘The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.’
One of the greatest enemies of an educated and informed choice is propaganda. Propaganda is one of the most potent weapons of modern politics. A prominent contemporary thinker, Noam Chomsky, rightly says, ‘Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.’ Propaganda is mainly carried through massive advertisement campaigns, electioneering with unrealistic promises and announcing populist but unsustainable welfare policies and even distributing money and other materials such as T.V sets, Micro ovens, Bicycles, Laptops, to tilt public opinion. Those who have watched Indian elections will not be surprised to see all these. There are promises to build religious buildings, to get reservation in jobs, to settle aberrant minorities and repel constitution provisions meant for minority appeasement, to distribute free lunches so on and so forth. People fall prey to such propaganda because they are neither educated enough and nor do they have minimum economic security.
Divisive politics on the basis of religion, caste, language, provocations to far right nationalism to muster maximum votes, identity based political formations, appeasement of minorities, evoking greed in people (even buying their opinions) are all equally inimical to a successful democracy. The only assurance against these evils is that people remain cautious and vigilant. This is possible if the press and media remain unbiased. But expecting unbiased media today is analogous to asking for the impossible. Media is playing the role of iconoclast and king-maker both. It not only misinforms, but it also ruins the established images. It acts to enhance the corporate interest- right or wrong. Media is at, many times irresponsible and a sensationalizing medium of communication. However, a section of media remains upright, truthful and remain guided by the highest ideals, despite humongous temptations. People must know about the good sections of the ‘fourth state’ and the difference between sensationalism and information, forming the public opinion and polluting the public opinion, giving a platform for constructive discussion rather than wrecking up controversy.
Democracy based on divisive politics, ignorance and false propaganda never leads to prosperity and happiness. Martin Luther King Jr. warns, ‘Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.’ We often hear that there is a difference between ‘grass root leaders’ and ‘armchair or drawing room intellectuals’ capable only of causing a storm in coffee cup. This compartmentalization indicates towards a bitter reality- if you are able to connect with people by satisfying their unreasonable or unfair demands you support massive support of people and you are a grass root leader and if you reason and give an educated argument over the relevant issues, you lose people’s appeal and you become an armchair leader. People have been constantly made to believe that there is a real difference between these two kinds of leaders. It needs to be revisited- why such a chasm in the two kinds of leadership do exist? In fact this divisor is a crafted division. There are things which are right and there are things which are wrong. If people aspire something that is dangerous, a leader should tell them that is so. If a thing is right a leader to should try to convince people about it. But a chasm is deliberately created by the vested interests. Isaac Asimov reacts very sharply against such trends- ‘Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’
Democracy is very often hijacked by the strongest interest groups. In the name of free enterprise or in the name of equality, a small group of people are perpetuated in power with the help of these groups. People are worse off or condemned to remain under the same plight while the stronger interest groups go on maximizing their power and profit. In India, labour groups, peasants, rural people, poor people lack even the most basic facilities of life such as primary education and healthcare, ventilated house, potable water, safe medium of cooking, all-weather roads etc., despite big promises by the political parties. The metropolitan cities or some of the constituencies of dominant leaders might have seen some development, but generally people have to base their hopes on natural momentum of growth and development rather than government initiated efforts. But meanwhile billionaires are created; they influence government policies in their favour; rightist or leftist intellectuals make an experiment laboratory, in fact guinea pigs, of people to experiment with a variety of policies while people unendingly wait for Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj or Nehru’s Tryst with Destiny. The hopelessness sometimes becomes so frustrating that we feel the way John Adams feels- ‘I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is bloodier than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.’
The best guarantee against the failures of democracy is a vigilant, educated, and economically self-reliant citizen. This a necessary condition but not sufficient one. People must elect their leaders wisely. The sufficient condition is that a society slowly develops a value system and culture that only the truly talented and honest people are placed in the places of leadership- be it parliament, bureaucracy, or social arena. Favoritism, nepotism, marketing and propaganda should not influence peoples’ reason and capacity to take right decisions. It is apt to quote Franklin Roosevelt in this regard- Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country. Education is very important for taking a wise decision. Thomas Jefferson highlighted this by saying that, ‘it is an axiom in my mind, that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction’. This it is the business of the State to effect, and on a general plan. A state which wants democracy to be successful must take steps to educate people. Only then a country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it. Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation. Education is the greatest healer of democracy and peoples’ participation the greatest savior.
Question 2. More law, less justice.
It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive. – Earl Warren
Anciently morality and religion were primary basis to govern the relationship between peoples. And there was no need to search for a law maker to enact laws that govern social relations. It was based on natural law that human relations were regulated. But, after a long and serious debate between legal scholars and philosophers it is determined that there must be a human made law to regulate human relations.
Based on this conception, law made by human beings has played an important role in the definition and protection of certain relationships, systems and institutions and in the control of individual and collective human behavior. Through the use of normative, directive and prescriptive rules, supported by varying degrees of sanctions, law has been used to create a climate of social order, the usual justification of which has been that it benefits members of society. But, the issue whether human made laws are exact machinery to serve justice and fairness to all the society is always questionable. ‘Law’ is a large body of rules and regulations, based mainly on general principles of justice, fair play and convenience and which have been worked out by governmental bodies to regulate human activities. In broader sense, ‘Law’ denotes the whole process by which organized society, through government bodies and personnel (Law-makers, Courts, Tribunals, Law Enforcement Agencies and Executive, Penal and corrective Institutions etc.) attempt to apply rules and regulations to establish and maintain peaceful and orderly relations amongst the people in the society.
Why do we need law? Is it not possible to live without law? To answer these questions it is critical to clearly understand the state of nature and the social contract theory. Thomas Hobbes beautifully describes what life seems in the state of nature. In the state of nature primitive man lived always in the state of war, there was no security of life or property, there is always war in such society and continual fear and danger of violent death, there is no place for industry, no arts, no letters and the life of man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. To this war of every man to every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of rights and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where no law, no injustice. Forces, and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues… There is no government and no law to govern the interaction of the society and everyone has a right on everything without the consent of others. As a result of this it was obvious that there was war and conflict. Just because of existence of these problems it was necessarily come out of the state of nature. Primitive man soon discovered that the only way to escape from this life of uncertainty was to appoint someone to rule over them.
Law and justice are often misconstrued as being one and the same thing. This however, is a fallacy and even though the two have symbiotic relationship, they cannot be considered as the same thing. A relationship does exist between law and justice and as they are not mutually exclusive. In order to understand the nature of the relationship between law and justice, we first need to understand what both these terms mean in isolation. First, lets consider justice. Justice is often used interchangeably with “fairness”. While this relationship is true to an extent, justice is more of a social term, geared towards achieving fairness for the entire society. Fairness is a subjective term, where every individual’s concept of what is fair is different from one another. What one person may consider fair for them, may not be viewed by another as fair at all. Justice is a concept that looks to incorporate all these individual’s personal concepts of fairness and come to a solution that is suitable for all parties. A just society, according to Plato, is a society in which all its constituents are happy. However, the subjective nature of justice makes the term very hard to adequately define. While what mentioned above may serve to illustrate the broader meaning of justice, in practice, what is considered justice for one party does not necessarily mean the same for another. For example, a starving person steals bread from a bakery to quench his hunger. The baker catches him and turns him over to the authorities. The authorities in turn punish the starving man for stealing. In this case, justice is served from the perspective of the baker. Justice is also served from the perspective of society, as a just man would not steal. However, for the starving man, taking one loaf of bread, which, had the baker not caught him, would not even have been missed, is not worthy of such punishment. His situation was dire and he only resorted to stealing in extenuating circumstances. In his opinion, justice might not have been served. In order to remove this ambiguity in the adjudication of justice, societies create guidelines that all members of society must follow. But the big question is of the ground reality of law and justice when it come to operation, when it come to pass a test of its purpose? Lets look at some of the statistics from our country.
This all happening despite plethora of law exists in our country. India has a fairly advanced judicial system having a well defined hierarchy of Courts with the Supreme Court at the apex and a number of subordinate Courts below it. The laws are mostly codified having a uniform application throughout the country. The primary object of judicial administration is to ensure even-handed justice to all alike and establish Rule of Law throughout the country. It is, however, distressing to note that introduction of ‘uniform civil code’ as contemplated by Article 44 of the Constitution of India is not yet accomplished despite the Supreme Court decision in this regard. The independence of judiciary has been well guarded by the Constitution of India and the provisions of appeal are fair to ensure justice to common man. The more laws there are, the harder it is to enforce them, and so the more people will get away with breaking them. Laws, in themselves, do not restrict people from breaking them. People’s own internal lack of freedom and personal responsibility cause them to break laws. By virtue of provocation, laws promote the irresponsible and amoral to break them.
Laws are necessary in many situations, whether this be the market, office or factory so as to protect people from unfair practices. A major role of the government, therefore, is to control the activities by making, enforcing and upholding laws so as to prevent unfair practices and ensure social justice. This means that the government has to make ‘appropriate laws’ and also has to enforce the laws. Laws that are weak and poorly enforced can cause serious harm. Merely making laws is not enough. The government has to ensure that these laws are implemented. This means that the law must be enforced. Enforcement becomes even more important when the law seeks to protect the weak from the strong.
Note: You have to write your answers on an A4 size sheet leaving margins on both sides based on UPSC pattern. Mention Your Name on 1st page and Page Number on each page. After writing the answer, Click pictures of each page of the answer sheet and upload them altogether (in JPG/JPEG/PNG format) in the comment section of the same question.
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