01 December 2016

Democracy is not an inherently stable form of government

Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure.

For decades, global events seemed to support that idea. Data from Freedom House, a watchdog organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, shows that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Many Latin American countries transitioned from military rule to democracy; after the end of the Cold War, much of Eastern Europe followed suit. And longstanding liberal democracies in North America, Western Europe and Australia seemed more secure than ever.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year...  
According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.

Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations...

Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen to 1 in 6 in 2014, compared with 1 in 16 in 1995.

That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43 percent of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19 percent of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53 percent of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36 percent of millennials agreed...
More at the New York Times.


  1. I think people look at the way elections are bought these days and figure democracy is dead. Lets's all work to ban private (or corporate) contributions to politicians, and have state-funded campaigns.

  2. "But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year... " is quite misleading if you look at the graphs. It appears to be a continuous decline from old people to young people. Maybe attitudes are not changing. Maybe people just value democracy more as they get older.

    1. That was my thinking as well. While this shows nicely how people are rooted in certain ages, the common, and thus arguably better and fairer, way to display the exact same information is... age.

  3. Numerous sources have shown that younger generations are more egalitarian in their political beliefs, yet these are the same generations that according to this value democracy least. There is a paradox there that I don't understand: those who most value the things that democracy can protect are least inclined to protect it.

    Trump could never have won if turnout had been reasonable, and I find myself fervently wishing for a movement where millions of Americans make a pledge to vote in every federal election for the rest of their lives. The only way to protect freedom is to exercise it. So these statistics are very troubling.

    1. The problem stems from when you talk to someone younger, they've never really seen democracy work for them. It has always benefited people at the top, corporations and other large contributors. A perfect example is healthcare in this country. We're being told that there is no way we can afford a universal healthcare system and trying to do it would bankrupt our country. Yet, what we pay for a single failed military defense project, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be enough to cover even the most outrageous numbers dragged out by the GOP about the Clinton and Sanders health care plans. For those that say we can't risk our nation defense, even if it is for healthcare, get this: The military doesn't want it and has removed it from the national defence budget on multiple occasions only to have congress override the military and re-authorize the funding for the project. The F-35 program doesn't help the military, much less the American people at large. It helps only one company, Lockheed Martin and the politicians that have been well paid by the company to keep them on the payroll for this project.

      This is just one example of what the last couple of generations associate when they hear the word "democracy." It's really and oligarchy and crony capitalism but, most people don't do enough research to understand the difference. So the fact they are turning against the idea of "democracy" is not surprising as it has been perverted away from its original mission.

      What disturbs my sleep at night is, when people turn against modern "democracy," what will come next and will the people I care about survive the transition?


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