Problems of Democracy

Problems of Democracy

Learning Outcomes

There is a world of difference between education and training. Training is preparation to undertake a narrow task, say performing a specific job on the assembly line at a vehicle manufacturing plant. It needs not be transferable. Conversely, education is preparation that positions one for global citizenship, emphasizing broader applications, in varied contexts. This is why education focuses on literature and theory. This course offers education on democracy, broadly defined. It is not training for a specific democratic application.


At the end of this course, therefore, students are expected to have acquired the following broad knowledge/skills in two major segments of learning outcomes, as follows:


Group A: Learning Outcomes Associated With Five Fundamental Themes of Democracy


  • Citizen Participation: Democracy as a form of government driven by the governed.

Issue and Learning Outcome: How do we get the buy-in and meaningful/sustained participation of the governed, to get them to realize that democracy is not a spectator sport?

  • Culture: People from other lands, such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East say they want a democracy conducive to their cultures. Others say democracy incorporates universal principles that have little or nothing to do with specific cultures.

Issue and Learning Outcome: Is democracy amenable to culture? How universal are the principles of democracy?

  • Information: Information, its management and flow are a major determinant of democratic, hence the clamor for a free press.

Issue and Learning Outcome: How do we guarantee freedom of the press and free flow on unbiased information?

  • Religion: There has been a consistent effort in recent times to install democracy in Islamic states, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have wondered whether adherence to religion of any kind, especially Islam, is conducive to democracy. This is notwithstanding the fact that majority Islamic states such as Turkey and Indonesia have successful democratic systems.

Issue and Learning Outcome: Is separation of church and state really the answer to institutionalization of democracy across the world?

  • Representation: In a democracy, the masses select a few people to act on their behalf. In so doing, they reduce their domain of private action and expand the domain of public action. It has been argued that publics are able to control these elected officials through periodic schedule of elections. In the United States, these elected officials, especially in Congress and other legislatures, have continued to be re-elected into office despite mass outcry that politicians are out of touch with the wishes of the people. In other words, representation has run amok.

Issue and Learning Outcome: How can democracies ensure that representatives actually represent the will of the masses?


Group B: Miscellaneous Learning Outcomes


  • Define democracy. Discuss the differences between democracy and other political systems
  • Describe and analyze the different forms that democracy can take in theory, and the forms it has in fact taken at different times and places throughout world history
  • The problem of constitutionalism and freedoms
  • Controlling the exercise of political power in a democracy
  • Discuss the relationship between democracy, individual liberty, and different concepts of political equality.
  • Describe and analyze the problems of transition from other political forms to democratic political institutions.
  • The Huge cost of democracy
  • The problem of representation.
  • Democracy and population heterogeneity
  • Regime change
  • Encouraging and sustaining citizen participation. The special role of demand protest.
  • Discuss the important role of civic society as well as the significance of political participation for effective democracy.
  • Identify challenges that American democracy faces today and difficulties likely to appear over the course of the next several decades.
  • Describe and analyze alternative forms of democracy as well as alternative, non-democratic, political systems.

Required Reading


William E. Hudson. American Democracy in Peril: Eight Challenges to America’s Future (8th Edition). SAGE, CQ Press. 2016.


Mancur Olson. The logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1965. Chapter 1.


U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs. “What is democracy? Available Online:

Defining Democracy; Rights; The Rule of Law; Elections; The Culture of Democracy; Democratic Government; Politics, Economics, and Pluralism.


Robert D. Putnam. 1993. “The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life.” The American Prospect, Vol. 4, No.13, March 21, 1993.





Vernon Van Dyke. 1990. Equality and Public Policy. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. Chapters 16 and 17.


Geoffrey Brennan and Alan Hamlin, “On Political Representation,” British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan. 1999), pp. 109-127. Available Online:


Peter Csigo, “Review: Political Representation,” Politics and Culture, Issue 4, 2009. Available Online:


Jean-Pascal Daloz, “Political Representation: From Classical Research Tradition to Comparative Perspectives,” Politics. Available Online:


Rajeeev Kumar Sigh, “Right to Information: the Basic need of Democracy,” Journal of Education and Social Policy, 2014. Available Online:


Laura Neuman, “A Key to Democracy: Access to Information Critical for Citizens, Governments,”   April 11, 2005. Available Online:


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE. “More Than Elections: How Democracies Transfer Power.” E-Journal USA, January 2010 VOLUME 15 / NUMBER 1. Available Online:


Marc D. Stern. “Is Religion Compatible with Liberal Democracy? Available Online:


James A. Reichley. “Democracy and Religion,” PS Vol. 19, No. 4 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 801-806. Available Online:


Ben Brewster. “The Importance of Voting to Democracy,” Available Online:


Caleb Crain, “The Case against Democracy: If most voters are uninformed, who should make decisions about the public’s welfare?” The New Yorker, November 7, 2016 Issue. Available Online:


David Van Reybrouck. “Why elections are bad for democracy,” The Guardian, Wednesday 29 June 2016. Available Online:


Alfred G. Buehler. “The Cost of Democracy.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 379, Financing Democracy (Sep., 1968), pp. 1-12. Available Online:


Central Intelligence Agency.  (2018).  World factbook: References: Definitions and notes:  Government type.  Central Intelligence Agency


Hogstrom, J.  (2013).  Does the choice of democracy measure matter? Comparisons between the two leading democracy indices, Freedom House and Polity IV.  Government and Opposition, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 201-221.


Dahl, R.A.  (1998).  On democracy [excerpts].  New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press.


Chanley, J.  (2018).  Adam Smith on government.  Manuscript.


Wallach, P.  (2016).  Libertarians’ complicated relationship with democracy.  Cato Unbound.


Wilkinson, W.  (2017).  How libertarian democracy skepticism infected the American Right.  Niskanen Center.


Norton, P.  (2012).  Speaking for the people: a conservative narrative of democracy.   Policy Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, March 2012, pp. 121-132.


Henley, J., Kassam, A., Letsch, C., and Goni, U.  (2015).  May Day: workers of the world unite and take over – their factories.  The Guardian


Schwartz, J.  and .  (2017).  Social democracy is good. But not good enough.  Jacobin


National Assessment of Educational Progress.  (2010).  Civics Grade 12 national results.  Retrieved from


American National Election Studies.  (n.d.).  Guide to public opinion and electoral behavior.  Retrieved from


Bouie, J.  (2013).  Republicans admit voter-I.D. laws are aimed at Democratic voters.  The Daily Beast


Friends of Democracy.  (2018).  Why not proportional representation?


Campaign Finance Institute.  (2017).  How PACs distributed their contributions to Congressional candidates, 1978-2016


Open Secrets.  (2018).  Lobbyists



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