Democracy and Liberalism

She and other experts described this “authoritarian reversion” as a global contagion that has undermined the abiding faith that forging liberal democracies and market economies was the surest path to prosperity and equality.

“Thirty years ago, with what Xi did, with what Erdogan has done, there would have been an outpouring of international concern: ‘You’re getting off the path,’ and so on,” said Michael A. McFaul, a political scientist and diplomat who, before serving as the American ambassador in Moscow from 2012 to 2014, wrote extensively on building democracies. ...
The rumination of Francis Fukuyama, the scholar, has come up repeatedly. In a famous essay titled “The End of History?” (note the question mark), he argued that Western liberal democracy had become recognized as “the final form of human government.”

“The end of history is no more,” Brad W. Setser, a Treasury official during the Obama administration who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a message after news emerged of Mr. Xi’s move. ...
The trend toward authoritarianism, while specific to each country’s history, is rooted in insecurities and fears afflicting the world today: globalization and rising inequality, the stunning and scary advances in technology, the disorienting chaos and extreme violence of civil wars like Syria’s, separatism and terror.

The trend toward authoritarianism is rooted in insecurities and fears afflicting the world today: globalization and rising inequality, disruptive advances in technology, extreme violence, separatism and terror.
The institutions of the post-Cold War — which reflected the bedrock values of Western liberalism — no longer seem able to cope. Countries that once were beacons for others are consumed by the same anxiety and weakness, and internal strife.

Mr. Putin has long cited such flaws to shore up his power at home; the campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election in the United States seemed intended, in the first place, to discredit American democracy still more.

“Liberal democracies in the United States and even in Europe no longer look like such an inspiring model for others to follow,” said Mr. McFaul, whose book on his experience shepherding Russian policy in the Obama administration, “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia,” will be published in May.
- STEVEN LEE MYERS, With Xi’s Power Grab, China Joins New Era of Strongmen, NYT, FEB. 26, 2018

Soros was in a reflective mood. He said democracy was in trouble because in many countries it had become sclerotic, insufficiently responsive to the public’s needs. “It’s losing out,” he said. Illiberal democracy, of the sort that Orban had fashioned in Hungary, was proving to be “more effective,” for the time being at least. The new-age autocrats had shown themselves to be particularly cunning in going after civil society as a means of consolidating their power. “It’s a less abrasive way of exercising control than actually killing people who disagree with you,” he said.

It had become clear to him that his mentor and inspiration, Karl Popper, had been wrong in one critical respect. In a democratic society, politics wasn’t ultimately a quest to arrive at the truth; it was about gaining and holding power and manipulating public sentiment in order to do that.
- Michael Steinberger, George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears He Is Losing., NYT, July 17, 2018

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