We hear many words about democracy, begins the column in the Catholic Times, by a priest working in the labor apostolate. For some democracy is too much talk, and only brings division, some see it as a return to a dictatorship, and some find it as no big deal. All living in the same county and with the same system of government, and yet we have this difference of opinion on the same subject.
There are few words that have such a difference of opinion. The way we understand democracy is going to determine very clearly the degree of maturity and level of implementation. Our standard of democracy is going to be different in Germany than in Korea. Generally speaking, we say a democracy is one vote per person, at regular times, for parties that discuss and debate among themselves and the opposition looking for the best way to govern a country, and citizens voting for the party and candidates they prefer. With this understanding of democracy than Korea is a democracy, but this is why we hear the citizens' lives are not improved by this system of government.
Tocqueville the French political thinker, and philosopher said it was not the voting procedure that was important but the conditions in society. The means of voting is not central to a democracy but rather the intelligence, virtue, and culture in which the voting is done. For this reason, the democracy of Germany and the European countries would be different from Korea.
Catholic teaching as found in the compendium of the Social Gospel would say the same. "An authentic democracy is not merely the result of a formal observation of a set of rules but is the fruit of a convinced acceptance of the values that inspire democratic procedures: the dignity of every human person, the respect of human rights, commitment to the common good as the purpose and guiding criterion for political life. If there is no consensus on these values, the deepest meaning of democracy is lost and its stability is compromised" (#407).
Democracy goes beyond the system and procedures and considers the dignity of the person, human rights, and efforts made for the common good. The Second Vatican Council stressed the reason for the existence of a country was for the common good, and we can evaluate the degree in which this is accomplished by the concern for the common people.
Looking at the 10 biggest conglomerates for the last ten years we see that the money in their possession has increased over twofold, and yet the number of the poor that are able to leave their poverty continues to decrease. No matter how hard they work they find it difficult to make ends meet. Korea in the polarization between the 'haves' and 'have nots' is comparable to Mexico, and the number in poverty would be similar to Turkey.
These statistics show that the common good has not always been considered in governing the country. A sign, the columnist concludes, that democracy has not been effective.