Since the 15th of September, the day the international community celebrates the International Day of Democracy, that my mind has been bothered with two questions. First, is Democracy a Public Good? And second, why is there so much pressure of the international community on governments to provide Democracy?
Just to be clear on what I am mean when I say Democracy, I am referring to article 21(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” So the good provided is the will of the people through an elected government – you can argue that this is not Democracy, but that would be a completely different discussion.
A quick look into what is a Public Good tells me that a pure public good is a good that is non-excludable, meaning that if the good is supplied no consumer can be excluded from consuming it, and non-rival, which means that the consumption of the good by one consumer does not reduce the quantity available for consumption of this same good by other individuals.
Now, the question arises: Is Democracy a Public Good? No, or at least I don’t think it fits the definition that was just mentioned above. To state that the good is excludable, I would like to bring to attention that not everyones’ will is being taken into consideration. After participation in the voting, you either get your will in the government or you don’t, and that means that the authority vested in the government, excludes some members from having their own will putted in to place by government officials. To contest that Democracy is a non rival good, I identify the non existence of infinite liberty for individual will in the world, which means that someone is not going to get what he/she wants because there is a reduction in the quantity of will liberty available.
Keeping this in mind, my question is: why is there so much international pressure on getting governments to provide democracy? Why are we telling the institution responsible for the provision of public goods to provide something that is arguably a public good? Why is there no creation of an organism or company (or several companies) that invest in creating democracy? We have the tendency of putting the government correcting the flaws that exist in the market. Why don’t we start thinking the other way around? Let’s have people demand democracy from societies and wait to see if there is a market solution that betters provides will for the people.
Matilde Grácio, #84