How has democracy fared in the last 30 years? Some rough times, but some causes for hope.

If you have a bit of time for a read this weekend, this article from the “Journal of Democracy” is well worth your attention.

The piece concludes:

“It would be wrong to end this overview on a purely pessimistic note. Over the past century, democracy has gone through many ups and downs. The current crisis is not nearly as severe as the one that struck in the 1930s, when fascism took hold in the heart of Europe. And that crisis arguably was rivaled by the loss of confidence in democracy that beset the West during the manifold troubles of the 1970s. The spark that animated the transitions of 1989–91 is still alive in many parts of the world. In just the past few years, Ukraine, Algeria, Sudan, Nicaragua, Armenia, and Hong Kong have all seen the emergence of mass protests against authoritarian government, even if these did not always lead to successful democratic transitions. The Czech Republic, Georgia, Romania, Slovakia, and even Russia have seen popular pushback against corruption and oligarchic control of the democratic process.

Brexit has fractured the British political system in a way that guarantees no other EU country will soon follow the British path. It is not clear that British voters themselves, if they had a chance to redo their decision, would now make the same choice that they did back in June  2016. While Donald Trump has challenged many of America’s check-and-balance institutions, they have largely held; the most important check, an electoral one, may be forthcoming in 2020. Over the long run, demographics do not seem to favor populism; young people continue to move out of rural areas and into big cities.

In order to get to the long run, however, we must first survive the short run. Today, there are two opposite trends in the world: The first is social fragmentation and its concomitant, the decline of the authority of mediating institutions, primarily in established democracies. The second is the rise of new centralized hierarchies in authoritarian states. Surviving the present means rebuilding the legitimate authority of the institutions of liberal democracy, while resisting those powers that aspire to make nondemocratic institutions central.”


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