So is democracy not the
best political system after
all?
The Economist
read by Ângela Santos
March 2014
We believed that democracy would be the best political
system and would eventually spread all across the globe.
As well as...
Old doubts about democracy are now making a return
and earning increasing respect.
Three main reasons:
1. the success of t...
The new Chinese
modelThe Chinese Communist Party has
succeeded in making more economic
progress than the democratic world:...
promotion of political office-holders on the basis of their capacity to achieve goals,
greater attention paid to public op...
The Chinese intellectual elite claims that the
Chinese system is more efficient than democracy
and less likely to suffer i...
The emerging democracies
In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was
deposed in 2011 but
after Morsi, of the Muslim
Brotherhood, was elect...
In Russia, Boris Yeltsin set the democratic ball rolling, but
his successor Putin destroyed the substance of democracy (do...
In South Africa, the same party has been in power since 1994.
In Turkey, corruption and autocracy appear to be replacing t...
The young democracies are
repeating the same mistakes the
old ones made:
Young democracies
Old mistakes
excessive spending...
Democracy does not bloom
spontaneously when it is planted.
Democracy is a practice with cultural
roots.
Democracy needs su...
The system's faults are increasingly apparent
and disappointment with politicians is growing.
Old democracies
The 2007–2008 financial crisis revealed
weaknesses in our western political
systems, such as the debt and subsequent
bail-...
The democracies in Europe and the USA are now identified with
debt and dysfunction.
In the United States, democracy has be...
The democracies in Europe and the USA are now identified with
debt and dysfunction.
Old democracies
The models
In the EU, ...
National policy depends increasingly
on global markets and international
organisations, so a country's
politicians are not...
Demands for power from regions leaning towards
independence (Catalonia and Scotland), Indian states
and American counties....
Increasing provocation in the form of voters' protests: the candidate who came to power
promising to be openly corrupt (Ic...
The capitalist elite in India complains that
India's chaotic democracy produces abysmal infrastructures,
but the authorita...
China continues to represent a
credible threat to the idea that
democracy is a superior system
and will eventually prevail...
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So is democracy not the best political system after all?

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So is democracy not the best political system after all?

  1. 1. So is democracy not the best political system after all? The Economist read by Ângela Santos March 2014
  2. 2. We believed that democracy would be the best political system and would eventually spread all across the globe. As well as letting people say what they think and decide on their future. On average, democracies are richer, are less likely to go to war, are more effective at combating corruption. In the year 2000, there were 120 democratic nations (Freedom House). 63% of the world's population lived in a democracy.
  3. 3. Old doubts about democracy are now making a return and earning increasing respect. Three main reasons: 1. the success of the new Chinese model 2. the direction in which the emerging democracies are heading 3. the way the old democracies are functioning. Although 40% of the world's population (more than ever) live in countries where there are free and fair elections, the advance of democracy has come to a halt or even begun to recede. The failure of the democratic system first became apparent in the year 2000.
  4. 4. The new Chinese modelThe Chinese Communist Party has succeeded in making more economic progress than the democratic world: at the height of its growth, America managed to double its standard of living every 30 years; in the last 30 years, China has doubled its standard of living every 10 years. Larry Summers, Harvard University China has been able to rapidly resolve public issues that western democracies can take decades to resolve. For example: 85% of Chinese say they are very satisfied with the direction their country is taking 31% of Americans do too... Pew Survey of Global Attitudes, 2013 in two years, China extended its pension system to 240 million rural citizens (many more than the total number of people covered by the American public pension system).
  5. 5. promotion of political office-holders on the basis of their capacity to achieve goals, greater attention paid to public opinion, paradoxically as a result of the obsession with control (imprisonment of dissidents and censure of online discussions). The new Chinese model tight control by the Communist Party constant effort to recruit new talent to the Party, change in political leader- ship every 10 years,
  6. 6. The Chinese intellectual elite claims that the Chinese system is more efficient than democracy and less likely to suffer impasses. "Many developing countries introduced the western political system and values and are now living in disorder and chaos. China provides an alternative model." Wang Jisi, Peking University Some countries in Africa (Rwanda), the Middle East (Dubai) and south-east Asia (Vietnam) appear to be tempted by the Chinese alternative. The new Chinese model "Democracy is destroying the West, especially America, because it institutionalises the impasse, plays down decision-making and produces second-rate presidents, like George Bush Junior." Zhang Weiwei, Fudan University "Democracy complicates simple things and lets smooth-talking politicians trick people." Yu Keping, Peking University
  7. 7. The emerging democracies In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011 but after Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected, he used the democratic system to obtain almost unlimited power, invade the state of Brothers and guarantee a permanent Islamic majority; in 2013, the army overthrew Egypt's first democratically elected president. In Syria, war is raging. In Libya, chaos reigns. Unsuccessful efforts
  8. 8. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin set the democratic ball rolling, but his successor Putin destroyed the substance of democracy (dominating the press and imprisoning his opponents), while still keeping up appearances: everyone can vote, as long as Putin wins. In Venezuela, Ukraine, Argentina, etc, other travesties followed. A travesty is worse than giving up because it discredits the system more. The emerging democracies Travesties
  9. 9. In South Africa, the same party has been in power since 1994. In Turkey, corruption and autocracy appear to be replacing the previous combination of prosperity, moderate Islam and democracy. In Thailand, Bangladesh and Cambodia, the opposition parties boycotted recent elections or refused to accept the results. The emerging democracies Examples of regression
  10. 10. The young democracies are repeating the same mistakes the old ones made: Young democracies Old mistakes excessive spending on agreeable, short-term measures and insufficient long-term investment; political systems taken over by interest groups and undermined by anti-democratic behaviour. In Brazil, civil servants retire at the age of 53, but little has been done to modernise the airport network. In India, constituencies are well paid, but invest little in infrastructure.
  11. 11. Democracy does not bloom spontaneously when it is planted. Democracy is a practice with cultural roots. Democracy needs support from institutions that take a long time to build. In almost every western country, the right to vote came long after sophisticated political systems, powerful civil services, constitutional rights, societies that valued individual rights and independent judicial systems. Lessons to be learned
  12. 12. The system's faults are increasingly apparent and disappointment with politicians is growing. Old democracies
  13. 13. The 2007–2008 financial crisis revealed weaknesses in our western political systems, such as the debt and subsequent bail-out of bankers using taxpayers' money. Old democracies Trust undermined When no arms were found, the justification given for the war with Iraq became the defence of democracy (George Bush Jr), which was seen as an excuse for American imperialism.
  14. 14. The democracies in Europe and the USA are now identified with debt and dysfunction. In the United States, democracy has become associated with • impasse (they cannot even pass a budget, let alone plan for the future...); • manipulation of the ways votes are counted; • the influence of lobbies in politics, i.e. democracy is being sold and the rich have more power than the poor. Old democracies The models
  15. 15. The democracies in Europe and the USA are now identified with debt and dysfunction. Old democracies The models In the EU, democracy can be temporarily suspended: the decision to introduce the euro was taken by technocrats (only Denmark and Sweden said no in referendums); the efforts to obtain popular support for the Treaty of Lisbon ceased when voting went in the opposite direction; during the euro-zone crisis, Greece and Italy were forced to replace democratically elected leaders with technocrats; the European Parliament, created to remedy Europe's democratic shortcomings, is ignored and scorned.
  16. 16. National policy depends increasingly on global markets and international organisations, so a country's politicians are not fully in control of keeping promises. There are supranational problems, such as climate change and tax evasion, that cannot be resolved at national level. In the western world, democracy is under pressure from above, below and within. Pressure from above: globalisation To respond to globalisation, politicians have handed over part of their power to non- elected technocrats (e.g. independent central banks).
  17. 17. Demands for power from regions leaning towards independence (Catalonia and Scotland), Indian states and American counties. Imposition by organisations such as NGOs and lobbies. The Internet, which facilitates unrest and makes political voting seem like an anachronism. Pressure from below: internal powers
  18. 18. Increasing provocation in the form of voters' protests: the candidate who came to power promising to be openly corrupt (Iceland); the comedian who obtained a quarter of the votes cast (Italy). Pressure from within: trends The habit of incurring debt to give the voters what they want, in the short term, and neglecting long-term investment. Decreasing participation: less party members (20% in the UK in 1950, 1% now) rising abstention rate (in 49 democracies, abstention rates grew by 10% between 1980/84 and 2007/13. over half of voters lack confidence in the government (according to a survey conducted in seven European countries, 2012) 62% are of the opinion that politicians lie constantly (YouGov, 2012).
  19. 19. The capitalist elite in India complains that India's chaotic democracy produces abysmal infrastructures, but the authoritarian system in China produces motorways, magnificent airports and high-speed trains. The democracies in the USA and Europe are no longer role models for the rest of the world. The Chinese model is becoming tempting.
  20. 20. China continues to represent a credible threat to the idea that democracy is a superior system and will eventually prevail. Although the Chinese government elite is constantly increasing its wealth and is likely to endure; although growth in China has slowed down (from 10% to less than 8%) and is likely to slow down even further,

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