[Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post and will contribute future posts from time to time. She is a writer from ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Regardless of the system of government operating within a specific region, there are natural challenges to overcome. And while democracy has its share of advantages, even governments based on free elections and equitable representation are fraught with difficulties, at times.
The fact that we have a democratically elected government does not excuse us from the necessity to address the pressing challenges all democracies face, and sometimes our answers have not lived up to our national promise. The US promotes free markets and equal opportunity, for example, but the results are too often neither free nor equal.
Here are some key challenges all democracies must answer to:
Services and Benefits
Despite philosophical differences that separate the way governments treat citizens, there are practical concerns to be addressed one way or another. Infrastructure, for example, supports sanitation, transportation, and other essential services that must be managed to maintain orderly societies. Roads, bridges and other structures wear-out over time, so infrastructure is an ongoing matter to be addressed in government budgets and long-range planning efforts. And as populations continue to grow around the world, regional governments are tasked with furnishing sewers and sanitation facilities that accommodate ever-growing numbers of citizens.
In the U.S., one-quarter of all bridges have structural problems requiring attention, or were built to such low standards they don’t meet modern construction requirements. Schools are also outdated, built to serve a generation of students now retiring from the workforce. A healthy democracy would employ its citizens to refurbish and construct adequate infrastructure, but budget issues do not allow it in the United States. As a result, unemployment lingers around 7%, despite the call for much-needed upgrades that could put Americans to work.
In developed nations, where infrastructure is in good shape, governments still face expenses related to services and benefits. Pensions and other benefits for public sector employees, for example, account for a significant share of government budgets, requiring ongoing spending financed by the populace.
Beyond government-backed programs that help the entire population of a particular region, governments put forth a variety of initiatives designed to increase social order and assist society’s neediest members. In the United States, there are blanket programs in place to assist elderly, disabled and indigent members of society, but additional efforts are also made to revitalize certain neighborhoods and offer a leg-up to targeted groups within society. While the results are never completely equitable across society, government funded social programs nonetheless account for significant government spending.
Sovereign countries provide for their own defense by building military might and maintaining standing armies. The cost of defense is significant, requiring democratic governments to fund defense with public tax dollars. During peaceful times, governments maintain steady budgets for personnel and equipment, but wartime present a unique set of challenges for democracies defending their sovereignty. In the United States alone, military budgets in recent years have been around $700 billion dollars annually.
Global economics and a host of other factors influence unemployment in particular regions, but the government overseeing each democracy is generally responsible for facilitating a climate of robust employment. Since so many aspects of a healthy economy are tied to high levels of employment, maintaining healthy job markets is an essential underpinning of any democratic government’s economic strategy. Not only does unemployment compensation provided by democratic governments place a drain on funding, but the revenue lost from low productivity is not available to refresh government coffers. As a result, high unemployment widens the social and economic gaps between groups within society.
Distribution of Wealth
One of the unique challenges facing democratic capitalist societies is an advanced stage of free markets wherein high levels of a nation’s income is concentrated near the top of the socioeconomic scale. And since it is a zero-sum proposition, disproportional wealth at the flush end of the spectrum means that comparable poverty exists on the other end of the scale. Ten-percent of Americans, for example, represent 70% of the country’s wealth. While the least prosperous 50% of the population account for only a few percentage points worth of total United States affluence.
The economic challenges democracies face when wealth is distributed inequitably lead to a variety of social ills as well, including class struggles between members of different social strata.
While democratic rule furnishes advantages for many members of society, it is not a perfect system. Inequitable distribution of wealth and other social concerns arise within democracies, presenting challenges for even the most stable democratic systems.