The Brexit shenanigans and the turbulent politics in many other countries is almost enough to make one lose faith in democracy. Meantime, the apparent success of authoritarian countries like Singapore and China act as siren songs for more centrally directed rule. Someone should be in charge!
I write this on the plane back from Italy – which is having its own problems. Every third person I speak to says something along the lines that what Italy needs now is another Mussolini; someone who can take charge and make things work.
But before we are seduced, we should be wary. China is experiencing a severe drop in economic performance. It’s economy is becoming ever more dominated by inefficient state dominated companies sustained by cheap loans while the private sector is struggling.
Represssion is rising. In Russia, President Putin’s popularity is at an all time low (not that it matters in electoral terms). While continuing to score significant foreign policy successes against a feeble West, he has been unable to sort out the deep-seated issues with the domestic economy. No doubt some of that is due to Western sanctions. But some also due to the embedded cronyism and corruption inherent in all systems where power is concentrated and cannot be held to account.
In Singapore, many are starting to realise that the top-down, centrally controlled system that has been so successful to date may not be able to deal effectively with the challenges of the future.
In fact, I find it hard to think of any country with authoritarian instincts that has proven to be a long term success (suggestions welcome).
All this to say that, in spite of inevitable periods of confusion and even chaos, democracies have proven remarkably resilient over the long term. I would go further and argue that such periods of chaos are essential to the success of democratic systems.
They are the mechanisms by which democracies evolve and change with the times. We should welcome them.
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