Extreme democracy not always a good thing

European Union flags held by demonstrators flutter near the Houses of Parliament in central London on April 4, 2019.
European Union flags held by demonstrators flutter near the Houses of Parliament in central London on April 4, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

As some countries have been able to develop under a less than democratic system, perhaps democracy has outlived its usefulness (Challenging times for democracy, April 30).

Democracy can sometimes be too idealistic and tend towards extremes.

For instance, freedom of speech and the focus on making oneself heard have gone into overdrive. While the goal - to be representative of the people - is good, things become difficult when people do not know what they want.

Brexit is a case in point.

Democracy overplays the symbolism of freedom, with people gathering, chanting and oftentimes destroying the peace of society because some people want to be heard more than others. It confuses form with substance.

If democracy has worked so well for the people, why then the need for protests by the people?

What does a free election really achieve?

Do the people really respect the democratic process?

Throughout history and even till today, despots have not been exclusive to undemocratic systems, and that makes us wonder what happened to the checks and balances often espoused by proponents of democracy.

It is also strange how quickly democratic societies tend to run their elected leaders down as soon as they take office, thus distracting them from delivering what they promised during the election campaign.

What the world needs is a system that ensures stability and continuity, which will allow governments to carry out long-term development and lift millions of their citizens out of poverty.

That is better than one that gives the people the sacrosanct right to vote every few years but puts nothing on the table come mealtime.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2019, with the headline 'Extreme democracy not always a good thing'. Print Edition | Subscribe