“Democracy is something that is only ever as good as the education” — Socrates
Overall public trust in governments are hitting historic lows. Just 18% of Americans trust the government to make the right decisions. Even worryingly, a quarter of millennials believe choosing leaders in elections is not important. With the rapid rise of authoritarian leaders across the world and the removal of democratic norms, democracy is in a vulnerable state.
The pain and destruction of the Second World War led to the creation of structures to embed nation states in international webs in order to pool resources, share sovereignty, and force politicians to adopt a broader mind-set in a multitude of ways. Since the beginning of “Third Way” democracy, it has swept into Africa, Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries. Liberal democracy became the favoured approach of government in most parts of the globe. The world has gone through incredible changes in the last 20 years. The technological advancements has had effects on the economy, society and politics in a manner no one anticipated. Inequality in developed countries is rising yet there are signs that millions are rising out of poverty in developing countries.
New democratic states in Europe and the Middle East have gone back to authoritarian rulers with populist leaders removing basic civil liberties gaining popularity. The backlash to democracy is stronger than ever.
Many argue that democracy is still the best system for government and there is still a huge demand for it. Data and surveys across non-democratic countries throughout Asia and Africa show that democracy is wanted among people.I want to specifically use China as an example. As China’s economy continues to grow and as they become richer, there is a real surge of people in the middle class wanting democracy as they seek to be free. Another issue is the lack of stability authoritarian states have. Arguably the only stable country with authoritarian leadership is Singapore as even China continues to deal with daily fight-backs from its civilians.
However, many argue the issue is actually western democracies. They tend to split the world up into democratic states that are going in the right direction and treat authoritarian leaders with huge disdain. There are so many different types of non-democratic states such as the military dictatorship we’ve seen in Egypt, monarchies in Saudi Arabia and many others. China’s system where government officials are not chosen by the public but are promoted due to the performance is extremely different to other non-democratic states. The West wrongly tends to group all non-democratic states as one and immediately tends to denounce any countries that does not follow democracy as their political system. China’s approach should not necessarily be rejected right away.
The Communist Party of China consists of 88 million members, but each member must initially pass a set of examinations before joining. Government officials are selected depending on their performance and how well they do. In principle that methodology is hard to argue against. However where the issues lie is the lack of transparency on how the performances are measured especially at the higher levels of leaders. This leads to a more pressing issue of corruption. A democratic system generally allows for less corruption as a corrupt leader or party can be voted out. However, in China’s political system it is a lot tougher to identify corruption as it is very difficult for someone to identify anyone superior to them being corrupt as they are likely to lose their position. It is evident that there are many problems with China’s system but it is worth noting that there are some strong advantages. By the time a political official reaches towards the top of the political ladder, they will have had vast amounts of experience in governance. There is also still a lot of data showing that the system has support in the country but no doubt as the middle class grows this could change. However, they may decide rather than moving to democracy, they may simply join the ruling party.
Democracy must be reassessed in homegrown countries. The West’s attempt to transport democracy across the world has failed spectacularly. People in the actual country must make that decision as it needs to fit into the country’s values and beliefs. The aggressive manner in which the west was attempted to bring democracy to the Middle East has not worked and we are now to a lesser extent seeing similar issues with the EU. As they push their western values and laws to all its members, it can be seen as quite protruding. Hence why it is often rejected flatly. We are seeing the world going through a dramatic shift with countries have more populist leaders but maybe this is a wake up call democracy needs. We have an impulsive desire towards freedom and democracy but that in itself is not good enough for a political system. We must understand that our democratic principles are not always something the rest of the world agrees with him. We must continue to work on Democracy in our home countries as we must adapt to the new challenges.