The third advantage of democracy: autonomy. Democracy is premised on liberty. Autocratic regimes may allow people a good deal of choice in their daily lives (as can be seen in the case of China’s autocracy), but they cannot allow them the autonomy of political liberty, basic human rights, free access to information and the freedom of assembly. Autocracy denies people these freedoms because they may use them to form networks or associations that may enable them to stand up to the dictators. What democracy allows is finally the social existence of the autonomous citizen.
This is well known to heroic women and men who stand up to autocracy. The Chinese activist for human rights and democracy, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo, died in prison on the 13th of July 2017, eight years into an eleven-year term. Not only a campaigner, he was also a formidable philosopher and ethicist. He knew more about freedom and its absence than most and his fight was obviously for the end of coercion. But in his philosophy, freedom was never about that alone. What makes freedom valuable, he argued, is that it enables the individual to aspire to that which has value, and that value in life is found in truth, civic responsibility and human dignity. Remarkably, for a man rotting alone in a Chinese prison, he was able to think of liberty as a necessary condition for a decent life, but not more than that, not the be-all and end-all of the alternative system to the one that was oppressing him and others.
For more detailed analysis, see How Democracies Live.
On autocracy in China, see The Perfect Dictatorship.