Is democracy in danger?

From the highly regarded Daniel Treisman:

Influential voices in academia and the media contend that democracy is in decline worldwide and threatened in the US. Using a variety of measures, I show that the global proportion of democracies is actually at or near an all-time high; that the current rate of backsliding is not historically unusual; and that this rate is well explained by the economic characteristics of existing democracies. I confirm that breakdowns tend to occur in countries that are poor, have had relatively little democratic experience, and are in economic crisis. Extrapolating from historical data, I show that the estimated hazard of failure in a democracy as developed and seasoned as the US is extremely low — far lower than in any democracy that has ended in the past. Some suggest that undemocratic public attitudes and erosion of elite norms threaten US institutions, but there is little evidence that these factors cause democratic breakdown. While deterioration in the quality of democracy in countries such as Hungary and Poland is itself cause for concern — as is the reversion to authoritarianism in Russia and Turkey — alarm about a global slide into autocracy is inconsistent with current evidence.

The pointer is from the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Democracy doesn't mean "bill of rights". What most people in the world need is human rights, not [just] the right to vote. The right to vote means nothing if they can still stone you for being gay or jewish.

Agreed--"mob rule" type democratic activity isn't being threatened. The international norms with regard to individual and smaller group rights are (has nothing actually to do with democracy but has been protected by traditional/historical democratic nations--which also happen to be liberal/individual right focused).

Also agreed.

The problem is a retreat from classical liberalism, not democracy. And the growing societal tension between complacent democratic elites and their citizens.

"The international norms with regard to individual and smaller group rights are"

Is this even accurate? The human rights framework emerged right after WWII, and had its share of critics then even amongst liberals and democrats, including philosophers like Hannah Arendt who thought a bundle of abstract rights "to all humans" would undermine the basis for communal political action necessary for democracy, and anthropologists who thought these "human" rights were alien to many people and cultures. The ICCPR and related documents have never been universally accepted or implemented, and counter-declarations have been signed declaring alternative rights and models of development. Which is to say, it's not that the individual rights associated with liberalism and group rights associated with the ICCPR are falling away: rather, they have reached a point at which the slow progress they made during the Cold War, and then their rapid jump in the 30 years after globalization kicked into a higher gear after the Cold War's end, is stalling. Part of that is that countries that never became even remotely liberal, or even democratic in some cases, are now relatively wealthy and militarily powerful, another part is the friction of immigration that globalization has brought, particularly between liberal vs. traditional cultures in a way more visible than past decades, and another part is the internet opening up people to wildly different views and perspectives such that the former relatively liberal foundation in the US, UK, and the rest of the West is no longer taken for granted. There's also been numerous wars, which throughout history tend to cause the laws and rights associated with peacetime civil society to retreat out of necessity.

Which is the main threat to American democracy today. Not a government assault on rights but a growing intolerance among the public (or at least that very vocal part that makes up the Twitter lynch mob). James Damore had no right not to be fired, but the point is the death of a certain type of liberal culture that says Damore can say what he likes as long as it does not affect his job. Unfortunately the TwitterMob made sure it would affect his job and he was fired. It reflects a growing intolerance coming from the campuses of America to the wider work place that will not tolerate the slightest ideological divergence.

The Right will not put up with this indefinitely. If Twitter wants to defend Peter Fonda's right to be vile about Trump's son while banning Diamond and Silk for the crime of - what? Being Black, Republican and Fabulous? God knows - that is their right. But once we no longer have any basis for deciding what is right or wrong except the power of the lynch mob, things will end badly.

At the moment the Left is in the position of the Rwandan radio railing against cockroaches. As Eramus once point out, it will not take long for the war of words to become another sort of war altogether.

I love this so much. I remember when conservatives like Ron Paul clucked their tongues and said anyone could be fired at any time for any reason and that there is no such thing as sexual harassment. And now that the fired persons are conservatives? A rosary of tears! Let them fall like rain. Let them flow like a river. I love it.

You beclown yourself. Just because it should be *legal* to fire someone for any reason does not mean that all reasons are good or just.

Add to that the fact that most of the people being fired are not really conservative in the first place and your comment is doubly foolish.

Boo hoo! The poor conservative is the real special snowflake all along.

Agree with SMFS. The problem is increased polarisation and decreased classical liberalism, not elections.

The dark future is not an authoritarian take-over, but civil war, secession, or (at best) a sclerotic and paralysed polity like Belgium.

I don't mind that Google fired Damore as much as that Google controls 80 percent of US internet searches. Given the internal speech controls (more stringent than any I've encountered), it's hard not to believe that similar rules are being applied to what is made available online.

That is an amazing filter on the news. Children are stripped from their parents and put in cages, and the government says that it has no plan on how to get parent and child back together again (they did not even give parents receipts!).

But it is liberal criticism of Damore that is the problem.

(Lock Fonda up, I don't care. It's just another example of how far you have to dredge to find something to complain about. A tweet, wasn't it?)

You cant possibly be the same Anonymous that usually posts here.

" It's just another example of how far you have to dredge to find something to complain about. A tweet, wasn't it?"

The real Anonymous never misses an opportunity to shit xer pants about the latest Trump tweet, no mater the actual subject at hand.

You should have thought that through a bit more.

Because what you did there was say that the mumbling of a forgotten actor are of equal importance to those of the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, the man with his finger on the nuclear button.

But then that has long been a bizarre fallback, that "it doesn't matter" that the President of the United States is a random freak.

Random freak.

I really have no idea what the jacket really means, but this "explainer" is peak something. Not good.

This is why democracy is under threat in the West - not just America:

The culture of "liberal" intolerance that tries to drive someone like Amy Wax from her job for some fairly benign - and of course absolutely true - comments.

"The culture of "liberal" intolerance that tries to drive someone like Amy Wax from her job for some fairly benign - and of course absolutely true - comments."
The fact that someone can write this sentence in a world where the President and Vice President of the United States have have made numerous public efforts (and presumable a few private efforts) to force the NFL to make its players stand for a magic song says all that needs to be said about where we are politically right now.

Yes because one man criticizing some very well paid athletes for disrespecting the police, the Armed Force and the country is exactly the same as a vast internet mob hounding Justine Sacco out of a job for a harmless tweet.

Straight from Trump's ass to your lips.

The National Anthem is not the anthem of the armed forces. It is the anthem of the country, all of us, our Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


In this case, the biggest "whatabout" ever.

What about the sorry state of American governance? What about a President who praises a dictator who runs death camps, but says that any NFL player who takes a knee should be fired?

What about Bob?

What about us?

What about love?
Don't you want someone to care about you
What about love?
Don't let it slip away
What about love?
I only want to share it with you
You might need it someday

Hey, attribution much?

lol, I wasn't specific was I? "a dictator who runs death camps" could be any of a few of The President of the United States best buds.

The right to vote means nothing if they can still stone you for being gay or jewish.

It means quite a lot, but a democratic society may or may not be courteous to its dissidents and social deviants. (And, of course who does and does not qualify as a dissident or social deviant and how they are treated is not, on the margins, a question with an obvious answer). Democratic institutions in this country were not 'meaningless' when trolling homosexuals were arrested and hauled in front of a justice of the peace (no matter how much latter-day leftoids fancy homosexuals as the ultimate mascot group).

I strongly dislike Trump but is a lot of what is he is doing significantly undemocratic in a way that is unprecedented in the last 50-75 years of US politics?

I don't think the big city machine politics of yesteryear were specifically democratic. Presidents Johnson and Nixon didn't really seem to highly value democratic norms.

Trump is shockingly accepted/supported by a huge percentage of the population (high approval ratings are regularly above 40%). I believe this is a bad thing but it isn't inherently not "democratic".

'but is a lot of what is he is doing significantly undemocratic in a way that is unprecedented in the last 50-75 years of US politics'

Depends. The executive in the U.S. has steadily been gaining power since the end of WII, and roughly since the Reagan era, the power of Congress has significantly declined. Trump, by ignoring previous conventions (no president has seemingly threatened an American nuclear first strike before, for example) merely makes that extremely plain.

And the use of arguments that American democratic institutions had rejected during the Nixon administration to defend Nixon's actions is more than a bit worrying. For example, the idea that the president cannot be indicted while in office, and can pardon himself, would logically mean that the president could gun down someone on Fifth Ave, pardon himself immediately afterwards, and fear nothing but impeachment, of which the only penalty is removal from office.

This is not what the Founders had in mind, obviously. And which if you had said a decade ago would be the apparent official position of the president, would have led to being dismissed as clearly absurd, as no American president would ever support the legal idea that he could personally kill whoever he wanted, wherever he wanted, without ever fearing legal penalties.

And yet, here we are. And of course, gunning someone down on Fifth Avenue is not my idea - 'I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.' Donald Trump, 23 January, 2016. Today, the man in office has gone from losing voters to an apparent claim of total impunity to be punished for whatever the president does while in office.

Hard to tell, but that a significant number of Americans have no problem with this apparent logic is what is disturbing, not Trump per se.

This is not what the Founders had in mind, obviously.

How do you know? What is the evidence? The Founders knew what they were doing because they had Britain as their role model. The President is basically King George III with more elections. When King Charles II was a little short of cash, what did his good friend Colonel Thomas Blood do? Why, he tried to rob the Tower of London. I am sure that Charles did not ask him to. But anyway, Charles immediately pardoned him once he got caught walking out with the Crown Jewels.

As for your usual whine about Trump, Hillary has all but shot someone in the head. She has comprehensively violated the laws on the handling of classified material, on the purpose and function of charities, she has taken money from foreign powers in exchange for favors. Nothing has happened to her. Obama also used a private and illegal e-mail - while knowing about Hillary's. As did Comey. What happened to them? Nothing.

Obama may not have shot someone in the head but he did allow Fast and Furious to release thousands of guns into the criminal community in order to reign in the second amendment. Causing hundreds of mainly Mexican deaths - entirely predictable deaths. Nothing happened to him at all.

So democracy is in danger because there is one law for Them and another for Us. You may sympathize with Them but that is still true. As we see with the breath-takingly cynical manipulation of the public through a co-ordinated Journolist-style attack on Trump for Obama's policies - using pictures taken in Obama's term in office.

All Trump did was *say* he could shoot someone in the head. Like he only *said* he could grab a woman. He didn't do either. Trump is a babe in the woods by comparison.

'The President is basically King George III with more elections.'

No, the president is not king, and really, you cannot be so stupid as to think that the Founders intended to replace one monarch with another, even if you throw in elections. (OK, Hamilton maybe - but he was just one, and unable to have his viewpoint win out.)

One of the major differences is that while the king is the law, the president is merely a citizen who not only is not the law, but who is also not above it.

A generation ago, American democracy rejected the idea that if the president does it, it is legal.

And really, why does anyone still care about that loser Hillary Clinton?

'Like he only *said* he could grab a woman.'

Well, he said a bit more than that - 'I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.' Of course, you are welcome to say that Trump was lying instead of telling the truth about his actions - it would not be a surprise to anyone at this point, after all.

The model that the founders had in mind is clearly the British monarchy at the time minus the life-long tenure. And yes, the President has the Royal Power to pardon. As he sees fit. So he is above the law in the same way the monarch is. That was not rejected a generation ago. That remains true now as it was then.

That is why Jackson could tell the Court to go fly a kite and why Lincoln could suspend as much of the constitution as he liked.

If the President the law, then that must make Nixon, the weakest-kneed monarch ever. He turned over the tapes, after all.

Or else, it's not simply a matter of the Presidency's inherent power, but popular (which Jackson had) and Congressional (which Lincoln had in these cases) support matter (and Nixon had neither).


Finally, it's interesting that in the same thread you manage to view the current President both as essentially a king AND simply as one man criticizing well-paid athletes. I would think that to the extent the former is true, we should be all that much more vigilant about things like that latter. You don't seem to agree with that.

Chris, SMFS just argues incoherently with mostly imaginary straw men. It's darling.

And yet you are reduced to this sort of childish sniping from the side lines.

I knew I struck a nerve

'The model that the founders had in mind is clearly the British monarchy at the time minus the life-long tenure. '

No it wasn't. The monarch embodies the state, and is the law - a king has no need to pardon themselves, for the king determines the law.

Note the very first words of the Constitution - 'We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.'

'So he is above the law in the same way the monarch is.'

No, he is not. The president is still bound by the Constitution, to give one concrete example, based on the oath he swore upon assuming office. Further, there is a legal opinion (not a court ruling) in this regard - 'In a legal opinion issued just four days before Nixon stepped down, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded that a president can’t pardon himself. The opinion was written in response to concerns that he might try to do so.

"Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself," wrote Mary Lawton, who was then acting assistant attorney general.'

'That was not rejected a generation ago.'

It really does not matter what citations are given, does it?

And though Nixon resigned in disgrace, clearly because he could not envision himself being able to exercise the powers of a king to keep power, we will see how this generation handles a president with seemingly no awareness that the Constitution places limits on his actions.

Lincoln did not suspend the Constitution. He did suspend Habeas Corpus but the Constitution allows the President to do that in the event of rebellion.

By the way an American President has a good deal more power than George III ever did. By the late 18th century the British monarchy had lost nearly all its formal powers. George, before he went mad, was just very successful at manipulating Parliament behind the scenes.

Don't like Trump. Didn't vote for him. What he said was obnoxious but unfortunately is probably true for a certain class of men. I don't mind that the press reminds us how unlovely the sentiment is.

Bill Clinton observed the same phenomenon and acted on it, inappropriately sometimes and sometimes with force. The press had his back, though, and so #metoo had to wait until after Trump was elected.

Personally, I was more concerned about the "I have a pen and a phone" reaction to an election loss and an in-the-tank press that has been more concerned with the critical "grab them by the" and Stormy Daniels issues than it was about the IRS in 2012 or the last administration's wiretaps of AP journalists and attempt to jail a New York Times reporter.

SoMuch is right about the British model with a time-limited check imposed by elections. But if only one team is held to account while in office, there is a problem. Democracy dies in darkness.

'#metoo had to wait until after Trump was elected'

Or at least until the invention of Twitter. And Cosby's legal problems did not involve Trump, nor did Weinstein's.

'SoMuch is right about the British model with a time-limited check imposed by elections. '

No, he is not. What his correct about, at most, is that Alexander Hamilton believed something that could be considered vaguely along along those lines. But as noted here, Alexander Hamilton was fully aware of the distinction between the president and a king - 'How to proscribe that power — how to vest an executive with enough power to do his job but to prevent an executive from exercising powers of a king — was at the heart of Hamilton’s ruminations in that essay and throughout the debates among the Founders about how to best organize the new republic, especially after the first such effort, the Articles of Confederation, had fared so poorly. They understood, as Hamilton outlines in the Federalist No. 69, that although their new Constitution would create a strong and powerful chief executive, “there is no pretense for the parallel which has been attempted between him and the king of Great Britain,” since, unlike the role of president, a king is “sacred and inviolable.”' And in case that was not clear, Hamilton was saying that the president and the king of Great Britain were not the same, in part because the president is a citizen, no different from any other.

Still there is a similarity of structure: King/President, House of Lords/Senate, House of Commons/House of Representatives.

The difference is, founders specified elections. Washington, to his credit, declined to be king for life and retired after two terms. Post FDR, the only four-term-elected president IIRC, the constitution was amended to add a two-term limit..

'The difference is, founders specified elections.'

No, the major difference is that that the president is neither sacred nor inviolable, he is merely a citizen that holds an office and is fully subject to the laws of the United States of America.

To be honest, this is getting a bit bizarre. The president, by intentional design, is not the king of America, he is the chief executive of the United States of America. This distinction is one that was clearly emphasized in the Federalist Papers, by people fully aware of what a king was during the age of absolutism, and who had no intention of having the president become a monarch.

'Washington, to his credit, declined to be king for life'

Washington had no need to decline something that was never offered to him.

My phrasing was inapt; a kingship was not offered to Washington. He declined to run for a third presidential term because he was as opposed to the idea then as we are now.

He had been described as the father of our country since before his first inauguration and had he decided to run for the presidency several more times, it's likely he would have won. (Alas, I have no 18th century Gallup results to back up that rash assertion.)

Maybe it's a quibble, but "specifying elections" is another way of describing a process that yields "a citizen that (sic) holds an office and is fully subject to the laws."

Here again we have an English antecedent, the Magna Carta, and the subsequent codification of laws, written on paper, that bound European monarchs and citizens. The United States was not invented out of whole cloth but was instead a refinement informed by thousands of years of philosophy and human experience.

I am beholden to you for your generous instruction.

c_p is the purest definition of a supercilious ass, but in this thread he is schooling you people. The man ran off to Germany and he understands the US government better than you clowns.

Trump is shockingly accepted/supported by a huge percentage of the population (high approval ratings are regularly above 40%). I believe this is a bad thing but it isn't inherently not "democratic".

Are you sure? Trump famously did not win the popular vote, and I would say all his controversial policies fail the popular test. They only have minority support.

Poll: Voters don't agree with Trump's focus on tariffs


'I show that the estimated hazard of failure in a democracy as developed and seasoned as the US is extremely low '

Clearly a member of the complacent class.

The US is not really a democracy, as the senate insures a collection of republics. The house is fairly democratic.

Hasmiagrations made the senate more or less proportional? Decidedly less with an increasing tail of small states as population moves to coast and south west.

Hungary and Poland are merely resisting foreign intervention to preserve themselves. In contrast, Turkey's authoritarianism stems from Islamist majoritarianism.

In fact, what is blamed as Hungary's and Poland's authoritarianism are among the best hopes for survival of democracy.

For the most part Poland's current government is more concerned with feeding at the trough than "preserving Polish culture". The same is essentially true of Orban. The interesting question is why so many nationalist leaders turn into nepotistic thieves once they attain office.

The owners of the MSM ensure that we have a Democracy in name only.

“It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living. It is clear also that thought is not free if all the arguments on one side of a controversy are perpetually presented as attractively as possible, while the arguments on the other side can only be discovered by diligent search.”

― Bertrand Russell

The USA was a constitutional, representative republic composed of sovereign states.

The representative nature of US governance is extinct. Duly elected assemblies, congresses, and senates are routinely usurped by executive orders and/or unelected judges. The welfare state (vote yourself a pay raise) and open borders (add millions of serial democrat voters) likely will fundamentally transform the US into a one-party shit hole like Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, Chicago.

My advice: buy more ammunition.

One party states are unnatural and are only preserved by force. Given political freedom people will always fracture into two or more political coalitions. That will be true of the US no matter how many immigrants come here and become citizens (see: past patterns of immigrants and politics). The GOP may well paint itself into such a corner that it goes belly-up-- but the Democrats would very quickly splinter into two or more successor parties since the coalitions of peoples who make up the Democrats would no longer have hate and fear of the Republicans to hold them together-- and at least one of those successor parties would make overtures to the millions of ex-Republicans whose votes would certainly still matter.

Dick the B likes to rant about doom and mention his guns. Let him have his fun.

Democracy: control by the majority. According to the definition, we do not have a democracy: the presidential candidate who received the most votes "lost" the election, and the Democrats in the Senate represent almost 40 million more people than the Republicans in the Senate who control the Senate. Most people who identify as Republican have no objection to a government that is not controlled by the majority; indeed, they don't believe there is anything wrong with efforts to suppress the vote of those who would likely vote for Democrats. I suspect that most Republicans profess devotion to democracy. No, I'm not suggesting that Republicans are hypocrites (although many are), but rather the very human resistance to forces that shift the balance of power. And that resistance can include violence and murder, as occurred in the South as the result of civil rights laws and integration and the empowerment of African Americans.

Which brings me to my larger point: globalization has upset the balance of power across the globe, here in America and other developed countries as well as in developing countries. Shifts in the balance of power threaten those in power, and they will resort to whatever means necessary to prevent their loss of power. We have seen some shocking examples right here in America, including 9/11. 9/11? Yes, the attack on America by Sunni Muslim extremists was result of a shift in the balance of power in the middle east, as "conservative" Muslims objected to the "liberal" influences of America that were spreading and gaining in popularity among Muslims (including democracy!). In a famous essay, F.A. Hayek explained why he is not a "conservative". Read the essay. The highest priority of the "conservative" is order and stability, which is a euphemism for maintaining the existing power structure. Dynamism is the enemy of the "conservative". Globalization has unleashed forces of dynamism like never before experienced. Cowen supports dynamism over order and stability. One would assume that Hayek would support globalization, even if (or because) it resulted in instability.

Is there a particular reason that a paper that doesn't mention Venezuela in bold in the critical section you quote should have any credibility?

Hungary, Poland, Russia and Turkey. These are not insignificant states. Turkey was the democratic hope in the critical and Islamic portions of the Middle East, almost joined the EU. Russia is the tenth largest economy, has the 2nd largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and has turned around and successfully hacked elections in the US and Britain, functionally electing a Manchurian candidate as president in the "leader of the free world" and hitting the EU with a torpedo, in it's port bow.

Global free trade agreements and democracy are listing under attack, and this is what the author of The Complacent Class highlights? This article is neither social nor science, and essential gives the lie to such claims to either authority by academics. (Speaking of, what was the one institution Tyler wanted to disrupt?)

Perhaps you need less complacency, Dr. Cowen. May I suggest a move to the neighborhood with your favorite views in DC, Anacostia? A school crisis and homicide rates that are up nearly 50% year-over-year may give you a more urgent perspective on paying off on the good Tyler more than the atrocious Tyrone instinct so perfectly instantiated in this post.

In my mind, you likely have replaced Andrew Sullivan as America's most critical public intellectual. But the enormous blind spot of your Libertarian prior is crippling, and you desperately need to engage in some Bayesian updating.

Good luck, and God speed to all of us. We're going to need it.

“Russia is the tenth largest economy, has the 2nd largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and has turned around and successfully hacked elections in the US and Britain, functionally electing a Manchurian candidate as president in the "leader of the free world"”

I like how you write “functionally” because even for you, wriing “actually” would be s step too far into sheer fabrication.


"successfully hacked elections in the US and Britain"

An insane comment. A few fake facebook ads does not a "hack" make.

Democracy is always in danger when the liberals and left don't hold power.

Maybe you have your head down, and are using MR as your personal refuge from the news, but here is what I learned this morning:

Just normal kids caught at the border are being stripped and tied to restraint chairs, and being left there for a couple days. They are self-harming and being left in their blood. They are being force-fed psychotropics .

It is just kids, being put through something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that an amoral incompetent would end up with results this amoral and incompetent .. but I'm pretty disgusted that any of you would take to to this page to make defenses, no matter how oblique.

Sure derek, the liberals just want "power."

Meh, it beats summer school.

So it took the press several years, and a Republican president, to finally report this. How about putting it out there back when we could have stopped it?

And to defend Obama, this was a claim, backed by nothing. There was an instance where a guard was fired for punching a kid - making abuse not sound like accepted behavior.

The claim that this was not a reversible new policy blew up when the new policy was reversed.

In fact Obama took the eminently reasonable middle line, keeping families together, and when he had to, releasing them with ankle monitors.

Maybe people in a news bubble don't know:

"Under the Obama administration, children were usually allowed to stay with their parents in shelters while awaiting legal proceedings and eventually were released under close supervision, such as the ankle monitoring."

The rate of democratization from authoritarian regimes between 1975 and 2000 was happening at such a rate that if it continued by all countries would be democracies in a few years. This was not a low hanging fruit problem, as both light and extremely authoritarian regimes had made the transition; as in there is no obvious pattern for why some regimes transition and some don't. At the current rate of decline, global transition to democracy can be expected around 2175. More likely we'll asymptote between 60% and 67%.

Second derivatives matter and remain under rated at a pundit and academic level. Our senses are well adapted to perceive small differences in acceleration, not so much velocity or static levels. Only humans die in the 'frog boiling water' experiment - frogs jump out.

Something weird happened in the late 90s to reverse the trend.

Democracy gave us Donald Trump, among other things. Democracy is not an end in itself- it is instrumental to protecting individual rights and the rule of law.

When I was a kid, a very common schoolyard bromide was "It's a free country...".

Do kids still sat that? Do they still think that?

Democracy gave us Donald Trump, among other things. Democracy is not an end in itself-

Trump is an accomplished real estate developer, resort operator, and entertainment impresario. Democracy gave us the Clintons, whose entire adult life since 1974 has been devoted to sucking up the graft available at the nexus of law, government, politics and public relations. It also gave us the Obamas, both notable for having had simulacra of adult careers rather than the real thing.

What's amusing is that partisan Democrats happily voted for both sets of grifters while contemptuously disparaging the last four Republican Presidents (Michael Kinsley on George Bush the Elder, "Well, who knows what - or if - George Bush thinks about anything"). George W. Bush may have been an indifferent businessman who leveraged connections, but he ran actual businesses. His father may have founded and run a modest enterprise, but he made himself wealthy with that enterprise. Ronald Reagan's ample income stream was derived from arms length transactions with commercial corporations who benefited from his skills, not trade associations and colleges proffering pre-paid bribes.

"Democracy gave us Donald Trump"


Booming economy, lower taxes, withdrawing from the Paris climate treaty, breakup of the Iran Potemkin nuclear agreement, new improved attitude towards immigration, tilting toward Israel, roll back of some regulations, Nicky Haley at the UN.

Democracy seems pretty good to me.

Stagnant wages, inflation up, healthcare and housing costs through the roof, shaking hands with murderous dictators, missile strikes in Syria, a polarized public, white supremacists groups proudly marching in the streets, Iran free to go nuclear, trade wars, lowest job participation rate in a generation, rates of homelessness rising, mental health down, crime up, suicide up, rates of drug abuse up, violent crime up, middle class shrinks, pension and social security costs up while principal is drawn down, largest budget deficit in the history of the USA.

If things seem pretty good to you, you need to get out more.

"Democracy gave us Donald Trump"

I'm still having trouble seeing it, both in the literal and the figurative sense. The "we are not a democracy" rules are the reason the popular vote didn't matter. But perhaps more importantly, Trump does not serve like a small-d democrat. He does not pursue majoritarian policies. He instead serves (or leads?) a "base" which is much smaller.

If your base is a minority, what you are doing is not democracy.

That simple.

He instead serves (or leads?) a "base" which is much smaller.

I'm sure palettes of cash to Iran, the Berghdahl and Manning fan dance, Black Lives Matter, the DACA disaster, Lois Lerner, McCabe / Sztrok / Page, and the death spiral in the market for household medical insurance have the admiration of overwhelming majorities of the public.

Impressive authentic frontier gibberish.

But what you want to do is compare policy with national opinion.

For instance

Two things are happening in the West: certain sorts of political dissent are being criminalized and public decision making is being transferred from elected officials to lawyers and other cadres who are unaccountable and commonly deliberate in secret. Tyler Cowen isn't going to talk turkey about this because people in his social circle are perfectly on board with this even if he is not himself, and are confident that their ox ain't never going to be gored (because the lawyers and others who run this abusive system are people quite a bit like them).


Agreed. The "democracy is doing fine" argument here relies on metrics that completely fail to grapple with the emerging problem.

This has been happening for quite some time.

"deterioration in the quality of democracy in countries such as ... Poland"

An assertion without evidence.

The wrong party won the election. The elites in Europe and the US are just having an extended temper tantrum [like with Trump's election].

Donald Tusk is President of the European Council but was formerly Prime Minister of Poland. His party lost to the present party in power. The EU's attitude is easily explained by these two facts.

Elite opinion in the US is largely driven by WaPo columnist Anne Applebaum whose husband [never disclosed] was Tusk's foreign minister.

I suspect Hungary's alleged deterioration in democracy can likewise be explained.

Pointing to Trump as a cause of declining democracy seems to me to defy reason. I think a much better case can be made for Obama. Of course, he had 8 yrs and DJT has only had 1.5 so far, so it's too soon to compare. I had high hopes for BO, and he fell far short of what I judge to be good governance (although he did well in not throwing away the lives of our troops), but DJT has exceeded my expectations. (of course, my expectations for that vile clod aren't very high, I'm not sure they could be lower, but still...)

Obama saved us from the Great Recession and compared to Trump had much much fewer scandals/corruption. DJT's policies are looking disastrous with these unthoughtful tariffs and loads of massive govt debt to boot.

Or was Melania's jacket Straussian?

"Extrapolating from historical data, I show that the estimated hazard of failure in a democracy as developed and seasoned as the US is extremely low — far lower than in any democracy that has ended in the past."

I mean, historical data in the lead-up to the collapse of the Roman Empire would've shown 'the estimated hazard of failure in an Empire as developed and seasoned as the Roman Empire' to also be extremely low, namely because there hadn't been a ton of Empires like that before.

Seems foolhardy to try to use historical data to predict tail-end events in an outlier like the US.

US is heasding for a neo-South Africa like future. Why 58 most common age of white Americans, while segregation has held potential of non-white Americans back. On top of that it may be worse than Soiuth Africa, because of debt laden suburbanization;while suburbanization has also held SME's back (as pop density and bus density go hand-in-hand). Unsurprsing then that Italy has larger middle class than US, UK and Canada according to study by a CSU professor.

US is heading for train wreck;and who knows what state its democracy will be afterwards?

Comments for this post are closed