What are two limitations of democracy?

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Democracy has various critics from numerous different and sometimes diametrically opposed political orientations. Traditionally, the political spectrum is divided into left and right, but another common dimension articulated by political scientists is the vertical dimension, or authoritarian and libertarian. So it is possible to have libertarian right-wing politics, authoritarian (or anti-democratic) left-wing politics, and vice versa.

It is important to note that there are multiple forms of democracy—for instance, social democracy found in Scandinavian countries, a more direct form of democracy in Switzerland, and a democratic republic found in the United States. There are also pseudo-democracies in certain authoritarian states which only maintain the illusion of being democracies. There is also the economic factor to consider in assessing a democracy—whether it is freely capitalist as in the United States, or more regulated as in certain countries in Europe, or contains certain elements of socialism or social democracy.

So, when speaking of the limitations of democracy, there are always a number of factors to be considered. Strictly speaking, democracy is simply "the rule of the people." This is much more complicated in a modern nation with millions of citizens and sophisticated forms of democratic representation.

Using that definition of democracy as the primary form to assess its limitations, however, there are basic conclusions which one might draw. Because democracy almost always depends on some form of majority rule, this always has implications for political minorities and individual interests. Depending on a number of social factors, this majority force can be manipulated by certain political actors or trends—for instance, demagoguery or what is called "mob rule," a form of group think.

While democracies can be very flexible, they can also become unwieldy in their convoluted forms of representation. However, this is perhaps mostly a problem of large representational democracies, where the processes of election, legislation (particularly legislation, which can become very tiresome), and accountability become involved in bureaucratic labyrinths; at the same time, of course, this can be a counter to more direct forms of democracy (which rely more heavily on referendums, plebiscites, and the like), which may be too impulsive and reactionary.

There are many issues involved in democracy; however, the alternatives based in minority or elite rule depend on an inherent lack of freedom and upholding of privilege.

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One limitation of democracy is that the right to vote requires no special skills or abilities. With few exceptions, all adults are able to vote, irrespective of their knowledge of the relevant issues. It was traditionally thought that the right to vote required wisdom and expertise, and should therefore be severely restricted. If the ignorant and ill-informed were allowed to vote, it was feared, anarchy would prevail. While such concerns seem somewhat overstated in the modern era, they nonetheless contain a kernel of truth. Most people in democratic societies are, by any standards, less than knowledgeable when it comes to often complex political issues. This can often lead to people not really knowing what they're voting for, with often disastrous consequences.

Another limitation of democracy is the status of those who hold minority opinions. In a democracy, decisions are based on the will of the majority. But where does that leave the minority? Decisions based on the will of the majority may very well be democratic, but that doesn't automatically mean that they're right. For instance, in the United States the vast majority of white Southern voters supported blatantly racist and discriminatory policies for many years. In one sense, this was democracy in action. Unfortunately, it also led to the perpetuation of a fundamentally unjust system which kept millions in a state of oppression.

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