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Monday, May 14, 2012

Is Democracy the best or weakest form of Government? | News24

This short article, from South Africa, I think, gives some answers to the headline question. It provides short lists to these topics:
  • What is so good about Democracy?
  • What is then bad about Democracy?
And it gives brief comparisons between democracy and autocratic rule, dictatorships and communist governments.

But what caught my interest was this paragraph (emphasis added):
Does democracy's success depend on how competent and informed a country's citizens are? Democracy gives power to the people right,so an informed and competent nation that stays abreast with world events and understands the political concepts of the world gives democracy real strength over all other forms of governance one would think.
The answer to that question, of course, is "of course!"

I learned years ago while studying the history of education in graduate school that the reason we have public schools in the United States is that our country's early leaders knew its citizens had to be literate if democratic self-rule could ever work. They knew that people who could not read and write, think independently, and discuss issues knowledgeably would be dependent on a powerful, authoritarian elite.

And I learned in my journalism classes, in both high school and college, that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is built on the need for U.S. citizens to be informed and outspoken about their government, without government interference and control.

As an idealistic student, I majored in journalism and political science  believing that my key role was to tell people about their government so they could understand its processes and decisions--and take actions to influence and use government services.

Forty years later, I've not lost that idealism. I moved from journalism to public relations, but I chose to work in the public sector so I could help local governments provide two-way communication with citizens. I believe that reporters should be skeptical about what they hear from the government but not be cynical about the ability of citizens to influence their government. I saw and see too much of that in the news media.

I am saddened, frustrated and sometimes angered by the weakening of an informed, activist citizenry in our country. But I'll save that topic for another time.

Meanwhile, check out Garbl's Action Links. It's an annotated directory of websites that can help you get people to read your writing, keep readers interested and persuade them to respond while they're reading or afterward. In a democracy, we each have the right and the responsibility to speak out on matters that concern us.

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