Non-Democratic Outcomes in Democracies
Democracy allows citizens to rule indirectly, to promote their interests in a non violent
manner, and to secure a responsive and accountable government. Yet democracy requires other
pre-conditions to flourish; continual civic engagement and a leveled political and economic field
are vital to maintaining the benefits of democracy for the population as a whole. How can a
democracy yield non-democratic outcomes, such as disenfranchisement of citizens or illegal but
de facto para governments?
To answer this question, I propose that democracy is dynamic and needs continual
engagement by citizenry to reinforce pre-conditions for democracy. When one or more of the
pre-conditions for a democracy is missing, whether by part of the population opting out of civic
and political participation or by economic and social conditions preventing participation and
exercise of rights, a democracy can create non-democratic outcomes. This is not so much
democracy being usurped as it is democracy unleveled, distorting the power of those who do
participate within the system to shape policy and the subsequent outcomes for society as a result.
While the mechanics require political participation, democracies require more than just voting at
polls and majority rule, and can be unleveled when other aspects of civic and political
engagement are either absent or manipulated by elites.
For this paper I plan to analyze the United States and India and focus the theories of
Diamond and other theorists. The reasons for comparing the United States and India stem from
their similarities and differences. Both countries were former British colonies with histories of
representational governance during and after the British colonial periods of rule. More recently,
both countries have major economic significance in the global economy, India as one of the
major economic drivers of Asia and the United States as a hegemonic power. Both nations also
have a diverse population which shapes the political, cultural, and economic debate of each
country. Both have a Constitution with separation of powers and protection of rights for citizens.
Where these two nations differ also goes back to history, India had governmental systems
predating the United States by thousands of years, leaving a legacy of political and economic
modes that have relevance in modern India. Caste is another trait, an inherited position
culturally and socially in societies in India that applies to members of the same ethnic
background. The United States has racial discrimination, which applies to people of different
ethnic backgrounds or class which is based on economic disparities between individuals and
groups. India also has an ongoing insurgency in parts of the nation, both ethnic and religious in
nature with ethnic groups in the North East and religious militants in the Jammu-Kashmir region.
The United States is very stable internally despite security fears of terrorist attacks. Another
difference, and part of the reason I chose India, is that democracy in India is Asian even though
democracy has Western origins. This comparison gives a better example of democracy outside
of the Western context, unlike comparisons of democracy between Italy and the United Kingdom
or Germany, this analysis compares an Asian democracy to a Western democracy. While the
United States and India are democracies, their differences make this analysis less Western
centered and more focused on the system of democracy itself in both a Western and non Western
Theories about Democracy
As a concept, the term “Democracy” can take on many meanings. According to
Diamond, there are “thin” and “think” descriptions of democracy. Thin democracy is the system
of free and fair elections, where leaders compete for votes and individual decide politics from the
ballot box. Electoral democracy is an example of thin democracy as it is mostly procedural, and
not all electoral democracies follow the same concepts such as protection of the rights of the
minority. The system can give way to an illiberal democracy, where minorities can lose their
rights to a majority, or to a pseudo democracy in which the elections are regular but the leaders
can’t be voted out by the citizens.
The other form is thick democracy, or a democracy with many freedoms and protections,
particularly individual freedoms for ethnic, cultural, religious, social groups, due process,
genuinely open competition and fair elections, control over the military by the civilian
leadership, the right to vote for all citizens, checks and balances, independent judiciary, and a
real pluralistic society with a vibrant civil society. Thick democracies are also referred to as
liberal democracies according to Diamond1
What makes a democracy function according to Diamond is a combination of both
internal and external factors, such as a vibrant civil society internally and stability externally.
Civil society is important regards to creating or realigning the interests of society, and thus either
creating the pressures needed to garner rights or to ensure rights are protected from the regime2
Externally, democracy can be promoted by linkages and leverage in non democratic countries, or
ties to the regime or society in a country with other countries that are democratic, and the
strength of those ties and their influence over the regime. These linkages and leverage can
provide nonviolent pressure on regimes to change towards democracy 3
Larry Diamond, The Spirit of Democracy, (New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks, 2008), 21-23.
Ibid. pp. 111-112
Yet the term “liberal democracy” means something different for Schmitter and Karl, who
categorize democracy as being in two fields- liberal and social democratic. The differences
between the two are how they interact with the private sector and what freedoms are empowered
or curtailed. Liberal democracy tries to circumscribe the public sector to a narrow field while
promoting the private sector. The danger with liberal democracy is that the destruction of
collective goods and community needs and legitimate authority. Social democratic democracy
tries to promote the public sector and the collective good of the population. The danger in social
democratic democracy is the destruction of the individual rights of citizens and illegitimate use
of government action4
Diamond, Schmitter, and Karl agree that democracy, however it’s defined, relies on
preexisting liberties and political conditions. Schmitter and Karl cite a thin form of democracy
in which the leadership is held accountable to the citizens by elections. Unlike Diamond’s thick
democracy, this is bare bones, developing thick traits as Schmitter and Karl discuss the traits of
democracy. All of them agree that democracy is more than the electoral process, as authoritarian
regimes can have electoral processes and pseudo democracies and illiberal democracies also
Schmitter and Karl describe the importance of procedures, which regulates how the
democracy is run and prevents abuses within a democracy5
. The purpose of my research will be
to analyze how such procedures can be used to produce non democratic outcomes and what
factors can determine the success of a democracy, such as citizen participation and the influence
of wealth in the political sphere, or preexisting conditions that prohibit the full use of citizenship
Philippe C. Schmitter, and Terry Lynn Karl, "What Democracy Is... And Is Not," Annual Editions, 2, no. 3 (1991):
75-88, 10.1353/jod.1991.0033 (accessed October 9, 2013), p. 77
such as an ongoing security problem or cultural and social norms that deny civil rights. To
accomplish the analysis, I intend to use data from statistics detailing issues such as voter
participation, income inequality, opinion polls, and research on the two case study countries in
terms of social and political issues, such as the role of lobbying in the United States and the khap
panchayats in rural India. This will provide greater comparison and context for the two countries
to demonstrate common themes within democracy and the impact of income inequality and
historical and societal differences can affect the outcomes of democratic institutions.
The United States: Democracy or Plutonomy?
In 2005 Citi Group wrote an internal memo analyzing the United States both
economically and politically. In their research, the authors of the memo concluded that the
United States was no longer a true democracy, since the power of the wealthy had created greater
political and economic power than the average citizen. They used the term “plutonomy” to
describe the United States, a country where the wealthy dominate economic environment and
influence the economic decisions of the lower classes6
. In their findings, the authors cited
several factors leading to the rise of plutonomy in the United States, specifically the rule of law,
patent protection, greater financial complexity, technological/biotechnological revolution,
friendly governments and tax regimes, and the global supply chains being paired with well
capitalized immigrants and elites7
. When the wealthy take a high portion of overall income,
national savings rates for the rest of the society fall. The spending decisions of the wealthy
overshadow the rest of society’s decisions, creating a distorted view of the health of the
Citi Group Memo pp. 1
Ibid. pp. 9-10
. Plutonomy effectively allows the wealthy elite to control how the economy fares and
help to shape the debt levels of the lower classes. This also gives rise to a legalized form of
corruption. Unlike older definitions of corruption that involve the State, which formed in
response to 18th
century absolutist regimes, corruption in democracies now can mean
harmful exclusion from the democratic process of those who have the right to inclusion in the
process, a form of disempowerment of members of democracy (Warren 2004, 328-9)9
American plutonomy has political and civic outcomes, such as disproportionate political
influence and externalization of costs to the rest of society. According to a study by Demos, the
wealthy use their wealth to consolidate and expand their political power. There are several areas
in which this occurs, campaign contributions, media, and the creation of lobbies and
organizations to protect and promote the views of the wealthy.
The first area of influence to be discussed is the use of campaign contributions, which
help determine who can afford to run for political office. In 2012, Sheldon and Mariam Adelson
contributed 91.8 million dollars to Super PACs, or political action committees. In comparison, it
would take 322,000 American families donating equivalent shares of their wealth to match the
donations of two individuals. This also means that the Adelsons contributed more than the
populations of twelve states combined. Many of the conservative Super PACs in the 2012
campaigns were funding and contributing to the 2010 elections as well10
Ibid. p. 14
Mark Warren, "What Does Corruption Mean in a Democracy?," American Journal of Political Science, 48, no. 2
(2004): 328-343, pp. 328-9
Stacked Deck, Demos pages 18-19
Campaign contributions were allowed before Citizens United, though indirectly, through
social issue focused groups called 527 organizations since they were not explicit about which
candidate to support11
. The passage of Citizens United allowed for campaign contributions
directly to candidates and allowed for corporate funding in media supporting or attacking a
specific candidate up to the day of elections. While citizens can donate to campaigns they want,
these donations do more than help candidates win an election. They also serve to enhance the
visibility of issues donors favor. Consent or compliance of the average citizen is necessary to
pass laws favoring campaign donor issues. Donors can either educate the public, or they can
manufacture the consent needed.
Engineering Opinions and the Affordable Care Act
Campaign elections are not the only form in which the wealthy exercise power in the
United States. The use of the media to promote the interests of the wealthy is another tool, in
order to manufacture consent amongst the lower classes and shape the political debates of the
United States. According to Edward Bernays, government or private groups use engineered
consent when they wish to shape public discourse, often by providing information that makes
policies both understandable and favorable or unfavorable to the target audience. This practice is
not new in the United States, since governments used many tools to create consent. Engineered
consent allows private interest groups to create policy and control what citizens think about their
lives and country, yet it is vital to a functioning democracy in persuading the people to support
leaders and plans by the government. While Bernays was optimistic about engineered consent as
a tool for good, he recognized it can be used to harm as well (Bernays 1947, 115)12
A recent example of engineered consent has been the use of “Obamacare” in the media to
talk about the Affordable Care Act. The two terms describe the same law, though the two names
reflect different views on the law. The Obama Administration referred to the law as the
Affordable Care Act, while wealthy and conservative groups lauded it as Obamacare, resulting in
ads and campaigns to scrap “Obamacare”. Several surveys across the country showed that
depending how the law was named, either Obamacare or the ACA, Americans had different
views on it. People opposed Obamacare more than the ACA, yet others did not know what the
ACA was but had negative opinions about Obamacare. According to the All-America Economic
survey, 30% of the public did not know what the ACA was, while only 12% did not know what
Obamacare was. When asked whether they oppose Obamacare or the ACA, 46% opposed
Obamacare, while 37% opposed the ACA. Another poll by Kaiser Family Foundation shows
that 40% of Americans don’t even know the ACA is still a law13
. More Americans knew what
Obamacare was and opposed it; more people also supported the ACA, despite the two names
being used for the same law.
While engineered consent is necessary, the wealthy also use the media to affect policy,
even if the majority of the population does not support their actions. The use of social media and
the creation of “Astroturf” groups, or a top down civil society group created by private elites or
the government to imitate a real civil society group, to help create the conditions for the
Edward Bernays, "The Engineering of Consent," Annals of American Academy of Political and Social
Science, 250 (1947): 113-120,
Foley September 29, 2013
government shutdown was a recent example of how the wealthy can use their influence to drive
political debate. While the public did not understand or did not approve of Obamacare or ACA,
they also did not approve of the idea of using government funding as a weapon to repeal the law.
Polls ranged from two-thirds to 72% opposed to shutting down the government over the ACA14
Despite popular sentiments against the proposed government shutdown strategy, the government
was still partially shut down. This was a combination of several uses of social media and
funding efforts by wealthy interests such as the National Federation of Independent Business
opposed to the ACA15
. While the opponents of the ACA could create the image of
“Obamacare”, they could not convince the majority of citizens that shutting down the
government was justifiable to repeal the ACA.
Common Words, Elite Voice
Before the government shutdown, a coalition of wealthy individuals and conservative
groups such as the Tea Party Express developed a “Blue Print” to defund the ACA by defunding
the government. Tactics to coerce moderate Republicans included “score cards” on their voting
habits and whether they voted for or against health care laws. These groups created scripts for
individuals to use when calling their senators and representatives, and the use of Twitter and
other social media as part of the larger campaign against the ACA.
As the movement became stronger, moderate Republicans were targeted by ads and
efforts to elect more extreme individuals who would push for defunding the ACA. Heritage
Action, a group affiliated with the Heritage Foundation and the Tea Party, launched internet ads
Roy September 30, 2013
Seitz-Wald May 25, 2012
in one hundred districts of Republican lawmakers who had not signed on to pledges to defund
the ACA. One of the biggest sources of funding for the campaign against the ACA was the
Freedom Partners, a tax exempt group of over two hundred members representing a “business
league” and headed by an executive of Koch Industries16
. What is important to point out here is
that while the majority did not support the shutdown, it happened with the support of civil
society groups like the Tea Party and the lobbying efforts of the wealthy backers. While the Tea
Party is not an Astroturf group, they did have private funding and were effective in promoting
some of the goals of the elites.
The fight against the ACA and the government shut down were partly a fight to protect
business interests by preventing the government from forcing changes to employee health care.
The score cards helped voters see where their elected officials stood on a specific issue, making
them easier to identify and possibly mobilize against. While this could help identify specific
issues voters were concerned about, in some cases the “concern” can be manufactured, as in the
case of the ACA versus “Obamacare”.
The use of social media and cheap or no cost “tool kits” available on the Internet made
the average citizen more pronounced in while giving direction in lobbying efforts. This, in
effect, was elites inventing opinions and then passing those opinions to average citizens and
opening a channel for these citizens to voice elite opinions to government as if they were the
opinions of average voters. The tools also limited the scope in which activists could use them.
The scorecards framed political debate around the issues graded on the cards, favoring some
(Stolberg et al. 2013)
issues while ignoring others. The scripts and toolkits frame the way in which citizens
communicate with their representatives and provide biased information.
The ACA fight is an example of several issues within American democracy. First, it
shows the power of creating consent and opinions about government actions and programs, as
both the government and critics of the ACA fought to engineer public opinions. The problem
with this fight in terms of democracy is that the opinions formed about the ACA, based on the
poll numbers about the ACA and Obamacare, were mostly the product of the fight between the
Obama Administration and wealthy critics of the ACA, rather than by citizens who by en large
actively investigated the law for themselves. The attempts at creating consent also made it more
difficult for average citizens to find unbiased information about the law and its implications, as
both sides gave out information tailored to specific goals. Citizens are outsourcing their decision
making to lobbyists who in turn tell them a biased account of laws, usually with a political and
economic agenda that citizens may not fully appreciate when they are at the polls.
Tying Politicians’ Hands and Tongues
Wealthy elites can shape the political debate in their favor, not just through lobbying and
campaign finance, but through framing the debate elected representatives can have. This
happens through tools such as the pledge not to raise taxes by Grover Norquist The pledge
hobbled negotiations on taxes and the debt by making sure political signatories could not raise
taxes or support legislation that raised taxes17
. While this can directly limit the debate politicians
have, larger efforts to distort the political debates elected representatives have also takes on an
"Pledge: Grover Norquist's hold on the GOP" November 29, 2011
elite bias, particularly in terms of lobbying over taxes. Issues relevant to the lower classes can be
ignored or distorted to give priority to elite favored issues. This also gives rise to a shadow
electorate that candidates have to support in order to gain funding, as with the case of Citizens
United and the previous decades of campaign finance. This is campaign finance as the tool as
the tool to make separate voting blocks that favor corporate and wealthy elites.
The Citizens United case clarified earlier laws that created a means for influence of
finance in politics. In the 1990s, campaigns had access to “soft money”- campaign contributions
to political parties that circumvented regulations by being donated to political parties rather than
individual candidates. The practice was limited by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of
2002, but left a gap in which social-welfare groups could donate their funds to campaigns that
supported their issues, and support political parties and indirectly to candidates that supported
Democrats were some of the first to take advantage of this by creating groups aimed at
defeating Bush. These groups focused on voter mobilization and funding initiatives to challenge
candidates on their stances, and regulated what candidates could do or say. Grover Norquist’s
pledge is an example, targeting a candidate’s stance on raising or cutting taxes. Citizen’s United
allowed for direct financing rather than indirect financing, as candidates could get contributions
directly rather than from the party itself. It also allowed for third parties to create media that
directly targeted candidates such as attack ads, or sponsoring Internet and social media
campaigns to mobilize voters to defeat a specific candidate as opposed to simply getting the
voters out to the polls to vote18
In effect, unelected but wealthy ideologues can shape the debate and have been doing so
since the 1990s, despite attempts to regulate financing in elections. They can do this by setting
up a shadow campaign meant to bolster a specific candidate on the grounds of issues. With
Citizens United, shadow campaigns can focus directly on candidates as well, creating a separate
constituency for which candidates appeal to, even if they do not live in the same state as the
As with the pledges, score cards and other tools used in fighting the ACA have also
curtailed the ability of politicians to even discuss some topics without following a party line or a
donor line. In 2011, the government was reaching its annual budget and was planning on raising
the debt ceiling, which meant the government would issue more treasury bonds to pay for debts
already agreed upon by Congress. Some Republicans who allied to the Tea Party, refused to
raise the national debt ceiling without spending cuts rather than raising taxes19
. Some of these
Republicans were driven by ideology and were able to maintain their stance even in the face of
pressure from wealthy corporate lobbies. The Tea Party provided another source of campaign
contributions and support for Republicans, but these members also had to follow the ideological
demands of the Tea Party even if such demands might have been unpopular with other groups
that support the Republican Party. This new source of influence and funding has pulled the GOP
into different directions, as corporate backed Republicans contend with Tea Party backed
Balkin July 31, 2012
Carney October 06, 2013
Yet in the debt ceiling dispute of 2011, those Republicans and Democrats who signed
Norquivst’s pledge could not negotiate on the topic of taxes at all, while those who were funded
by the Tea Party had to demand concessions based on the demands of the Tea Party groups
supporting them, rather than compromising through debate. This is not to say that only
Conservatives in the United States were limited by pledges, rather this is but one example of how
the pledges and donors shaped the terms in which members of both political parties could discuss
Local Politics, National Campaigns
In a recent referendum in Colorado, two state senators were recalled after a campaign on
the issue of gun control. The referendum in Colorado to oust state senators John Morse and
Angela Giron in 2013 reflected the power of outsider influence on local elections. In the contest
to unseat the two senators, the NRA spent 400,000 to 500,000 dollars, while Michael Bloomberg
contributed 350,000 dollars to keep them in power. Only 21% and 35% respectively of the total
registered voting populace actually voted in both referendums21
While Morse and Giron both received more financial support than the pro recall groups in
Colorado, they still lost the contests. The recall campaign, both for and against, were examples
of the influence of outside donors and how much of the campaigns were based on external
funding. Most of the known funding though was on the side of the incumbents with 79% of the
funding for their campaigns coming from out of state groups. Money for the campaigns came
Caldwell September 11, 2013
through the use of social issues rather than direct contributions to both state senators, allowing
for large amounts to be donated based on issues (Watzman 2013)22
Yet the total amount is unknown since many of the involved groups on both sides were
social issue groups and some, like Americans for Prosperity, were not required to reveal their
donors or the amounts they contributed. In the case of the Colorado referendum, it was mostly
liberal and Democratic aligned advocacy groups that were backing efforts to prevent the recall,
but this is also an example of outsiders attempting to influence a local political event.
According to a poll released by Quinnipiaq on November, Colorado residents largely
oppose “strict new gun laws” by 50% but support specific laws such as background checks for
all gun purchases, 85% in favor, and a state wide ban on magazines for more than fifteen bullets
by 49%. In regards to recall efforts, Colorado residents also oppose efforts to recall elected
legislators by 57%, saying that even if they don’t agree with elected representatives on issues,
these individuals should be allowed their full terms rather than be recalled23
So while local electoral and political contests are thought of as “local”, out-of-state
groups can influence the elections even if it would be in conflict with the majority of the
electorate’s views. So long as only a few go out and vote in such contests, outsider groups can
have an influence on local elections under the claim they are helping represent the people, even
when the “people” are a minority. More to the point, outside groups affect local campaigns by
Anu Narayanswamy, Comment on Watzman, "Did guns beat money in Colorado recalls?," Sunlight Foundation
(blog), December 10, 2013, http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2013/12/10/did-guns-beat-money-in-
Ferner November 20, 2013
indirect means such as social policy groups and advocacy groups, as mentioned earlier. In this
case, the out-of-state groups were liberal and Democrat aligned, but this could happen for other
elections regardless of political affiliations.
Wealth Inequality: Maintaining the Vicious Cycle
For the past two decades, Congress lowered rates on capital gains taxes with expressed
support of wealthy Americans. At the same time, most Americans believe that capital gains and
dividends should be more heavily taxed and wealthy citizens should pay more. In December
2011, the Pew Research Center polled Americans on taxes. Most Americans perceived that the
wealthy paid less than the fair share of taxes, about 57%; up by six points since March 2003,
while issues of taxation and the complicated nature of the tax forms decreased. About 59%
viewed that Congress should completely change the tax code and only 43% thought the tax code
was moderately fair24
"Most Americans Say Wealthy Don't Pay Their Fair Share Of Taxes" April 15, 2013
"Tax System Seen as Unfair, in Need of Overhaul" December 20, 2011
According to Forbes, the investment industry created 148 billionaires worldwide, with
102 billionaires in the United States26
. The wealthy make most of their money from investments,
not wage labor. The wealthier an individual, the more reliant on investment based wealth and
capital gains and dividends they are, according to the Tax Policy Center. For the “99%”, their
primary source of income is from wages and compensation, at about 64%, and only 7% from
business and 11% from investments. Yet for the other “1%”, these numbers are closer, 39%
from compensation, 24% from business, 29% from investments, and for the “.1%” the numbers
are 34% from compensation, 22% from business, and 35% from investments27
Carlyle March 07, 2013.
Frank August 13, 2013.
Frank August 13, 2013.
Still Congress has lowered taxes overall- and on capital gains and dividends specifically-
since 1997, making the effort to lower the tax burden on the wealthy a bi-partisan effort. About
85% of households that benefitted from the lower taxes had incomes of 100,000 dollars or more,
meaning that the majority of donors to political campaigns and lobbies benefit from these
. The lower taxes on capital gains and dividends are focused mostly on the asset holding
wealthy and those with large investments within the stock markets, not the hourly wage earners.
Another impact of lobbying for wealthy individuals and corporations is the effective
lowering of their tax rates. According to research in 2009 on lobbying in the United States and
tax rates, for every one percent spent on lobbying by firms and wealthy individuals, they paid
anywhere from 0.5 to 1.6 percent less the next year (Richter et al. 2009)30
. Firms spending
millions on lobbying will pay far less the next year for taxes.
Corporate Political Influence on Governance
Corporate and wealthy individuals spend more on lobbying than civil society groups and
organizations representing the interests of lower income Americans. They also use the courts to
act on their desired policies. The financial industry for example used the courts to try and block
the Dodd Frank Act based on a claim against the cost-benefit analysis of the rules of the Act.
The health care industry has tried similar tactics against the Affordable Care Act, and continues
to fund other groups that try to block the law on the State level31
Wealthy or affluent voice helps drive economic inequality by pushing for policies that
benefit the wealthy while externalizing the costs to the rest of the society. According to
Callahan et al. February 28, 2013 p. 23.
Brian Richter, Krislert Samphantharak, and Jeffrey Timmons, "Lobbying and Taxes," American Journal of
Political Science, 53, no. 4 (2009): 893-909,
Callahan et al. February 28, 2013 p. 24
Congressional Research Service, the period between 1996 and 2006 saw the growth of overall
income inequality based on the changes on capital gains and dividends32
. So the tax policies
pursued by the government were primarily benefitting the wealthy, despite the policy widening
the income gap.
When it comes to determining policies, lower income citizens have little to no influence
in policy outcomes, particularly in areas of regulation and taxation, according to two different
studies by Gilens and Bartels33
. This is evident by the previous examples, and probably serves as
a catalyst for disengagement from politics. Yet this lack of influence stems from politically
active and well connected elites competing against a fragmented and often distrustful populace
that generally views the government as negative in general. While the infrastructure and
mechanics of democratic governance- elections, the freedom to assemble, lobby, representatives,
open access to information on political and civic issues, and the enforcement of rights are all
present for the majority of Americans, the participants in the democratic melee are shrinking.
Those who remain in the political process are given greater influence, which allows for elites to
further their economic and political interests as they increase the avenues by which they can
affect the government. Theoretically all citizens have the same representation in a democracy,
but the influence of wealth in politics and growing income inequality have made the democratic
arena an unleveled one in which the best connected and wealthiest have the most say.
Citi Group’s Cure for Plutonomy
The irony in this comes from the findings of the Citi Group Memo, in which the analysts
noted that while the elites have increased their economic power, they still only had one vote a
Ibid. p. 27
Callahan et al. February 28, 2013 p. 20
person. The rest of America’s citizenry, as well as those living in other politically democratic
States, could very well take back political power through the voting process and undo the
influence of plutonomy in their countries34
. This highlights the importance of political
representation at the most basic level, citizens can still determine the way government works
even if they may not believe in the system or the elected officials that claim to represent them.
Yet if citizens do not believe the government represents them, or that they lack any real voice,
they have little incentive to act.
India: The World’s Largest Democracy?
India is an example of a successful, long term democracy with many different ethnic,
religious, and cultural groups. India is considered the world’s largest democracy and a success
story in terms its transition from a former colony to a democratic country with a vibrant economy
and civil society within a period of a few decades. Unlike the United States, India has a
parliamentary system similar to the British, and the government has greater powers in relation to
According to Oldenburg, India is a democracy despite the Emergency of 1975-77, due to
the various factors of India’s social and historical make up. The military is under civilian control
and has not been involved in coups and domestic disturbances. Democracy survives since
internal disturbances are resolved through democratic processes within the local and national
government. Oldenburg also cites the existence of shifting coalitions in which no one group can
gain permanent power, so that Congress Party and the BJP must contend and compromise with
other smaller parties, but even then the nature of such coalitions changes quickly and various
Citi Group Memo pp. 24-5
"India: Government" 2013
groups are needed. Hindu Nationalists must work with socialists, Dalits, and regional interests in
order to maintain power. The majority of Indians regard democracy as the only legitimate
method to gain or maintain power. The poor also vote in larger numbers than higher income
members of society, and secret ballots allow for people to vote along issue lines rather than class,
religion, ethnicity, or caste lines36
India has an important economy that benefitted greatly from economic liberalization.
While the benefits have lifted millions out of poverty, they have not been even, resulting in
growing income inequality both within society and between states. For all emerging economies,
India has amongst the worst income inequality levels, the top ten percent make twelve times as
much as the poorest ten percent, double what the ratio was in 1990s. They also make five times
more than the medium ten percent, while the medium ten percent only make .4 percent times
more than the poorest ten percent37
Growing wealth of the elite and concentration of wealth, the consumption of the top
twenty percent of households rose by three percent per year since 2000, more than the lower rate
of two percent in the 1990s. Consumption rates of the poorest twenty percent have not changed
much, only one percent per year. India has the highest proportion of informal employment of
any emerging economy. Less than five percent of GDP is spent on social protections, while tax
Philip Oldenburg, "India's Democracy Illusion or Reality?," Education About Asia, 12, no. 3 (2007): 5-11,
"India's inequality has doubled in 20 years" December 07, 2011
revenue is under twenty percent in proportion to GDP, lower than all other emerging
A similar dynamic appears in the states, growth benefitting some states while others
remain, or become impoverished. According to Bandyopadhyay, more than half of India’s
population live in the six poorest states of India, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Andhra
Pradesh, Orissa, and Utter Pradesh (Bandyopadhyay 2011, 418)39
. Low or poor infrastructure is
common in poor states, suggesting that lack of infrastructure development is part of the reason
why some states did not grow in income (Bandyopadhyay 2011, 426)40
. More recently, some
impoverished states of the north have been developing economically at rates of 9.1% and have
improved due to changes in state government. This trend has also given rise to leaders who
resort to autocratic measures to secure economic development (Sharma 2013, 80-84)41
Economic development flourished in states that could take advantage of the new
technologies being developed in fields like information technology, while in other states
advancements in technology made some older professions less competitive. As regional
governments gain more autonomy and follow more state-focused economic development plans,
this divide nationally might disappear or weaken due to infrastructural development and
investment. However, leaders may take on more autocratic approaches that could weaken their
Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay, "Rich States, Poor States: Convergence And Polarisation In India," Scottish
Journal of Political Economy, 58, no. 3 (2011): 414-436, p. 418.
Ibid, pp. 426.
Ruchir Sharma, "The Rise of the Rest of India," Foreign Affairs, 92, no. 5 (2013): 75-85, pp. 80-4.
chances of national office and possibly interfere with interstate growth. The marginalization of
poor states by economic development could be repeated at regional levels for communities and
populations living in under developed districts, sidelined by either lack of political clout at the
state government level or from lack of infrastructure.
Khap Panchayats as governments within States
On paper, India has similar rights and protections as the United States in regards to civil
rights and political rights. The truth is complicated, for reasons that are very different from the
United States. There are semi-traditional groups called “khap panchayats”, many of whom
operate as the government in the regions of Northern India such as Haryana and Utter Pradesh.
In 2007, a ten day old infant was taken from parents in Nissing by the local khap. The
couple was accused of breaking social norms by marrying, and the husband’s family was fined
Rs 65,000 or around $ 1,616.7042
. The khap panchayat of Katlaheri, the region the couple were
from, issued the order that the couple dissolve their marriage, live as brother and sister, and
effectively forced the legally married couple apart. When the couple filed a police report and the
story broke in the media, the actions of the khap were defended by the Minister of State for
Archaeology, Museums, and Archives on the grounds that the marriage, which was between two
people from the same gotra or lineage, had violated social norms43
. The actions taken by the
khap were illegal under Indian law, from the dissolving of the marriage and kidnapping the child
to the levying of fines on the family of the wife. Indian law protects marriages between many
“Exchange Rate Average (Indian Rupee, US Dollar),” Last Modified October 09, 2013, http://www.x-
TNN September 09, 2007.
different groups, including those from the same village or those from different castes. While
charges were filed and pursued against the members of the khap, and the couple was reunited
with their child, they decided to leave their village. The khaps were able to do this because they
have de facto power in many places.
The khap is a traditional council of elders in a given region, varying in size and
organization role. These councils traditionally served as local forms of government and were
marginalized with the growth of the economy, and government influence as India started to
develop. In parts of rural India where economic development has lagged behind urban India,
these councils have regained their status as de facto governments. This stems in part from the
speed in which they deliver rulings in legal disputes, but khaps also serve as de facto
governments where the central government is either weak or indifferent. Khaps are taking on
new legal roles as courts for cases such as theft and murder, giving them greater power44
with the indifference or approval of local government and political parties.
While khaps are not legal entities with the power of the courts in the Indian constitution,
they have political support and have influence in Indian politics. In some states, khaps serve as a
vote bank, providing votes for local politicians who serve the demands of the khaps. Khaps
usually are not democratically elected, and until recently have been exclusively run by men.
Being a de facto government in many parts of rural India, these councils can impose their
decrees on, while violating a citizen’s rights. In the world’s largest democracy, those who live
under the rule of the khaps are living without the protections and rights of the constitution and
Khan September 18, 2013.
within a regime that more closely resembling an authoritarian government than the democracy of
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Security in India
While khaps are de factor governments in parts of Northern India, the military is
effectively the government in parts where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has
been invoked. The law was first implemented in response to the insurgency in the Naga Hills,
August 18, 1958, as emergency legislation. The law remained in place since then, being used in
India’s North Eastern states and Jammu-Kashmir to fight the insurgencies in those areas. The
law allows security forces to arrest suspects without warrants, shoot to kill suspects in law
enforcement situations, and hold prisoners indefinitely, and it grants legal immunity to security
forces from prosecution unless the central government chooses to prosecute. This has led to
disappearances, torture, murders, rapes, and other crimes for which the people living in
“disturbed areas” have no real legal recourse to challenge. This law allows the military or
security forces to scrap constitutional protections in a legal framework that has resisted repeal for
To make matters more complicated, the law has provided the basis for human rights
abuses and perverse incentives for security personnel. The AFSPA was employed in Manipur
since 1980, and since its implementation, over 2,192 people have been killed, not including cases
that went unreported. The majority of killings in Manipur by the military and the police were
based on rewards, gallantry medals and out of turn promotion on the basis of fighting insurgents.
The law has also provided a shield for security and military forces to murder petty criminals who
could not pay bribes45
In Manipur, the AFSPA has become a shield for corruption and a barrier to exercise of
democracy, by scrapping constitutional protections for citizens and preventing them from taking
legal actions against the military and security forces for crimes. Another problem with this law
is that the central government only needs to claim a place is “disturbed”, individual states cannot
repeal the “disturbed” status themselves. This allows the government to keep the military in a
given state for as long as the government wishes46
. Supporters of the law want a sunset clause
that would limit the time in which the law is enforced in a given area47
, claiming that the law
helps soldiers fight insurgents by not tying them down with risky procedures that would be
impractical for real operations, allowing soldiers to defend themselves when fired upon or
otherwise engaged in operations.
Women’s Rights and Governmental Weaknesses
In order for India, or the United States and any other democracy, to be truly
representative of the people, it must include the voice of women. Historically, women in India
were relegated to a status of less than men, though this may have varied based on class, caste,
region, and cultural beliefs. In India, women’s rights and ability to participate in the government
was given considerable strength due to economic development, but change was uneven and has
created unintended consequences, particularly the rise in sexual violence, the ability of women to
seek legal redress, and political sanction against such violence.
Chasie, & Hazarika, 2009.
"'There is scope for improvement in AFSPA'" April 14, 2013.
In any democracy a functioning judiciary system that is responsive to the people is
required. The problem with India’s judicial system comes from the twin pains of being
overburdened and underfunded. Cases take longer and are less likely to see trial in a timely
manner. Victims of sex crimes often report humiliating experiences trying to report sex crimes.
The police will engage in interrogations of victims, attempt to “compromise”- or marry them off
to their attackers in the case of crimes like rape, and handle the investigations so incompetently
as to make their findings inadmissible in court and allow for acquittal.
When criminals are brought to trial, the time between trial and sentencing is long due to
the backlog of cases. Even if the case reaches sentencing, the sentences are often lighter than the
crimes would legally call for, so sexual attackers who are charged under the Indian penal code
might be tried for criminal assault rather than rape, with the added “intent to outrage her
modesty”, resulting in a light and rarely enforced punishment. Sexual harassment and
molestation in public areas, also called “eve teasing”, is underreported because of social attitudes
and lack of government prosecution of sexual assault cases. Politicians in active legislative
positions also have a criminal flaw. In the last five years there have been 260 politicians
nominated, who were being investigated for sex crimes such as public molestation and rape48
This reflects poorly on the prospects of women having any trust in the judicial system to
effectively handle cases of sexual violence against them, and it constructs a barrier preventing
citizens from participating as equal members in society as they lack the enforcement of their
constitutionally protected rights. One reason for this might be the lack of women in political
roles or as lawmakers. Only 10% of India’s parliament is made up of women, compared to the
Xu September 13, 2013.
United States with 17% of Congress being made up of women. One reason for the lack of
representation of women in India is the lack of women in positions of political power in the
Sexual violence takes on class aspects that underlie one of the central problems with
economic development and inequality in India. The accused in the infamous Delhi gang rape
case that left the young medical student dead, were uneducated and from the slums. The rapists
in the gang rape of a photo journalist in Mumbai were also uneducated and from the slums. In
the cities at least, the impact of economic development has left many living in poverty. The
changes in economic and social conditions in the cities have made it harder for men to assert
their traditional roles and control over women. In turn, resentment builds for the unemployed
men living in urban slums as they are expected socially and culturally to be more successful than
women. However this is not necessarily the case with attacks on women in rural areas50
If women are not fully represented in government, or subject to sexual violence with little
real legal action, they are not full citizens. In the urban areas, women are subject to sexual
violence as the clash of patriarchal social norms in which women are social inferiors, which runs
into the economic demands of modern urban life in which one’s gender is less important than the
job one can perform. For the men who live in poverty and are unemployed or unemployable,
they still have social expectations of male dominance that are not completely borne out in the
In the rural areas of India, the backlash against women’s empowerment comes from a
larger backlash against the marginalization of traditional elite groups. In response to the “threat
Daigle February 09, 2013.
of economic liberalization” and globalization, these groups go back to traditional political
structures in the form of khap panchayats and enforce social norms meant to protect their
traditional power. In rural areas, women live under the demands of the khaps because the
government allows them to be subjugated in traditional roles that strip women of their
NGOs and Class: Same India, Different Worlds
Another factor in the existence of alternate governance forms in India is the role of
economic and political disparity between the middle class and the lower classes, particularly the
informal working class. Uneven economic growth has helped increase pre-existing stratification
of society, and in some cases give rise to new forms of stratification.
In the cities of Chennai, Bangalore, and Delhi, civil society groups and NGOs are very
active, serving in areas from securing housing rights and jobs, to transparency in local
governments and accountability. While civil society groups reflect engagement and awareness of
political power by citizens, yet there are differences within civil society groups that harm the
potential of engagement with the State. Civil society is stratified, in Chennai and Bangalore the
civil society groups are run by elites, and are confined to upper class and upper middle class
neighborhoods. They have large budgets, funding coming from Non Resident Indians (NRI)
who live overseas, corporate ties, professionally trained staff, and they focus on issues like
transparency and local accountability. The elite-run civil society groups tend to favor private-
public partnerships and collaboration with the government to affect changes, and have little
representation of other segments of society. Groups established by informal workers and those
of the lower classes tend to focus on securing basic rights and needs, such as a place to live and
jobs. Civil society groups started by the informal working class tend to protect their rights by
protesting (Harriss 2006, 455-6)51
. Even though there are civil society groups for both the middle
class and the lower classes, they have their own anti-democratic tendencies.
The decline in civic participation is also present in the Indian middle class, with many
going into personal consumption rather than civil or political activism. The middle class
increasingly relies on private sector services, withdrawing from the public sector. They are more
likely to be “consumer-citizens” in which they are more concerned about consumption than
public services, resulting in lack of engagement with the local government52
. For the upper class
civil society and activists groups that do engage in political issues, they seek to operate outside
of the government to solve problems, seeking problem solving rather than democratic
deliberations over the issues. This comes from the view of the government as being corrupt, a
“dirty river” that is best to be avoided when possible.
An example of this sentiment comes from the middle class in India. Some sided with
businesses in cutting back unions, public education, and public food distribution while
demonizing the State and politics. Despite the vital role public education played in the growth of
India’s middle class, which was primarily based on knowledge based and service sector growth
of which both require higher education, the middle class is attacking this very pillar on which
they grew on. Disdain for the government and politics and the rush to push policy decisions into
John Harriss, "Middle-Class Activism and the Politics of the Informal Working Class: A Perspective on Class
Relations and Civil Society in Indian Cities," Critical Asian Studies , 38, no. 4 (2006): 445-465,
10.1080/14672710601073002 (accessed November 20, 2013).
Ibid. p. 459.
the hands of technocrats meant that policies were being made by actors removed from the world
of politics (Fernendes et al. 2006, 509-10). 53
Indian Society, Factional Melee
Another trait that relates to the dynamics of the middle class in India and the lower
classes is the pursuit of hegemony in political relations. While the middle class is a term for
people of a given social and economic position in society, it can give a false sense of unity of the
middle class. As Fernendas and Heller point out, the middle class in India is stratified, each sub
group having their own interests. The development of these different interests stems from not
only pre democratic factions based on religion and caste, but also new classes developed in
response to economic liberalization and government policies designed to help traditionally
marginalized groups. Many of these groups compete for both privileges and protections of their
Like the elites, the various factions of the middle class also work to preserve their
interests (Fernendes et al. 2006, 505)54
. This fragmentation of class into different sub factions
means that the needs of other groups are viewed in terms of how each can maintain and enforce
their own policies. Debate can degenerate into demagoguery and factionalist violence, as with
the case of the Hinduvta movement in regards to Muslims and other groups outside of the high
caste. It can also lead to electoral violence and sectarian violence, as was the case in December
Leela Fernendes, and Patrick Heller, "Hegemonic Aspirations," Critical Asian Studies, 38, no. 4 (2006): 495-522,
10.1080/14672710601073028 (accessed November 27, 2013), pp. 509-510.
Leela Fernendes, and Patrick Heller, "Hegemonic Aspirations," Critical Asian Studies, 38, no. 4 (2006): 495-522,
10.1080/14672710601073028 (accessed November 27, 2013), p. 505.
1992, a mob of Hindu extremists destroyed the Babari mosque in Ayodhya, in Uttar Pradesh.
The mob was mobilized and led by the B.J.P. a party based on the Hindu nationalism. While the
B.J.P. was leading the mob, the ruling Congress party was doing nothing to stop the destruction.
The rioting that followed the destruction of the mosque left nine hundred dead, mostly Muslims.
More recent rioting in September 2013 in the Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh left thirty
eight dead and more than ten thousand displaced. Again, representatives of political parties were
inciting the local Hindu and Muslim communities to fight55
The factional nature of the middle class reflects the factionalism of Indian society at
large, since the different groups that participated in the riots were rallied on something other than
specific cross cutting social issues or economic issues. In India, many politicians use vote
banking to maintain their position in society, and often issues which have general appeal, such as
jobs and addressing unequal access to education, take on a factional element that can exclude
individuals even if they happen to be from the same class. This kind of factionalism also can
turn off middle class voters and the youth, as it contributes to the “dirty river” of government.
The United States and India are both democracies in the thin form, in which the
government is based on elections, with traits of thick democracy depending on region and social
class. The reasons for non-democratic outcomes vary in the two countries, but there are common
themes behind the outcomes. For both the United States and India, economics and income
inequality are very important in determining the level of civic and political participatory ability.
In India, the khaps thrive in the rural parts of India in part because the development that
occurred in urban areas like Delhi, bypassed many living in rural regions. The government
actively neglects places and people as part of larger demands by other groups within society. By
gentrification of the slums, the Indian government not only destroys the homes of slum dwellers,
it opens up new land for the use of other groups such as the middle class or private businesses to
build on the vacated land. By narrowing the access to government services by redefining the
levels of poverty, the government has taken away the basic services local populations needed.
The khaps step in and act as local government in rural areas, in large part because the
government has little presence in those regions outside perhaps of political parties seeking votes
Political and civic activism is harder for such groups as the government is actively
ignoring them. The lack of economic development in rural areas and slums of urban India help
to give rise to alternatives, but these alternatives are not always better. Civil society
organizations may take up some of the services government has relinquished, but they treat the
lower classes and informal working class as clients. This view risks local buy in to projects or
even marginalizing the needs of the clients. In response, the lower classes try securing their
rights through political activities and governmental channels, which favor the better educated
The growth of the “consumer citizen” has also created troubling implications for civic
involvement and democracy as a whole since it reduces the purpose of a democracy to a
simplistic market of services provided by the government and consumed by the consumers, or in
this case the citizens. Like the economy, this gives rise to powerful interests that can dominate
the government much like oligopolies can dominate the economy. This means rights are less
important than services, and marginalized groups risk losing their rights due to more powerful
groups seeking to increase and maintain their position within society.
In the United States, economic access allows the wealthy to amass considerable wealth
and clout in the economy. This in turn gives wealthy actors, whether individuals like the Koch
Brothers or firms like Goldman Sachs, greater access to the tools of government. Acting in their
best economic interests, these actors lobby politicians during non-election years and support
them with contributions and media outreach to voters. These actors increase their influence on
the government because they are the primary source of funding for elected officials, some of
whom have ties to private industry that can be affected by legislation. This also serves to
reinforce the growing income inequality that helps to promote further civic disengagement by the
lower classes. In both the cases of India and the United States, the economy matters, even if the
outcomes vary based on historical differences such as levels of development in infrastructure and
levels of urbanization.
The trend of opting out of civic and political life has been a problem for decades
according to Putnam, and so long as average citizens feel they are powerless or are disinterested
in politics, they will continue to relinquish their vote. This makes the power of those who
remain in the political process that much more powerful, as they are the “voice” of the people-
the people who speak up. Instead of discussing issues like growth policies and working to
decrease income inequality, politicians are more likely to discuss issues that impact the wealthy
such as tax breaks for high income citizens and lowering the national debt. Elites have utilized
information technology to spread their voice, making dissent easier but only for those who have
both access and knowledge of the latest technologies, often other elites with contending goals.
Elites also use the latest information technology to create opinions targeting average citizens
either by biased information or outright propaganda campaigns.
In India, the AFSPA provides a tension point between the military and civil society, since
the purpose of the act originally was to fight insurgencies that erupted in the Naga Hills. The
problem is that these insurgents are not backing down because of the act, and the government
created a problem for itself by allowing the act to remain enforce. On the one hand, the security
situation is serious in regions under the Act; on the other hand, the Act is part of the problem
because it’s used to justify human rights abuses by the military. Unlike the khaps, whom gain
their legitimacy from the ineffectiveness or absence of governmental authority in their regions,
this is an example of the military having too much power and posing a risk to civilian control.
Unlike The United States, India has an ongoing security situation in more than one part of
the country, the North East region is a flash point of violence historically between the local
groups such as the Nagas and the government. In the Jamm-Kashmir region militants and
terrorists are active. Yet the instability is being fed in part by the failings of the AFSPA to quell
the violence, and a vicious cycle is created in which insurgents attack and the military is called
in, only to commit atrocities against the local people and encourage more attacks by insurgents.
The United States is very stable throughout the country, making the security requirement for a
democracy a non issue.
In terms of infrastructural development, the United States is mostly industrialized, with
the potential to take advantage of new technologies nationwide. Yet in India, most of the
population lives in rural regions, and the divide between industrialized and rural has made a
major impact on diffusion of the nation’s wealth and the influence of the government. The
Khaps propagate in regions of India that have a weak governmental presence, yet in the United
States is much better developed and most citizens have a means to interact with the government
on a regular basis, and the laws the federal government sets down can be enforced in most, if not
all of, the United States by agents of the federal government.
In the United States, income inequality has given rise to an unleveled playing field for
democratic engagement. Those with great amounts of wealth have greater access to government
than the average citizen, to such a scale as to make the system itself cater more to the needs and
wants of wealthy elites than to represent the country as a whole. This disparity has been aided
by the decline of civic and political participation by the average citizen, which created an
opening for greater political engagement by elites. The rising costs of political campaigns
created incentives for elected officials to court wealthy donors, who used the campaigns to
advance their own economic and political goals.
With growing income inequality, corporate and private interests consolidated power both
economically and politically, allowing for influence in the national political debate. Political
debate focused on elite concerns, further alienating lower income citizens as the issues their
elected officials were concerned with had more to do with the interests of elites. This gave rise
to what Citi Group analysts in 2005 called a “plutonomy”, where the wealthy elite control the
economy with their spending decisions.
The political ramifications have been to use the political mechanics of the United States
to forward the interests of elites at the expense of everyone else, reinforcing negative views of
government, and citizens opt out of the system. The role of finance in politics also gave rise to a
legal form of corruption, as wealthy elites used their economic influence to enhance their
political power by using the mechanics of democracy- lobbying, contributing to campaigns,
rallying like-minded voters, and helping to organize opposition to elected officials that angered
citizens- to forward their specific legislation and regulations. While the tools of civic
engagement remain, the use of these tools is limited to those who remain civically active, which
replicates some of the effects of standard state corruption in non-democracies.
Income inequality has similar impact on society in India. More members of the middle
class are opting out and focusing on technocratic solutions to corrupt government, often at the
expense of the lower classes. Unlike wealthy elites and the middle class, the lower classes have
no other options for civic engagement, and are still fighting for basic necessities such as formal
employment and legal housing. In rural India the political power and social might of the khap
panachayats dominate the lives of residents using pre democratic norms, which often deny the
basic rights enshrined in the Indian constitution. They have this power because of governmental
weakness in rural areas and as a response to the changes in Indian society in regards to socio-
economic relations, particularly in caste and the role of women.
There is a chance of reinvigorating democracy in both the United States and India. In the
United States, the Citi Group analysts recognized the role of income inequality to creating and
maintaining Plutonomy, and the role average citizens had in electoral processes. If civil society
was more active, and average citizens became more politically active as a whole, they could
lobby for new focus on issues that reduce income inequality, such as reforming the tax code and
creation of jobs that pay living wages, or laws that ban campaign contributions over a certain
limit and disclosure laws on the ties between political elites and economic interests groups and
companies as a measure to protect against conflict of interests.
Curtailing special interest contributions from interfering with regional and local elections
can also serve to keep outsider influence to a minimum in local campaigns, and it would also
weaken the influence of unelected individuals to determine local policies. Another solution
might also be incorporating new information technology more evenly in society since the
Internet and changes with IT have created new potential for both civic networking and civic
engagement. One example would be the millennial generation, as they are more connected than
their parents via the Internet and information technology.
Contrary to the view of the civically disengaged youth, Millennials are as civically
minded as their counterparts in the Baby Boomer generation, but they use alternative means to
act, such as the use of social media and non formal channels to influence government. Yet civic
involvement relies also on connections to individuals and civic groups that are more common
with older citizens due to having more connections than younger citizens. New technologies
have given a potential tool for civic engagement and a new form of engagement that the
Millennials may otherwise lack due to their age and lack of connections to civic networks and
activities that require civic knowledge56
. Changes in information technology have changed the
face of elections and how citizens can participate in democracy, but the solution here is to
expand the access to all sections of society irrespective of their economic and social status. This
would address the inequality of access to information and channels to government, though it is
not a full remedy for inequalities in the democratic system.
One solution that has been tried successfully in both developing and developed countries
is the use of mandatory voting. Democracy works when citizens participate, and when they are
"Two Special Generations: The Millenials and the Boomers" 2013
not engaged, those who remain have greater political power. According to one study of a cross
section of many different countries, both developed and developing, those countries that imposed
mandatory voting laws had much higher turnout rates when those laws were strictly enforced.
Another result of the laws was a decline in income inequality as the policies of the government
reflected a varied populace rather than being captured by elites (Chong et al 2005)57
India could benefit from similar policies that address income inequality and the influence
of money in politics, but the implementation would require different approaches such as building
up confidence in the government by purging corrupt political groups and politicians actively.
Greater funding to the judicial system and streamlining the bureaucracy in the courts would help
make the judicial system more responsive to citizens. This would also provide greater appeal to
use governmental courts rather than the khaps. Women’s participation in khap panchayats,
guaranteed by law, has also shown a positive impact on development and civic inclusion of
women. In khap panchayats where women are active and present members, projects on water,
irrigation, and infrastructure, improving the lives of their village and are likely to have greater
political power in their villages58
Another issue that can be solved by inclusion of women as active participants in
politics is the laws that the government creates, by giving greater voice to the other half of Indian
society. The needs of the lower classes must also be addressed, such as occupational and
Alberto Chong, and Mauricio Olivera, "On Compulsory Voting and Income Inequality in a Cross-Section of
Countries," ." Inter-American Development Bank Research Department Working Paper , 533 (2005): 1-26,
http://grupobid.org/res/publications/pubfiles/pubWP-533.pdf (accessed December 10, 2013), p.9, p.17.
Reecha Upadhyay, "Women's Empowerment in India-," The Asia Foundation (2013): 1-14,
http://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/womensempowermentindiabriefs.pdf (accessed November 16, 2013), p. 13.
housing issues. Citizens are less likely to be concerned with issues like transparency and
accountability of government if they are living in fear of being homeless or losing their
livelihoods due to gentrification policies by more wealthy neighbors. Last, either repealing the
AFSPA or taking away legal immunity for soldiers to violate civil rights will help to address the
ongoing conflict between Indian government and local factions, but this can only be possible if
the government also works to help develop the regions in which the insurgencies are active. The
government will need to work with local leaders and civil society in those regions to further
improve representation for citizens in those regions.
Democracy can be salvaged with the same tools that created those non democratic
outcomes. In both the United States and India, the system works the way it is supposed to, but
citizen participation needs to be more active and more encompassing. Despite the differences of
both countries, the common theme regarding democracy speaks to the importance of citizens
being active in democracy. It also highlights the importance of other factors such as
development of infrastructure, human rights and women’s rights, and the influence of new
technologies on civic participation. If all of these factors are addressed, democracy can function
as representative government rather than a dysfunctional hybrid regime.
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