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Urban growth and democracy in LDCs (Essay Sample)

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“How might rapid urban growth contribute to the growth of democratic government in the LDCs?” Under what circumstances might it undermine democracy?” Sources: 3

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Running head: Urban growth and democracy in LDCs
Urban Growth and Democracy in LDCs
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Insert Grade Course Insert Tutor’s Name February 9, 2014
Urban Growth and Democracy in LDCs
Introduction
Democracy is a form of government that is characterized by the people’s rule as compared to other forms of governance like autocracy. It involves development of collective rules and policies by the people and these people will exercise control and authority over the application of these rules (Samarasinghe, 1994). Earlier empirical studies had indicated that the governments of low-income nations enacted economic development policies that favored the growth of urban centers and increased rural-urban migration (Brockerhoff, 1999, p.757). Projections were given that the urban population in these countries would increase considerably into the twenty-first century. However, recent reports indicate slower rates than what was projected (Brockerhoff, 1999, p.757). There have been debates as to whether there is a relationship between urbanization, economic development and democracy in a given country (Samarasinghe, 1994). The growth of urban population in the least developed countries can have mixed effects on political development in the country. On one hand, the movement of individuals into the urban centers can promote literacy among the individuals who will then be enlightened to understand their fundamental rights. On the other hand, it can also lead to increased informal settlement generated by joblessness among the youths rushing into the towns and cities. The politicians are able to lure these individuals towards their self-interests.
How rapid urban growth can contribute to growth of democratic governments
Democracy involves the participation of individuals in all the decision-making processes that will affect the social, political, and economic environment as a society. A system of government will be considered democratic if it ensures ‘a peaceful competitive political participation in an environment that guarantees political and civil liberties’ (Samarasinghe, 1994, p.8). Political democracy will be developed through an integration of the government system (characterized by the formal institutions and agencies in the government) and the political rights, and civil rights and freedom. The members of the society are entitled to these political and civil liberties but this will not be achieved if there are no formal and civil institutions to promote this freedom (Samarasinghe, 1994). In this regard, it is first necessary that the individual be informed of their rights and the roles as members of a given society. The level of illiteracy is still high in the least developed countries. The urban centers in these least developed countries have better social infrastructure like schools as compared to the rural areas. The individuals in these areas also have better access to other information sources and they become more enlightened. With the knowledge of their rights, freedoms and privileges, an environment is created for democracy.
Besides, debates have erupted on the relationship of economic development and democratization process in a given country. There has been a popular hypothesis that democracy is caused by socio-economic development in a given country (Samarasinghe, 1994) implying that democracy will follow the satisfaction of other basic human needs such as food, shelter and health. Other theorists also assert that there is need for a good institution and citizenry for democratization to occur. Such theories concur with the Lipset thesis (1963, cited in Samarasinghe, 1994) that economic development is a necessity if democracy has to exist. It is observed that the highly industrialized nations are generally characterized by high levels of democracy whereas democracy rarely exists in adverse economic conditions (Samarasinghe, 1994).
It then becomes necessary to consider relationship between urbanization and economic development. Even though divergent views may have been provided by many economists and theorists, urbanization patterns influence economic growth. Economic development is mainly caused by ‘the productivity gains due to technological innovations and investments in human capital’ (Irwin, n.d, p.3). True economic growth will be caused by the acquisition and accumulation of knowledge by the human resource in a given economy. Urbanization occurs as individuals move from the traditional agrarian system to an industrial system. The industrial centers often consider spatial proximity to the markets and the infrastructure that happens to be developed (at least to some extent) in the urban centers. The acquisition and accumulation of knowledge occur due spillovers in which employees from different firms exchange or share information and technology skills with each other (Irwin, n.d,). Such a spillover is just possible if the firms are close to each other implying that urbanization will promote economic development, which will eventually promote democracy. The individuals will be better positioned to speak for themselves. Nonetheless, this influence of urbanization on economic growth will only be valid to the extent that the urban centers are not congested, in which case negative spillovers will occur.
Under what circumstances can it undermine democracy?
In as much it promotes democracy, urbanization will undermine democracy when there are negative spillovers (Irwin, n.d,), and the urban centers become congested. Rapid urban growth may not allow for the planning of the urban centers by the authorities to cater for the large population. It leads to struggle for employment owing to high unemployment rates leading to increased informal employment. The effect is joblessness and high poverty levels. Some researches have shown that ‘rapid urbanization has produced increased informal employment rates, with more than half the workers in the developing countries employed in the urban informal sector’ (Mayer, 2011, p.5). Urbanization and informality within a given city depends on the state of the country’s economy; equal opportunity steady state for developed nation and unequal opportunity steady state for the stagnant developing nations. An economy that exhibits equal opportunity steady ...
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