Citizens in a democracy attempt to educate themselves and try to be involved with the decisions the government makes. In being in a democracy, citizens are given the opportunity to express their position on issues by voting for representatives that posses the same ideological background that clearly reflects his or her stance on issues. Having access to these rights and freedoms was advocated by Voltaire, a French philosopher during the enlightenment period.
Voltaire stood up to the great power of the church and criticized the nobles for their torture and persecution of citizens who disagreed with the church’s ideas. The source presented provides a perspective, regarding the public welfare, that the decreasement of citizen involvement and awareness in a democracy is far more dangerous to public welfare, then a prince and an oligarchy that make all the decisions without regard to its citizens. Since this source addresses democracy to be a system of government, the source is not a complete rejection of liberalism, but rather a criticism of it.
I believe that we should embrace Montesquieu’s ideological perspective in this source, and would argue that when democracy’s main roots; it’s citizens, start developing apathetic characteristics, the public welfare is dangerously affected. Perrott 2 Thomas Hobbes is a famous philosopher that would agree with the perspective presented in this source. Hobbes is known famously for his book “Leviathan,” he argued in his book that people are naturally evil and will make irrational decisions if left alone. He based his position that people in society need an authoritarian government to protect them, in exchange to give up their civil liberties.
The source suggests that a dictatorship is less dangerous to the the public good compared to citizen apathy. Hobbes would strongly support that an authoritarian government better serves the common good opposed to citizen apathy. Also one of the great early liberal philosophers was John Locke. He believed that human nature is essentially good and that people are born free with natural rights and freedoms. Locke was recognised for his input for the enlightenment and he made central contributions to the central ideas of liberalism.
Also Locke supported the notion of popular consent, this trait is what sets Locke apart from most philosophers at that time. Any government action had to be justified by popular consent, which truly reflects the will of the people. Locke would strongly argue that being apathetic in a democracy is extremely dangerous. Since popular consent rides primarily on the will of the people, if citizens are apathetic it doesn’t truly reflect the will of the people. Direct Democracy is a style of democracy that was first seen to be used by the Greeks. This style of democracy directly reflects the will of the people.
Governments in a current day first past the post democracy can use a referendum in order to directly get Perrott 3 the will of the people’s opinion on issues. For example a very important referendum just happened last June in the United Kingdom, known as Brexit. Brexit was an idea that was proposed by United Kingdom’s former Prime Minister, David Cameron. Cameron proposed before the referendum happened that if he was re elected to serve as prime minister for the UK he would have a nationwide referendum in regards to leaving the European Union.
After the referendum results had been collective it displayed that 52% of the citizens who actually voted, voted to leave the EU, and the other 48% voted to remain apart of the EU. There was 2 factors that led to the result of the referendum. The first being that the citizens were extremely uneducated about the topic. Having a majority can be a very important feature in democracy. It gives power to the majority that can either be used correctly by having consideration of the minority, or it can be used negatively in which results in an unstoppable power, which can also be known as the tyranny of the majority.
The United Kingdom citizens were extremely apathetic when it came to knowing the background knowledge of the referendum itself. In fact according to google, “What is the EU? ” was the second most searched term after the referendum. This means that the citizens didn’t even know what they were voting for, which is extremely apathetic. The second factor that shaped the result of the referendum was the percentage of eligible voters that actually came out to vote on the referendum was only 72%.
If the minority of eligible voters didn’t act apathetic about the situation there could have been a different result from the referendum. Perrott 4 Many people engage in politics because they take interest in politicians that reflect the same ideological beliefs. In this case the United States election has opposite reasons. There are supporters of both Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, but 59% of non-voters continue not to vote each year because they feel like “nothing ever gets done” and that the government never reflects the will of the people.
In a first past the post style of democracy a small percentage of people’s vote will be lost regardless, that’s the negative aspect of representative democracy. Even though the non-voters feel like they vote doesn’t matter because the government doesn’t listen to them anyway is wrong. That 40% of non-voters possess apathetic traits and are causing direct damage to the public welfare. On the other side of things the 60% of the population that usually votes during elections is stuck in a dilemma.
They are unsure which party leader would create the better president to run the country to the majority of them will not vote at all. When citizens don’t vote in a democracy it has a dangerous effect on the public welfare. Public welfare is an important aspect to the citizens of a society. Although, there is factors that can be a danger to the public good in a democracy. A strong authoritarian leader can still cause a dangerous effect on the public welfare, but when compared to citizen apathy in a society, apathy is far more dangerous.
There are various philosophers that agree with the perspective presented in the source. Also the example of Brexit easily demonstrates how easily society can be harmed by its citizens if they act Perrott 5 apathetic. Finally, the United States election underlies how if the citizens don’t agree with the ideological backgrounds of the leading candidates, they will act apathetically by not voting, which actually causes more harm than good. A democracy is performing at its best when citizens are aware and provide positions on arguments, educate themselves about topics, and prevent from obtaining apathetic traits.