Why Is Democracy Not the Best Form of Government?

Democracy has been criticized for perceived weaknesses that include irrational voters, wealth disparity, political instability, and potential oppression by the majority. The Greek philosophers Socrates and Plato, as well as U.S. President James Madison, voiced complaints about democracy.

Both Socrates and Plato shared similar criticisms of democracy, suggesting that it gives an equal voice to those who do and don't deserve to be heard. Socrates went even further, implying that the very nature of democracy makes the system corrupt. Irrational voters, those who are uninformed about political and economic issues, can poorly interpret information presented to them and thus make ignorant decisions when they vote.

Socrates also argued that a majority would inevitably do a poorer job of governing than a few capable people with the necessary knowledge. This situation would result in government policies being influenced by non-experts, compromising their effectiveness. Plato favored a form of aristocracy called "Kallipolis" that would be led by philosopher-kings, wise men who governed unwillingly.

U.S. President James Madison suggested that republics were superior to democracies, as they safeguarded against the tyranny of the majority. In the Federalist Papers, he attests that democracies aren't compatible with protecting property rights or personal security. Madison goes on to say that they are generally short-lived and end violently.