Poverty as a Threat to Democratic Values

Public Affairs Quarterly 22 (2):175-193 (2008)


The reluctance to eradicate poverty shown by citizens and governments of many modern constitutional democracies is puzzling. If poverty threatens societies in various ways, why would many countries with a strongly agreed upon system of democratic governance fail so painfully to find the commitment and appropriate action to eradicate poverty? In this essay I want to investigate the discordance between poverty and democracy. I will first briefly articulate the broad underlying values of modern constitutional democracies. Then I will analyze the ways in which poverty violates the underlying values of democracy. Next I will try to explain why poverty is still widespread in democracies, despite the multiple ways it violates democratic values. Finally I will look at the implications of my findings in terms of the functions of democratic values in contemporary democracies.

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Hennie Lötter
University of Johannesburg

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