Is Democracy Dead?

In the twentieth century America and the UK supported by the institutions established after the Second World War held sway in the world. But in the twentieth first century economic power and its associated influence is shifting to other countries and forms of government.

In the past

Germany and the Soviet Union challenged the US and the UK in the last century even though the type of liberal democracy promoted by the latter two countries proved most successful. And with such a victory a liberal democratic approach to government and the economy spread around the world.

At the time it was assumed countries were drawn to liberal democracy for its values and openness. But in addition to such characteristics countries were supportive because it provided a successful model of economic growth that created tremendous wealth. Countries that elected liberal democratic governments grew their economies and improved standards of living for their citizens more than other more autocratic forms of government.

In recent years however liberal democracies have faltered as they struggle to provide a stable economic environment or distribute wealth in a fair and equitable manner. The rise of populist movements in countries across the EU and in the US has been partly as a result of slower economic growth and its effect on the behaviour of swaths of voters.

The economic slowdown has given people a reason to question the merits of liberal values and democratic governments while other darker and more sinister forces use it to promote authoritarian governments such as China and Russia.

In the future

In the past, countries with liberal democratic values accounted for the majority of the wealth in the world. In the future, countries that eschew such values will account for the majority of the world’s wealth. In fact, the swing to authoritarian regimes is likely to continue to a point where they will account for the vast majority of the wealth in the near future.

With the transfer of such power the attractiveness of authoritarian forms of government will increase as people’s lives improve and the clamour for liberal values dampens. Such a shift in wealth will support new centrally controlled military-backed powers, which will escalate a further shift away from democratic forms of governments.

Regardless of the type of government that prevails in a particular country its success will depend on its ability to provide economic stability, rising incomes, and a better standard of living for its people. Whether such rewards are provided by Western liberal democratic governments or by authoritarian regimes will be of less importance to future generations.

The competence of governments to compete economically will decide whether or not the Western liberal democracies of the twentieth century will continue to dominate during the twenty-first. Democratically elected governments that fail to meet the economic challenge will cede ground to authoritarian regimes that manage successful economies.

So, the age of Western liberal democracy is under threat as economic growth slows and authoritarian governments learn to manage successful economies.