What does democracy mean to you?
Democracy was a theme in the common subjects "The World Today" and "Media Studies" this Friday. Is dictatorship really that bad? We asked Harald Eia.
In the series "This is Norway", Harald Eia addresses our country. With statistics and good illustrations, we get to see which mechanisms are in play, and how they are connected.
On Friday, we took a closer look at our democracy, and learned that dictatorships in several areas can be better and more effective than democracies.
Dictatorships are effective
Dictatorships - with few and strong leaders - are effective. They can e.g. build a hospital in ten days during a pandemic, and switch to greener environmental reforms overnight. This takes a long time in democracies, where elected representatives risk losing power if they make too drastic upheavals.
Dictatorships build more skyscrapers - but they do not necessarily do better on "the important things".
For dictatorships depend on leaders who want the country well. Dictators do not need the support of the majority of the people, and thus find it easy to overlook the time-consuming and costly poor part of the population. Infant mortality is on average much higher in dictatorships than in democracies.
Dictatorships also have a greater chance of "going for a bang", because they further down the ladder do not dare to report what is not going well. There is more misinformation, and less information transparency. Nor does it help that a dictator can use his power to stop others from participating in fair elections.
"Must take care of everyone"
In a democracy, leaders have to take care of everyone, because everyone is a potential voter. This is also one of two basic principles in a democracy. Voting rights for all adult residents.
The second basic principle is that anyone can become an elected leader. Both principles must be in place.
Although democracies can be ineffective, it often turns out to be safe. They are less likely to walk properly on the snout. By electing new elected representatives, we can "try and fail" - without it going really wrong. If someone does a bad job, we can replace them. This means that over time we develop good and long-term solutions.
Harald Eia joins video chat
Extra cool this Friday was that Harald Eia himself was with via video chat. Eia answered questions, and said, among other things, that the starting point for "Sånn er Norge" was that he wanted to give people a different picture of Norway than the short, negative cases that characterize the news picture.
He also emphasized that he believes it is very important to give people a more nuanced and realistic picture of our democracy in order for us to be willing to listen. Democracies are not super good - but they are good.
But Eia also pointed out that democracies do not work everywhere. Even democratically elected leaders must have good intentions beyond serving themselves. Democracy in itself does not ensure good living conditions for the population - just as democracies after the Arab Spring have not necessarily been success stories.
There are also several examples of Western interference in dictatorships, where they later withdraw and reckon that everything will be in order after a democratic election.
Students' own arguments
After Eia logged off, the students went in groups to make posters with what democracy means to them, and how they can help protect our democracy. The theme is inexhaustible, but with "Sånn er Norge" draws the main lines that make it a little easier to begin to understand the value of the democracy we have been so lucky to grow up in.