Why does Robert A. Dahl feel that democracy is a bit chancy?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Robert Dahl feels that democracy is difficult to achieve because having a perfect democracy requires that a country meet some very difficult criteria.  He says that a perfect democracy needs to have

  • Effective participation, where citizens have opinions and get to express their opinions effectively on important matters.
  • Voting equality.  This means that all people must have the same amount of influence as other people do on the outcome of an issue or election.
  • Enlightened understanding, which means that citizens need to have plenty of opportunities to truly understand the issues that face their country.
  • Control of the agenda.  In other words, the people must be the ones to determine what issues are deemed important.  They must control what issues come before the government to be decided.
  • Inclusiveness.  All people and groups must be included and made to feel equal.

This list is, clearly, a set of goals that is impossible to actually achieve.  Because democracy requires so many difficult things, it can never be done perfectly and will always be in danger.  This is why it is "a bit chancy."

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