The End of Democracy? -

The End of Democracy?

Around the world, authoritarianism is on the rise, and the West seems powerless to oppose it


The End of Democracy?Earlier this month a Russian court acquitted three men accused of involvement in the 2006 murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya’s writing had exposed Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya, and she had been detained on occasion by the Russian military as a result. The end of that court case followed the murder of Stanislav Markelov, another critic of the Russian government who had represented many victims of Russia’s security services. He was gunned down on the streets of Moscow in January. Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old student and journalist with Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper that is often critical of the Kremlin, and for which Politkovskaya also wrote, was shot dead when she tried to help. She was the fourth Novaya Gazeta journalist murdered since 2000.

Russia isn’t the only country where it is dangerous to oppose the government these days. China has recently arrested dozens of dissidents as part of a crackdown on free speech on the Internet, which it says is necessary to protect its children from “vulgarity.” Censored websites include those of the BBC and Voice of America. Kyrgyzstan has similarly removed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz-language programs from its national, government-owned TV and radio networks. Kyrgyz authorities said the programs were too critical of the government and would not be broadcast unless they are submitted to and approved by government censors in advance. And Syria last fall sentenced 12 pro-democracy dissidents to 2½ years in prison. The activists had called for greater freedom of expression and an end to the ruling Baath party’s monopoly on power.

These snapshots paint a bleak picture of the state of democracy and political freedom around the world. And yet it was only 20 years ago that the American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama concluded that democracy’s ultimate triumph was at hand.

“The 20th century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war,” he wrote in a seminal 1989 essay published in The National Interest. But the 20th century was ending, he believed, with the “unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.” The West had prevailed, conclusively and irreversibly, on the battlefield of ideas. History itself, defined as mankind’s ideological evolution, was over.

Fukuyama was, and is, an idealist. But his conclusions appeared to have been supported by facts on the ground. Liberal democracy had prevailed against fascism and Communism. Former Soviet client states were flocking to be embraced by the West. Within a year, McDonald’s would open its first restaurant in Moscow. China’s liberalization was mostly economic rather than political, but pro-democracy activists flooded Tiananmen Square, and thousands of Chinese students were studying in the West. “It is hard to believe that when they return to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend,” Fukuyama wrote.

It is almost painful to read such dated optimism today. China has indeed liberalized its economy but remains as dictatorial as ever. The autocratic Vladimir Putin and a cabal of KGB cronies and alumni run Russia. Cuba’s dictatorship has survived the fall of its Soviet patron, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—who has politicized the judiciary, weakened regional government, and tried to muzzle hostile media—has secured the right to run for office as many times as he’d like. And political Islamism, a movement whose most radical offshoots took flight following the West’s victory against the Soviet Union in a proxy war in Afghanistan, is flourishing not just in the Middle East, but in European enclaves as well. In predominantly Muslim areas of east and north London, it is easy to find signs affixed to walls and street lamps that urge residents: “Stay Muslim, don’t vote.”

Worse, for those who want to believe in the inevitability of liberal democracy, it is no longer possible to attribute democracy’s global stall solely to heavy-handed repression. China’s democratic opposition, brutalized during the protests in Tiananmen Square and understandably quiet, is dwarfed by populist nationalism. Writing in Maclean’s last year, former Canadian diplomat Maurice Strong claimed that Chinese are better off and more satisfied than ever, and value stability and security over democracy. It’s debatable how credible such an assertion is, given that there are frequent strikes and demonstrations across China every year, and questioning the legitimacy of China’s ruling Communist party might earn you a stay in a labour camp. Still, the level of dissent in China is manageable, and few predict a democratic revolution, even as China’s own economic problems intensify popular unrest.

In Russia, also, the democratic opposition is in tatters. Some of this can be explained by the harsh measures used to stifle it. Putin and his allies control most of the levers of power and regional government in Russia. And prominent critics, including journalists, have a habit of ingesting poison or falling to their deaths from upper-floor windows—more than two dozen journalists have been murdered in Russia since 2000. But Putin, for all his undemocratic ways, is immensely popular. Like China’s Communist leaders, he has tapped a deep well of popular nationalism. Russians believe their country is strong again and feel proud. And Putin is not the only anti-democrat capable of making Russians swoon. The mass murderer Joseph Stalin took third place last year in a television contest to determine the greatest Russian ever. Fifty million Russians voted.

“Autocracy is making a comeback,” writes Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in his 2008 book, The Return of History and the End of Dreams. “Russia and China have figured out how to permit economic activity while suppressing political activity. They have seen that people making money will keep their noses out of politics, especially if they know their noses will be cut off.”

Kagan argues that China and Russia’s model of an open economy and a closed political system is appealing in places like Central Asia. “It certainly offers a model for successful autocracy, a blueprint for how to create wealth and stability without having to give way to political liberalization,” he writes. “In the 1980s and 1990s, the autocratic model seemed like a losing proposition as dictatorships of both right and left fell before the liberal tide. Today, thanks to the success of China and Russia, it looks like a better bet.”

Azar Gat, a military historian and political scientist at Tel Aviv University, makes a similar argument. The defeats of Nazism, fascism, and Soviet Communism in the 20th century came about because of unique historical circumstances, not because of democracy’s inherent superiority, he says in a 2007 essay: “Authoritarian capitalist states, today exemplified by China and Russia, may represent a viable alternative path to modernity, which in turn suggests that there is nothing inevitable about liberal democracy’s ultimate victory—or future dominance.”

Democracy’s prospects appear no brighter in the Middle East, where liberalism vies with nationalism and Islamism in countries stifled by dictatorship. And it is Islamism that is often the more powerful and popular ideology among those opposed to their autocratic governments. The Muslim Brotherhood is easily the strongest opposition group in Egypt. Its offshoot, Hamas, won the legislative election in the Palestinian Authority in 2006. In Pakistan, Islamist extremists have floundered in recent elections, but in large swaths of the country the Taliban are nevertheless more powerful than the state and are de facto rulers.

In short, was Fukuyama not just premature in declaring the triumph of liberal democracy, but wrong entirely? Is it possible that liberalism in the world has already reached its apex and is facing a future of decline and retreat before extreme nationalism, Islamism, and old-fashioned dictatorship? Could it be that it is not history that is ending, as Fukuyama once claimed, but democracy itself?

As with most questions about the direction the world is heading, it helps to take several big steps back to look at the bigger picture and the longer time frame. A good guide in this process is the pro-democracy NGO Freedom House. Freedom House has been evaluating the state of democracy and human rights in nations around the world since 1972. “At that time we felt that the state of global freedom was under extreme duress, that things were moving in the wrong direction,” says Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House, in an interview with Maclean’s.

“You had Communism taking over Southeast Asia—Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. You had strongmen with quasi-Marxist instincts ruling much of Africa. In Latin America, you had Marxist revolutionaries using violence to try to shoot their way into power, and death squad right-wingers running a lot of these countries. And in Asia you had strongmen in places like Indonesia and South Korea—not to mention that you still had Mao running China. Then you had the entire Soviet bloc, which just seemed likely to be around forever. So you had democracy in North America, Western Europe, and a few other English-speaking outposts around the world. That was about it.”

Seen from such a vantage point, democracy’s rise has been astonishing. This doesn’t change the fact that it is stumbling. Freedom House’s most recent report, for the year 2008, concludes that political freedom has retreated around the world for the third year in a row, with the decline led by a deterioration of civil rights and political liberties in sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union.

Liberal democracy, according to Puddington, reached its global peak with the so-called “coloured revolutions” of 2003 to 2005, which peacefully swept pro-Russian autocrats from power in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. A “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country and the disbanding of Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government. For a while there was even talk of an “Arab Spring” that might lead to the greater democratization of the region. But autocracies around the world, especially Russia, saw these revolutions as an American-stoked threat and responded with measures to suppress democratic reformers in their own countries and to frustrate their progress abroad.

“What makes Russia especially problematic is that it would like to export its problems to its democratic neighbours,” says Puddington. “If you look at the last couple of years, they’ve waged a cyber war against Estonia. They’re trying to buy a lot of influence in Estonia and Latvia. They have projects to stir up resentments in the Russian-speaking enclaves of Latvia and Estonia. They have troops in Moldova protecting this breakaway region called Trans-Dniester. In Georgia, clearly [President Mikhail] Saakashvili deserves a great deal of the blame for what happened there, but there is no question that Russia was leaning, leaning, leaning, provoking, provoking, provoking. And the result was what happened. In Ukraine, the Russian political leadership basically went ballistic after the Orange Revolution, and they’ve been trying to influence events in Ukraine and support the Russian-oriented political circles ever since.” (China, also, undermines the spread of democracy abroad by giving enormous amounts of no-strings-attached financial aid to dictatorships, especially in Africa, where it hopes build alliances and secure access to resources.)

Russia has the muscle to pressure its neighbours largely because of its oil and gas wealth. Like Iran, it has become a strong player in the global economy despite an absence of political freedom. “That is an entirely new phenomenon,” Puddington says. “You didn’t have that in the Cold War. Communist countries were impoverished by their own decision-making.”

But if, during the Cold War, the poverty of the Soviet bloc compared with the West only strengthened democracy’s appeal, what will be the impact of today’s faltering economy on democracy’s global stature?

History suggests the results will be damaging. Political freedom rarely advances during a worldwide recession. “The current downturn, if it continues for some period of time, is likely to be very unhelpful for hope that democracy will spread around the world,” says Benjamin M. Friedman, a Harvard University economist and the author of The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, in an interview with Maclean’s. Friedman argues that political freedom expands during prolonged periods of prosperity, and contracts during regression or stagnation. It’s a thesis echoed by Freedom House’s Puddington. “Democracy moves ahead when things are flush,” he says. “The history of democracy in times of real economic pain and crisis—it’s not very good. I’m certainly hopeful that we’re not going to end up like we did in the late 1920s and 1930s. That was a terrible time for world politics.”

Faced with an economic downturn that will force democracies to scale back their ambitions abroad, and with resurgent autocracies willing to throw their weight around, should liberal democracies still try to counter their influence and work to protect and spread democracy around the world? Should it matter to Canadians whether democracy succeeds in, say, Georgia—or, for that matter, in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Arguments in favour of democracy promotion can be roughly divided between the moral and the practical. Moral proponents of spreading liberal democracy, such as James Traub, a writer and director of policy at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in New York City, believe that only democracy can satisfy “the most fundamental questions of human dignity.”

The practical argument was championed most famously in recent years by former American president George W. Bush. The complexities of the “Bush doctrine” of foreign policy eluded Sarah Palin when she was asked to define it during a television interview, but its essential premise boils down to the belief that what happens in undemocratic countries can impact countries like the United States and Canada in unexpected and unwanted ways. “One of the sources of terrorism is clearly the failed dynamic of the states from which terrorism comes,” says Traub, author of The Freedom Agenda: Why America Must Spread Democracy (Just Not the Way George Bush Did).

But practical reasons for promoting democracy, according to some analysts, go beyond trying to undermine terrorism, which can and does flourish in democracies as well as in dictatorships and failed states. “The broader truth is that, over time, more democratic societies seem to be more prosperous, and therefore better trading partners and treaty partners,” says Thomas O. Melia, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the executive director of Freedom House. “A functioning economy to some degree depends on the same freedoms that a functioning democracy depends on: free speech, the ability to travel across borders, the ability to challenge authority when the government has wacky regulations. If you can’t do that, you can’t have an economy. And those are the same freedoms you need to have a democracy.” (Friedman, the Harvard economist, isn’t so sure. Economic growth might lead to greater political freedoms, he says, but political freedoms don’t necessarily result in a stronger economy. “I don’t think the evidence was ever very strong that democracy was itself an engine of growth,” he says.)

Those who do believe in democracy’s intrinsic economic advantage look to the financial strength of autocracies and see temporary, ultimately fleeting success. Countries like Russia and Iran have power, money, and influence because they have oil and gas, which will eventually run out, and for which prices are already dropping. China does not have even the luxury of oil. It has prospered in recent decades, but, its critics argue, this is not compatible over the long term with political shackles. “The problems of corruption, inequality, and unaccountability will continue to drive political change in China, Russia, and the rest of the world’s autocracies,” write political scientists Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry in a recent essay in Foreign Affairs.

Robert Kagan offers a third reason why countries like the United States should support democracy abroad—in this case, referring specifically to the Middle East. “One way to answer that question is to turn it around: should the United States support autocracy in the Middle East? That is the only other choice, after all. There is no neutral stance on such matters. The world’s democracies are either supporting autocracy—through aid, recognition, amicable diplomatic relations, and regular economic intercourse—or they are using their manifold influence in varying degrees to push for economic reform.”

There are many who would respond by saying that, actually, supporting friendly autocracies in the Middle East—as the United States does in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt—may not be such a bad idea. Democracy, after all, saw Hamas elected in the Palestinian Authority and might well lead to the Muslim Brotherhood running Egypt. Kagan responds by recalling that similar debates took place during the Cold War, when America backed pretty much any tyrant who promised to fight Communism. Conservatives warned that cutting off the squalid little men ruling much of Asia and, at the time, South and Central America might lead to their replacement by pro-Soviet Communists. Sometimes it did. “But more often than not such efforts produced moderate democratic governments that were pro-American,” he writes, citing El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines, Taiwan, and South Korea as examples of countries where “reasonably democratic” governments replaced right-wing dictators.

Kagan argues that it’s worth taking the same risk today in the Middle East. There will be setbacks, he says. Democracy will provide a channel for the expression of popular resentments, and some radical Islamists will achieve power through elections. “But perhaps this phase is as unavoidable as the present conflict, and the sooner it is begun, the sooner a new phase can take its place,” he writes. The success of moderate political parties in Pakistan’s recent elections—along with the concomitant failure of extreme Islamists—suggests that, in Pakistan at least, the idea that democracy would result in the country falling into the hands of nuke-crazed mullahs was mostly alarmist hot air. Extremists have expanded their influence in Pakistan of late—securing control of much of the Swat Valley in the last two years—but these gains have come through violence and terror, not the free choice of the people who live there. Pakistani authorities sadly sanctioned these gains in February by agreeing to bring sharia law to the region in exchange for a ceasefire with local Pakistani Taliban.

If we can accept that democracy’s growth is good for people living in autocracies, and good for those of us already in the democratic world, what can be done to spread democracy’s reach? The short answer may be less than we think.

“There are a lot of things that are in our interest that we may not be able to do much about,” says Traub. “If you use the expression ‘exporting democracy,’ you’re already describing a thing that cannot be. Because democracy is not a product that one consumes. It is a set of values, habits, expectations, and principles, which are inside individual people and inside a culture. So by its nature it cannot be exported.” Failed attempts to bring democracy to countries with little or no democratic tradition—such as American efforts to promote political freedom in Russia during the 1990s—demonstrate how difficult it is to establish a free society where one hasn’t existed before.

Traub believes democracy can be nurtured, however, which is why he says the democratic world would make better use of its time and resources by strengthening and consolidating feeble democratic states, rather than trying to bring democracy to outright dictatorships. Georgia and Ukraine, for example, should be supported and protected from Russian machinations. Trying to establish a pro-democracy NGO in North Korea, on the other hand, would be a waste of time.

Promoting democracy is most effective, according to Traub, when it is part of a larger state-building effort. “If you have a profoundly impoverished country with no infrastructure, with poor public health, with poor educational prospects, you have to be able to do something about that. And that’s something which outside states can do a little bit more about. It’s easier to do that than it is to, for example, produce an independent and honest judiciary—something which tends to develop very slowly from an already existing democratic culture.”

The United States has lost its appetite for the most extreme method of promoting democracy: invading another country and trying to install one. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have simply been too costly. American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said as much in a recent essay: “The United States is unlikely to repeat another Iraq or Afghanistan—that is, forced regime change followed by nation building under fire—anytime soon,” he wrote in Foreign Affairs. In other words, in the absence of a security threat the United States judges it cannot ignore, countries like Sudan, Burma, and Iran won’t see American soldiers on their soil in the near future.

That American efforts to promote democracy abroad will likely be restrained doesn’t necessarily mean they will be less effective, only less forceful. “There is a strong line of argument that the best way Americans can spread democracy around the world is to be the best model of a working democracy that we possibly can, and that model is often undermined by our quasi-imperial international efforts that lead to things like Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib,” says Peter Beinhart, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in an interview with Maclean’s. “We will be most effective at spreading democracy by focusing on things that make American democracy work best.” By this argument, improving America’s economy may also embolden democracy’s proponents in the developing world by demonstrating the economic advantages of political freedom.

Such a scaled-back agenda for democracy’s global expansion—targeted aid, diplomatic support, and strengthening democracy at home—will no doubt disappoint those who believe a more muscular effort is needed to counter the apparent rise of autocracies and the attraction they hold for weak and unstable states. It is a far cry from John F. Kennedy’s pledge during his inaugural address to pay any price and bear any burden to ensure the survival of liberty—or even George W. Bush’s 2005 promise to stand with the citizens of oppressed countries who choose to stand for their own freedom. It requires faith that democracy will ultimately succeed, not because of the strength of its proponents, but because it is the only political system capable of offering a nation’s citizens real liberty, and because of this its appeal will not fade.

It also requires patience and perspective to recognize that, over the long term, democracy’s rise has been steady and it has overcome enormous obstacles. It was Lord Byron, the British poet who died while fighting in Greece’s war of independence against the Ottoman Empire, who described a nation’s struggle against tyranny as freedom’s battle:

For Freedom’s battle once begun

Bequeath’d by bleeding Sire to Son

Though baffled oft is ever won.

These lines, written almost 200 years ago, were posted by an anti-Communist activist in the Lenin Shipyards of Gdansk, Poland, in 1980. The militant belonged to Solidarity, a trade union that grew into a social movement that Communist authorities repressed but could never contain. Solidarity did more than perhaps any other group to weaken the Soviet Union’s hold on Eastern Europe. Within a decade the Soviet Union lost its grip entirely, and half a continent was free.


The End of Democracy?

  1. Just finished reading your article this morning, Michael, and I thought it was terrific (tho your headline writer is a bit melodramatic).

    It’s a really interesting question: can totalitarian governments hold onto to power while liberalizing their economies. I really want to believe that people want freedom but I guess we’ll see over the next few decades how it plays out.

    • Yes they can, just look at hitler, the difference is that now they got enough butter after spending all their money on bullets

  2. the reason why those “authoritarian” government are cracking down on journalist is the same reason my problem with this article, Miss leading. On the front you have a picture of an North Korean parade but most of the article you talk about China. Where North Korean is only mentioned only once close to the end of the article. If I didn’t know the difference (like most north American readers) I would picture China look like that. Which kind remind me of the sub-prime crisis that started world wide financial fiasco. Rating companies give triple A ratings to garbage bonds and the investor, which was miss lead by the rating companies bough whole loads of them. Political journalists doing reviews on governments are just like those rating companies on bonds and securities. tell it as it is. Don’t miss lead us.

    • So then you’re saying that China only censors web sites like the BBC and Voice of America because the websites are doing a bad job, and that the Russians killed Politkovskaya because her reports were inaccurate?

    • I think XiaoJian is the answer to jwl’s question

    • If a Chinese government-media website posted a picture without a caption describing what country it was from, would you be able to correct the ‘misleading’ photo in their comments section?

    • XiaoJian, who is Miss Leading? I sure haven’t met her. In fact, I don’t think she’s even made a post here yet.

      All joking aside, I take deep offence to your swipe at political journalism. I would dare you to show how men like Jean-Paul Marat, Thomas Paine, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Albert Camus, George Orwell, are somehow the moral equivalent of dishonest junk-bond hucksters?

      If anyone’s being misleading (note the proper spelling, buddy), it’s you. To tell it as it is would be to tell you that I feel like you’ve only raised the idea of the junk bond broker to draw attention away, via non-sequitur, from the shame this article so readily heaps on a country already maligned around the world for what can only be described as a piss-poor record on human rights.

    • now I opened a can of worms I would just like to mention a similar incident happened last year when China crack down in Tibet. Before I go on, I am neither pro Tibet independence nor support the Chinese government. Totally comparing on how the story was told.

      There were picture and video used by the Star, Globe, Metro, CTV, City TV and some other news agency (only one I saw with my eyes) showing men in uniform using sticks to beat monks and Tibetan women. All the Head lines or anchor report it as “China crack down on Demonstration”. It turns out the video used and picture in articles were in fact Nepal police removing demonstrator in front of Chinese embassy. (Just comparing)

      CNN was even more interesting. They put on the website a picture showing 2 “military” trucks moving on a road and the title was “China sending troops into Tibet”. Well that photo was cropped from a bigger photo which showed demonstrators hurling rocks from the side walk . CNN later explain they had to crop the photo because it didn’t fit the web frame. So I wonder why didn’t they cut it to the right so it showed the demonstrators and the one truck, and are those really troops inside the trucks?

      Now in this case, those North Koreans Female soldiers marching photo. I guess its suppose to Stalin style times with the word “China” popping up every where in the article and no caption on the photo, so I am suppose to know they are North Koreans?

      and back to TobyornotToby and Toby, nope, I cant. And guess what I read in Chinese media? Gay Lesbian parade; Israel starving people in Gaza strip; Canada harboring Chinese criminals ; Teenager pregnancies on the raise in NA; school shootings; underage sex between teachers and students. I don’t think I need to say more but you get the picture. Thats what the Chinese media is feeding the Chinese people. Guess what they think of us?

      to Vince L, piss-poor human right record? I would disagree with you. Look the history for China the last 60 years was the greatest human rights movement in China. Women was allowed to work, given the same pay as men. Everyone was given rights for free school, free basic medical care. Villagers were given rights to vote for their mayor. People are given rights to access public government records, rights to own your business, farmers got their own land etc, etc. I don’t want to sound like a Chinese propaganda machine but these reports are confirmed by western media, so you can go google it yourself.

      As far as for freedom of speech; go read the Chinese BBS and you will get an idea what the Chinese people are saying about their government. And just for comparison, China is not on the top of the list for censoring media. You should go look how countries like Saudi, UAE. I don’t hear those countries making head lines on human rights issues and I wonder why? hummmm..

      Does that give the right for Chinese government to censor media? well it depend on what it is. Also even they said they have a long way to go from where they are to where they want to be. That destination might not be where you and I think it should be, and guess what? they have the rights to choose.

      • Google “Tianenmen Square” and get back to me on that free speech thing.

        And as for piss-poor, I’m talking about public executions, suppression of political dissidents and forced labour during the ‘cultural revolution’, not market reforms you underwent out of necessity because of the abject poverty Mao left you in.

        • So you judge things with one incident in history?

          with your mentally … I can google “aboriginal people rights”, “Martin Luther King”, “Japanese Canadian during WWII”, so are you going to judge the current Canadian and US government base on those incident? And look how long those “democratic” government took to apologize or fix their mistake?

          The fact is just because the leader is elected doesn’t automatically equal to democracy. Adolf Hitler won his election with overwhelming majority, how is his government human right record?

          I would also take the chance to correct myself. I was pointing out the photo is misleading not the article. However I still doesn’t agree with writer. The whole idea of “western democracy” with its idea and values has always been resisted by many other cultures for many years. We are just hearing more about “them” thanks to advance in technologies like internet. But in the same time, we are reaching out to more people then ever. Give them a place to learn, to discuss about democracy. We are actually reaching out to individuals around the world, thats something never happened in human history.

          Oh yeah Vince, get yourself to 2009, stop living in 1989.

          • Well, I for one never thought that this was the Chinese military marching in the picture- it certainly wasn’t the Chinese flag they were carrying, so perhaps XiaoJian is overreacting – he certainly appears to suggest we are all ignorant. Here is a recent example of why some billions of people may have recognized his flag:


          • For historical record, Hitler was appointed, not elected, chancellor based on a plurality of seats in the Reichstag, not a majority. Democracy, etymologically speaking, comes from two greek words: demos – people, and kratos – power/hold sway/strength. If the people choose a leader freely and fairly, that’s democracy. You have a very superficial and weak understanding of what democracy really is. Hitler gained power by burning the Reichstag, proclaiming himself the fuhrer, and eliminating political opponents: a seizure of power somewhat like Mao’s. The communist party in China was never elected, at least not freely or fairly.
            And for a more recent set of violations of basic human rights:
            Try finding a protest during the Beijing Olympic games. Try finding a country with a lower execution rate. Try finding another country that publicly displays their executed people ex post facto. Try finding another country that practices female infanticide at such a high rate.

            And XiaoJian, the difference between China and Canada is that we actually apologized for the wrongs we’ve committed. Late is better than never, which seems to be when the People’s Republic of China plans on apologizing for their wrongs.

    • Ah and the chicom propoganda army made .50 cents for this post for the glorious DPRC!

      • what I mentioned are facts. So if you have something to say then post them. Starting personal attacks just show what I said was correct, and you ran out of words.

        • We need an authoritarian regime in Canada to remove XiaoJian and other Chinese stooges.

  3. State control is on the rise everywhere right now after falling back for a couple of decades. Individual freedom is increasingly circumscribed. Where we have the lingering protections of common law, a freeish press, a semi-functioning justice system, and considerable personal wealth, it does no pinch our lives very tightly.

    For everyone else, the prospect is less happy. We need to aggressively reassert basic individual freedoms and stop talking about group rights. This particular obsession with group rights is playing into the hands of fascist religious and political leaders.

  4. Within the democracies, we have millions of citizens who want the state to do things for them that they ought to do for themselves, to allow them to avoid the consequences of bad decisions or accetp individual responsibility, and who are convinced against all evidence that freedom (especially in the economic realm) is somehow slavery. This view is echoed in one form or another by huge swathes of academia, the media and the arts community. There are no shortages of politicians who are ready, willing and able to accommodate it. If that’s the case in the ostensibly free “democratic” states, why is there any surprise about the rise of authoritarian regimes abroad? Moreover, how can the “democratic” states be expected to muster the will to confront this problem when so many of the most influential voices within them attack the legitimacy of their own founding principles?

  5. A good read, that actually cites some scholars, instead of pop theories.

    I have a theory about democratization myself, that I think is being born out by recent times. History is marked by periods of economic stagnation punctuated by technological revolution, and periods of economic growth. You don’t necessarily have to buy into Kondratieff waves (which have a specific periodicity to economic growth) to accept that. It makes sense that things would happen this way as well – there are particular basic innovations (steam engines, the automobile, chemical dyes, IT etc.) that launch rapid economic growth and change. This is where liberal western capitalist countries do best – freedom of expression nurtures innovation, and capitalism gives entrepreneurs a strong incentive to find ways to apply new basic technologies in different ways.

    Eventually, however, the spin-offs start to dwindle (at the level of the firm think cash cows, dogs, etc – product life-cycles), as there are only so many ways to use an innovation. When that happens you have a few problems. Firstly, people only accepted rapid economic change because it promised growth. Now you still have lots of dislocated and angry workers (particularly those in the declining industries). Authoritarian and/or socialists however, have a stronger case than liberal capitalists in this era. They can better exploit economies of scale and accumulate capital through forced saving (the Soviet industrialization strategy) than liberal capitalists. They can use force (in the case of authoritarian states) to limit rising wage demands from unions as well, or alternately a socialist state can be a more effective broker between firm and union, preventing strikes (for instance, if the US had universal healthcare, workers would have one less thing to demand from employers). This cycle doesn’t last forever either. Eventually you have diminishing returns to scale from capital accumulation. At the same time over-expansive governments reach the limit of their finances and are forced to either run large deficits, spike up the inflation rate or move to a small government capitalist innovating economy.

    Right now we are seeing the pendulum swing from the liberal capitalist era of 1979-2009 to an authoritarian socialist one. From about 1933-1978 it was going the other way (again, I don’t buy that there is strict periodicity).

    Of course the swinging of this pendulum has other implications as well. One important impact is that the balance of power in the international system will be altered dramatically. The kind of institutions (neoliberalism) that enabled America to launch the IT revolution may not necessarily lead to economic success today. With China’s economy rapidly growing at the same time (and China is well-positioned for the next few decades), America’s ability to act unilaterally will soon end. That may or may not involve a peaceful transition (that doesn’t mean I think China will go to war with the US – actually a China-India war is probably more likely), and I would say we could see a future dominated by any one of China, India, the US or the EU. That will surely have implications for the international system. What it will hold, I can’t tell, since the last time the (western) world was dominated by an essentially authoritarian power was in the 1500’s by Spain (and even then the story is a bit more complex than that).

    So if Democracy were a stock, I’d sell short.

    • If everyone was req’d to print out HtoH’s dissertations, I’d go long on ink.

      Maybe in your PhD, you’ll be taught that if you can’t be concise, who cares?

      • I’m not concise by the standards of academia either – unless I can include graphs/charts. Maybe I should include an abstract/executive summary to future posts.

        • A proper précis:

          A short guy with hairy feet gets a ring then throws it into a volcano.

          • Okay, now I’d like to see you do for the Silmarillion.

          • “Okay, now I’d like to see you do for the Silmarillion.”

            Big evil dude steals sh*t, laughs all the way to the bank, goes down.

  6. The only freedom an individual should have is the freedom to keep his or her own wealth. Socialism is evil. Our health care system is pathetic and every social system we have is garbage. No wonder authoritarianism is on the rise. We have allowed previous socialist governments in this country to ring up debts which our children have to pay back, and they have also jacked up our income taxes to the point that government have control in almost every aspect of society.

    We should have more conservatism in our society. If we become more social we will loose all of our rights and freedoms. SCREW SOCIALISM.

    • Considering we have the biggest spending govt in our history in right now, and it’s conservative and it’s about to spend billions more, isn’t yr statement a little ironic – no?

      • Wow Daryl, I’m a Conservative, and I have to say you are not very convincing.

        1. The ONLY freedom an individual should have is that to his/her own wealth? Do you really mean that? Wouldn’t the loss of freedom of speech, the press, movement, etc. kind of look pretty authoritarian – even if we still had property rights.

        2. The Canadian GOVERNMENT pays less per person than the US government on healthcare. Universal healthcare may ultimately be a small government option because it does not discourage preventive care like the US system does.

        3. I assume by socialist you mean Liberal (you have clearly never met an actual socialist), and you may have noticed that they paid down the debt. The federal government hasn’t raised income taxes since the early 90’s. Taxes as a % of GDP peaked in 1998. Since then they have declined from 36.7% of GDP to 33.4% in 2006 (and are lower than that today). Your mileage may vary depending on your provincial government.

        4. You haven’t explained the link between “bad social programs” and authoritarianism. Strangely you discuss bad social programs IN CANADA, as a cause of authoritarianism IN OTHER COUNTRIES. A good heuristic when you are righting is to always think back to your thesis (socialism -> authoritarianism). Say your thesis in your head, add “because” and then write whatever sentence you were going to write. Ask if this makes sense.

        5. Read “the Road to Serfdom”. Friedrich Hayek makes the case that socialism leads to fascism. He emphasizes that central planning puts a lot of power in the hands of a few agents, who may not exactly have benign interests. When you give the state the power to “do good”, you also give it the power to do wrong.

        • hosertohoosier – can you support that claim (Canadian government spends less per person than the American government on health care)?


        • With the freedom of owning one’s own wealth, gives you every freedom in sociey. It’s only when government taxes the population for social programs that freedoms are taken away. We do not have the freedom to choose our doctor for god’s sakes.

          Never have I claimed that the United States is a more conservative country than ours. I haven’t compared our country to others. Do not put words in my mouth.

          Another thing is we have reduced taxes in our country, but not nearly enough. We haven’t paid off our debt. The liberals did a good job in the 90’s of getting rid of our deficit, however they did so by passing coservative policies not social ones.

          Another thing. I didn’t explain the connection betwwen socialism ans authoritarianism because I figured it was common sense. Sorry you have little

      • If we get rid of socialism, like true conservatives believe we can easily rid ourselves of our national and provincial debts. Oh by the way, Pierre Trudeau ran our largest deficits.

      • It is not ironic. A so called conservative government passing social legislation. The liberals in the 90’s passed conservative policies and they got rid of the deficit by doing so. Remember that the liberals used reform party policies in an attempt at keeping the reform party from ganing seats in Ontario.

        During the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s we had a dramatic growth of socialism in this country. It was during the oil crisis of the early 70’s that we could no longer afford these expensive programs like public health care. We had to run deficits in order to keep our socialism. The left wing have stolen our country and our God given freedoms. WAKE UP. Income tax is a slavery tax.

  7. I’m reading “Just How Stupid Are We?” by Rick Shenkman right now. If democracy’s on the wane, the West only has itself to blame.

  8. “The only freedom an individual should have is the freedom to keep his or her own wealth.” – I agree wholeheartedly. “Socialism is evil.”; but then so is democracy which essentially is a system where some people can vote themselves other peoples money. If you’ve seen Obamass’ first budget, you know what I mean.
    Clearly what is neede is a system other than democracy (see above) or authoritarianism – which is too prone to corruption and suppression of individual right to his/her own wealth (see Putin versus Lukos Oil).
    It seems that oligarchy served such ends very nicely. Witness the Most Serene Republic of Venice, or Genoa, which were the wealthiest countries in their time.
    An oligarchy has one particular feature that keeps it benign for a very long period of time. The ruling clique (or class) knows it is a minority and essentially rules at the sufferance of the rest – make the living conditions too unpleasant and the ruled with rebel; but unlike authoritarianism is not prone to ignore this fact because of megalomania of a single ruler.
    In a democracy, the rulers know, or at least believe they are the majority so they can suppress “the rest” at will; always ending up “suppressing” themselves, at the behest of a small ruling cirlce, as well.
    So don’t shed too many tears for democracy. Its passing may just be the best thing that happened to us all.

    • Totally, dude! I’ve always wanted to relive the French Revolution, and this is just the ticket!

      • “It seems that oligarchy served such ends very nicely. Witness the Most Serene Republic of Venice, or Genoa, which were the wealthiest countries in their time.”

        1. The wealth of the Italian city-states was rooted in trade monopolies – controlling trade routes. Do you honestly think any country today (apart from possibly the US which has unchallenged naval power) could monopolize trade? Today innovation is the main source of growth. At any given time the majority of industries in a country are not high tech, yet it is high tech industries that drive innovation and productivity. Oligarchies give power to the wealthy, and thus to the established interests that are often threatened by economic change. What would an oligarchy full of carriage-makers say to the car?

        2. I disagree that oligarchies are more responsive in the face of rebellion (or other problems) than authoritarian governments or monarchies. The problem is one of collective action and free-riding. In order to stave off rebellion, an oligarchy may have to give up privileges. The problem is that each oligarch, or each faction would rather the other faction gave up its privileges, while they kept there. That is even more dramatic when you are talking about competing interests.

        My bottom line: I think we need a balance of authoritarianism, democracy, bureaucracy and the rule of law. Sometimes (such as during wartime) we need a government to act quickly, and give it some near-dictatorial powers. Sometimes (most of the time) we need governments to make decisions that are as mutually acceptable to the populace as possible, so we use elections and voting. Sometimes we need expert decision-makers to act on technical matters, insulated from the political process, so we turn to bureaucracy (this is second-most common – BoC gov. Carney is an example of this kind of figure). Other times we are not willing to let the will of the majority overturn the rights of minorities, and so we turn to the rule of law, codified in our constitution/charter, and upheld by the courts.

        Canada (and most of the west) is not purely democratic. The diverse tasks of government require different tools and institutions. When circumstances change, we need to be willing to adapt without invoking democracy, beyond its inherent utility (which I think is large, so we SHOULD always be primarily democratic).

      • And here I thought the French Revolution was an OVERTHROW of an aristocratic regime (not necessarily oligarchic, which, unlike rigid arisatocracy, allows for “new blood” to be added to the ruling class); and all the “excesses”, the murders, the Great Terror, were commited by a democratic regime in the name of “the people”.
        But hell, what do I know, mon, I just majored in history. Bummer.

        • Bummer that you didn’t minor in irony.

        • Don’t blame me, I voted Girondiste!

    • All my favourite success stories are oligarchies. Putin’s Russia, 1940’s Japan, the Klingon Empire. Let’s rock! Democrissy sux man.

      • Putin’s Russia is an almost pure form of autocracy, with one megalomaniac calling all the shots;
        1940’s Japanese oligarchy was very successfull in bringing the country into modern age, before it overreached with a war against the most powerfull military alliance in the history of the world.
        Klingon Empire rocks man! The United Federation is a joke.

    • I agree. One thing we have to realize is that if we controlled 100% of our earned wealth, we wouldn’t need democracy. We should only be taxed based on consumption, not income.

  9. I can only assume that some form of anti-democratic government, one which is void of free markets, is what writers such as Linda McQuaig would like to see happen. She writes for the Toronto Star or should we call it as some do, The Toronto Red Star?

    • You assume wrong. Why do people always equate democracy with capitalism? If the left leaners at the Toronto Star want a government void of free markets, they probably want democratic socialism, which while anti-free market, is most assuredly not anti-democratic. Clearly from the article we can see that political system and economic system can be separate entities in a given state, as seen by the success of China’s authoritarian capitalism, and the democratic socialism of places like Sweden and Venezuela.

      • Okay the thing is that you are both wrong. Firstly, Sweden is not an example of democratic socialism – the Swedes are capitalists like us (ever hear of Ikea). They just invest a larger share of the economy in social programs and redistribution (even in Ayn Rand fantasyland you need SOME government in the form of law and order to protect property rights, which somebody has to pay for). Socialism proper is central planning (the workers need to control the means of production), which Sweden does not have (nor do many countries at all nowadays). Even the NDP had stopped pitching actual socialism by the 80’s. The Swedes, the Toronto Star, etc. are left wing liberals, not socialists. The difference between them and us is not that large either, in Sweden, taxes are 50.1% of GDP, in Canada they are 33.4%.

        The Hayekian argument is much weaker when you are just talking about the existence of social programs (most of which are in areas that tend to produce market failure). Even Adam Smith argued for public education (actually he was much to the left of his pop portrayal).

        Oh and Venezuala is not a democracy. According to Freedom House, it scores a 4 (1 is freest, 7 least free) for civil and political liberties (and this was in 2006 before the recent mess there). That is the same as Kuwait and Malaysia.

        • Due to the lack of real world examples of actual democratic socialism, I chose Sweden and Venezuela as the best examples available. Admittedly Sweden is more democratic than it is socialist, and Venezuela is less democratic and more socialist, though I contend that Freedom House is biased in favour of pro-American democracies, and that in strict terms, Venezuela is fundamentally democratic because it has free elections with opposition parties, privately owned opposition media, and the elections are contested enough that Chevez could have lost (note that he did in fact lose his first referendum to eliminate term limits). Sweden has a long history of powerful democratic socialist and social democratic parties and is closer to socialism than most examples of modern working western democracies.

          Due to the nature of the international capitalist system, it is nearly impossible to institute true socialism without severely hampering your country’s competitiveness in the international market economy. Much in the same way there are no truly laissez-faire capitalist societies left either. Aside from the backwards autarkies like North Korea, the vast majority of economies are mixed market, and for good reasons.

          And I am aware that the Star isn’t socialist, but the Cons are always calling them the red star, so I thought I’d indulge them and try to show that even if they were, that doesn’t mean they’re anti-democratic.

          Also, technically you can have socialism without complete central planning. Rather than complete nationalization, the system instead has public ownership of capital while prices remain set by market conditions, i.e. market socialism.

          • “Due to the lack of real world examples of actual democratic socialism”

            Doesn’t that suggest some good empirical data for Hayek’s argument?

            “Aside from the backwards autarkies like North Korea, the vast majority of economies are mixed market, and for good reasons.”

            I think it depends on where you are talking about. In the first world, you are correct – socialism vs. capitalism is not a useful distinction. I would say there are about three models – consumer capitalism (US + Commonwealth), corporatism (Europe) and producer capitalism (Japan), which defer more to markets, labour and producers, respectively. In the developing world the capitalist-socialist choice is more relevant. You need some kind of mixed system to compete at the outer frontier of technology. If your economy is catching up to others, that is not as important.

            “Also, technically you can have socialism without complete central planning. Rather than complete nationalization, the system instead has public ownership of capital while prices remain set by market conditions, i.e. market socialism.”

            If capital is owned PUBLICLY, guess who is setting prices – it sure isn’t the market. The other issue is labour markets. Labour is an input in almost all products. However, so self-respecting socialist would accept that labour should be traded as a commodity (even the right supports some regulation of the labour market). If the price of labour is determined largely by public regulation under market socialism, and if labour is an input in all goods then you have prices set socially rather than by the market. Market socialism is only a slightly more decentralized take on central planning.

  10. It is not the job of the Western World to invoke thru military provocation democracies in the rest of the world whether in the Mid East or Asia. In so doing the US is fostering the growth of authoritarianism in rebellion to their presence in (or within proximity) of these nations. The only hope of changing the world is through communication and education. The Internet should be the tool of choice to convince others of what the possible alternatives are in changing governmental rule or societal structure. The US has more then enough conventional and certainly nuclear weaponry to protect itself from any invasion for decades to come, but never will have enough to control the world through the Global Hegemony that the NeoCon Doctrine (a con job) of the Bush administration advocated. It only fosters resistance and violence to get rid of foreign intrusion and encourage the radical elements to rise to power.

    • I do not advocate a neocon agenda of world conquest, but it is ridiculously naive to think that democracy will spread through “communication and education” alone, or to think that it has. Much of Europe (and Japan) is democratic because they happened to be occupied by the US after WWII. Many countries are democracies today because of military support from others (Israel, South Korea, etc.). Much of the Commonwealth is democratic because of institutions established by the British empire (and the same goes for the French). Around the world, many countries are democracies today in part because there are material benefits to democracy (cash from the US and international institutions). In that sense, a kind of soft hegemony is necessary, even if America has the military means to defend itself. Questions like whose economy is the strongest and most advanced, and who controls the seas/skies are relevant. Either way, when it comes to democracy, power, not truth, are what matters.

      • Ah, but also industrial power is needed, noticed the democracies that worked had a case of industrial revolution. Marx afterall seeked revolution for industrialized nations, not peasant revolts.

  11. democracy or not, i think every citizen has the rights to face the government, to speak, to express their agenda..

    • Billy, I agree with you. I don’t care what the form of government is called. If it’s substance lacks freedom of speech, expression, learning, etc. it needs to be thrown out the window. People should ALWAYS have the right to voice their perspectives on the government, society, or anything else.

      +Dion Baker

      • That is not “democracy”, in fact that is an undemocratic idea (it puts the rights of a minority ahead of the will of a majority). You are defending the idea of liberty, which could exist under a dictatorship. For instance Americans had many of those rights before they were able to directly elect presidents. You are both fans of liberal democracy, congratulations. I wish people would be more specific about what they mean when they say “democracy” because it would reduce perceptions of hypocrisy abroad.

        • What?! Democracy is not about “rights”; it is a mechanism for selecting our government. Ant any event, it is impossible to conceive democracy without free speech, free assembly etc. As soon as any of these freedoms is abridged, democracy is immediately degraded and becomes something else. It certainly does not imply any group or majority rights.

          yes, you can enjoy some or all liberties regardless of the form of government, but only by hiding in a far-off corner of the state (as did the early American colonists), but this doesn’t really mean anything as presumably you can enjoy some freedoms in North Korea if you live in a hole in the ground.

          • What I am saying is that usually when people talk about “democracy” they mean elections AND freedom of speech, etc (I would call that liberal democracy). However others use a narrower definition of democracy, implying that it is just comprised of elections. That causes problems, for instance, when Americans tell other people that their countries are “undemocratic”.

          • HtoH: Wouldn’t it make more sense to consider democracy a process, rather than an entity in and of itself?

      • Those rights are ours, only if we can control our own wealth. It’s black and white. With more income taxation comes less rights. Simple

  12. “Democracy” – A state of affairs, where, if you are surrounded by idiots, and they all agree – they win.
    Wasn’t, what’s his name, Adolf Hitler, democratically elected? And Hamas, and Barak Obamass, and all the governments of Europe that are doing such a splendid job keeping their countries, and citizenry, prosperous and safe?

  13. The issue with Asia is that China is the big cousin of North Korea and both are seen through the eyes of Japan have always been viewed by Japan as “Inferior human beings”. There is a term used in China’s culture it is the, “Cleansed vs. the uncleansed”. This only cheapens the value of human life and irradicates human rights.., this is the danger of, “global communism”.
    In the United States we have come to what appears the end of “business as usual” and even the weather has turned on America, it is, “spent”. The Republican Party has demised and it is going to get worse under President Barak Obama and the Democratic Party, the system is warn out.
    I predict a ten year “Greatest Great ten year Depression” that will replace both party’s with a “King” (Benevolent Prophet), and a Congress that is more like a Parliment. As, for world democracy it is not doable under the current corrupt corporate world and special interests run by attorneys.
    We need a new system of government, in the short term it is only going to get, “worse”.
    “Captain Democracy” North Beach, San Francisco Ca.

  14. To me, the free democratic capitalism is the most successful form of social and economical organization that a society might have (att. I am not saying that it’s perfect). It has outlived fascism, communism and any other form of totalitarian society.

    Trying to actively changing authoritarian regimes with democratic ones is a question of strategic interests and money. I understand to certain degree why Canada might get involved in Middle East, but I do not get at all why Canadian soldiers are falling and why taxpayers money is spend in a country like…. Afghanistan!!!

  15. Look not further than the leaders of Russia, China and now the US and you have your answer.

  16. I really doubt an authoritarian government will be able to keep good control over a country in the future. right now its not difficult since people don’t have many places to turn to in this horrid economy. When things improve however, people will not be so worried about stability and will demand more freedoms, especially freedom of speech and in the market.

    • Not with the army they don’t. Unlike the US, they are not afraid of shooting their own people

    • If we continue to allow governments to run debts in our name we will loose our freedoms. Don’t you university crowd understand. Debt is slavery. Income tax is a slave tax. Our freedoms are directly related to our ability as individuals to control and keep our own wealth.

  17. This Blog has certainly stirred some thoughtful comments. I appreciate that.
    My concern here is that the United States of America has always been the most open nation in the press with the most vibrant capitalism. Obama is not starting out well when it comes to extending these freedoms. His reaction to talk radio and his punishment of financial excellence are the very foundations of socialism. We are not there, and I think there are enough people to oppose him, but it is hard to oppose him because he is very popular, even though his ideas have been tried and failed throughout history.

    • I agree 100%. Obama is a socialist pig, but then again so was George Bush. Freedom as we know it seems to be in trouble. Especially with the acceptance of socialist policies which do nothing but enslave a society.

  18. You missed a couple of closet dictators – Prime Minister Harper, where the country is run out of the PMO and Premier Campbell, where the Province is his own personal plaything.

  19. Just to tell you the truth. This article, the one you guys are reading right now, can not even be open in China. According to what my friends say….. I think the entire Chines society has got the stockholm syndrome. Just like the move Matrix. They’ve never explored outside world. Their world is what the goverment wants them to see. Just like animals living in the live stock farm…… What can you say? But on the other hand, once this crazy political system has been estabilished, it has to keeps spreading and spreading because the government itself is not legal. They need more power (cops, for example) to monitor their people. See they never used to have to monitor the internet, now they have to hire thousands thousands internet police, which means they have suck even more from their people……….the system can not be self supplied…….So just like what Hitler did. Even go to a war, or will crash.

  20. When I came to Canada some years ago, the first thing people taught me is: don’t go out alone, don’t go out at night, don’t carry more then 20 dollars….

    Later, my classmates taught me not to take evening classes because it is dangerous to go outside at night….

    Later, the police department taught me not to listen to MP3s on the street because it is dangerous…..

    So, you see, I am by now totally totally sick and tired about listening to your great democracy, I never lived in so much fear in my life! And trust me, as soon as I graduated, I am getting out of here,

    enjoy the democracy yourself, sayonara!


    Oh, by the way, do you know lots of Chinese students are cheating on their exams, tax reports, and employment insurances?


    So it seems, does it not, that the truth telling Chinese activists didn’t tell you everything they know about.

    Pity! that.

    • Canada should also say “sayonara” to whiny Red Chinese who come here to take unfair advantage of our myopic pro-Asian immigration orientation and then proceed to bitch about how badly Canada fails to meet their own distorted cultural expectations. Canada neither needs nor wants you and your kind. Don’t let the door of democracy hit your Communist butt on your way out of here, “comrade”.

  21. The article looks academic in appearance. I think democracy is overvalued in the first place. Humanity took a long time before they started questioning the authority of religion now it seems like religion has been replaced my Democracy with a capital “D” . We love to cling to any thing that is taught in the text books and some are unable to unlearn those ideas. In Islamic world there are people who would go to any extreme in trying to convince that Islam and Democracy go together ,but there is no concept of liberty and free speech there the end game is imposition of Islamic law . It is more like electing a dictator who must make sure that Islamic shariah is followed , I think the answer to the current dilemma is global government and that is the future of humanity on this planet. It is human folly that just like Taliban want the supremacy of Quran and Islam .The so called academics in the west will do anything to make sure that democracy is glorified and must triumph because they read it in the text book and text books can not be wrong. We must be able to criticise anything that does not work.
    The article has a visible flaw in it , It is assumed that the scholars in the west (from big name universities) must treat the rest of the inferior world as their experimental lab and they have the God given right not only to tell them what to do but also to make sure that they follow their instructions or edict .This kind of superiority complex should not have a place in academics. Views of all must be respected
    I agree with Mr. Xiao Jiang , and the person who is arguing unnecessarily has no real point ,other than exploiting a spelling mistake .Mr Xiao Jiang must mention that when America needs money from China all those Human rights concern become irrelavant.

  22. If democracy is coming to its end, this is because democracy has failed to provide its citizens with something we desperately need in this ever changing world – SECURITY. Freedom is precious, indeed, but we are not as free as we think we are. The new economy, this global economy, has turned us all into consumers; and, in case you don’t know, consumerism is just another form of economic tyrrany. Second, having too much freedom can be just as bad as having no freedom at all. What good is freedom to the unemployed, the hungry, the homeless and the destitute? What good is the free market economy, the so called “from rags to riches” way, if I have become a slave to economic necessity? What good is so called freedom if I have to sleep under a highway overpass, panhandling for a few dollars, just so I can buy myself a Tim Horton’s to warm my body? Finally, what might be ‘freedom’ to us might just be tyrrany to someone else. We cannot impose our definition of freedom onto the rest of the world, especially if those other people are of a different religion and race.
    Freedom is precious, but we are not as free as we think we are. The new economy forces us to spend, for it is spending that drives the economy, and this new global economy is only interested in productivity – nothing more. I believe over production was one of the causes of the great depression. The people of Iraq, when they lived under Saddam Hussein’s reign, may not have been “free”, as we so define freedom, but they were secure. The people had jobs. There was law and order. Where are the jobs here today? Where is the law and order? There is nothing but chaos. We have limited political freedoms, economic tyrrany, and social anarchy. If democracy fails in the west, it is our own fault.

  23. the real problem is most of the countries uses journalist,Websites,news media,people(in the form of terrorist) to collapse enemy countries,to put down enemy countries. for example america uses taliban and al-quida to put down russia,jounalist and media to colapse indai,china.because people belive what ever they say in newspapers and t.v are real and true.So the govt of the countries are so careful and cautious. is it good or bad cant say anything till the end…….

    Another example collapse of sovit union(is soviet good or bad its another debate),problems in middle east,eastern europe,Africa,east asia …………….
    some govt uses media to cheat their very own people.democracy has failed to provide its citizens security.once you elect a person its over you have no control over the government or the people.

  24. We should question our belief that the existence of autocracies threatens our democratic way of life. And the belief that democracies are necessarily more peaceful. Early 20th century Germany had a larger franchise than Britain at the time and ancient democratic Athens was always starting wars that were economically advantageous: somewhat like the US in the last 50 years. Hitler didn’t just attack England because he was a crazy dictator. And, of course, Stalin was a great friend.

    The article talks about Russia meddling with its neighbours. Part of this undoubtedly is a reaction to our meddling with these neighbours — promoting democracy, democracy which becomes a vehicle for our economic and political influence.

    I’m certainly not arguing against democracy but in today’s world democracy and freedom can be more form than substance: epitomized by the corporatism and corruption of the Bush years.

    Physician heal thyself !

    Democracy is attractive to some but not all people in an “enslaved” state. I recall long ago in university I was talking to a student from Franco’s Spain who was telling me how for most people dictatorship did not really intrude into their life.

    I have a Chinese friend who after living over 5 years in Canada can’t see the value in democracy. I have an impossible time explaining to her the superiority of democracy and the rule of law.

    She sees the idiocy of the recent bus strike in Ottawa which cost millions and says that wouldn’t happen in China. (This article’s arguments for the economic benefits of democracy are pretty weak. In Hitler’s Germany as they say “the trains ran on time”).

    Do we really need to increase tensions in the world by aggressively promoting democracy ? The article says there are only two choices with regards to autocratic states: support the autocracy or support democratic movements to overthrow those states. There is another choice: disengagement. Let them sort out their own problems. Democracy and the long evolution to the rule of law comes – if it ever comes — from internal change in a society and culture and not from external pressure.

    In fact it might be the most effective way to promote democracy. Applying external pressure is probably counterproductive.

    Let’s get our own act together. In the West let’s be the shining city on the hill again.

  25. The west is unable to address this rise in authoritarianism because it is caught up in it too. We’ve turned our back on true liberty in the interest of trying to feel ‘safe’ at all times. If we don’t respect personal liberty ourselves, how can we presume to lecture others on it?

  26. Democracy is nearing its end. But this is not where you would expect. Democracy is dying in the very place where it is supposed to be nurtured for the next generation. I am talking about the university campus, specifically, Carleton University. When the Carleton University Students’ Association held their elections last month, the students chose Bruce Kyereh-Addo for their president. However, the Association decided AFTER the election to disqualify him and install the runner-up, one of their own, as president elect. Sounds like Tsvangarai’s loss to Mugabe doesn’t it? But there’s more! Since the decision, there has been an appeal process, that was so closed and inaccessible that members of the Campus newspaper, the Charlatan had to come out and practically beg for some freedom of the press since they were not allowed into any of the proceedings. Who would have thought that right in the heart of Ottawa, this nation’s Capital, we would have the same kinds of suppression of the people’s voices that was reported in Russia, or Zimbabwe? It’s unbelievable.

  27. It is why Obama cannot fail. He is setting a role model for the world to see how democracy can work wonders in his own country, while we all know about Bush’s model –“quasi-imperial international efforts”. I actually could feel my heart sink when I saw a world map the other day, painting in blue the democratic countries, mostly in the West and in red the others under all sorts of dictatorship. It is threatening to recede like a middleaged hairline!

  28. I strongly believe that the magazine cover of the magazine which contains this article is very inappropriate, and so is the image of the female Russian soldiers on this webpage.
    I do not believe that Russia and China are trying to take over the world and eliminate democracy. Portraying the people of these countries as unemotional, robotic figures does reflect the country to any degree.

    • A map like this is probably imore appropriate:-

      The picture here is actually a military parade to celebrate 60th anniversary in North Korea. Anyway, democracy or not, economy is a crucial factor right now in determining what’s ahead for the world.

  29. Well, the chicks are hawt with the guns….