The use of “best” in the discussion at hand (democracy) implies a comparison to other forms of government. However, it also implies an undefined standard as to what constitutes ‘best’ for those governed by any form of government.
A defining principle of democracy is that it surrounds a government providing the greatest good to the greatest number of governed people, as determined by a majority of the governed. Obviously, if one applies this same guiding principle to determine and define what is ‘best’ for the world’s inhabitants, then democracy triumphs.
The key element of this argument for democracy is surrounds the concept of rule by a majority of the governed. Many of the world’s inhabitants live without the conditions necessary for democracy; these conditions include general literacy of the populace, cultural compatibility or a functional communication infrastructure. In such circumstances, a hierarchical or totalitarian rule of some kind might be better for security and/or functional reasons, but such a governmental structure violates the aforementioned ‘rule by a majority of the governed’ standard.
Those who live under a form of Democratic government have culturally integrated the principle of majority rule. Therefore, these individuals judge all other forms of government by the extent to which such alternate forms of government also embrace this bedrock majority rule standard.
Interestingly, the reason democracy is still referred to as ‘the American experiment’, is that no other form of government has embraced majority rule and persevered for any significant length of time. Due to the fact that those involved are willing participants and believers in that grand experiment, they can only answer the question when it is posed in the affirmative.
The question can only be answered in the context of the condition and circumstance of the people and political entity to be governed. The answer is not an absolute and may change as the aforementioned condition and circumstantial change.
First; to be effective and appropriate, democracy requires a literate and informed electorate. It may be the best form of government for Switzerland, but not for Afghanistan. Even in advanced literate societies (such as the US) democracy can become less effective, or less appropriate, as the electorate chooses to become ‘voluntarily illiterate’ through either apathy or a break-down in the delivery of accurate information.
Second; the political entity, or ‘state’, must provide the infrastructure that facilitates the accurate informing of the governed. This starts with an educational system which develops and maintains literacy in the population, but also extends to providing a free and open infrastructure for disseminating information (the internet, newspapers, telephone, television, etc.)
Third; in order for Democracy to ‘work’, the prevailing culture of the governed must embrace democratic principles. For example: in a theocratic culture with competing religious sects, it is unlikely that a minority sect can ever fully embrace the concept of majority rule (vote), and it is just as unlikely that the majority sect can refrain from imposing unaccepted theological law on the minority.
Given the above, it should be obvious that the answer to the question posed is not absolute, and therefore is negative. Without the maintenance of proper conditions and circumstances, the governed forfeit their ability to function in an effective manner whatsoever.
Opinion By Jessica Bickford