Recent trends and events of the past year indicate that the engine of democracy has run out of steam, argues Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, and author of The Twilight of International Human Rights Law.
Probably the most striking examples are the advance of authoritarianism in two relatively wealthy and modern-seeming democracies, Turkey and Hungary, he writes for Slate:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has jailed political opponents and harassed the media. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he wants to create an illiberal state modeled on Russia and Turkey.
Russia, which lumbered toward democracy in the 1990s, has become an increasingly authoritarian place. ..China’s authoritarian system is increasingly admired throughout the developing world. The government has managed to maintain order (the country is enviably safe) despite wrenching economic and social change. Since the size of China’s economy surpassed that of the United States earlier this year, it will become increasingly hard to maintain that democracy is necessary to economic development. ..President Raúl Castro has made clear that he plans to maintain Cuba’s authoritarian system while working on economic reform, along the lines of the China model. The cheering from Venezuela and other parts of Latin America expresses the relief felt by leftist authoritarians who see that if the United States can tolerate an undemocratic Cuba, it will have no grounds for criticizing authoritarianism in their countries.
“For quite some time, U.S. foreign policy has been based on the assumption that we should promote democracy,” Posner notes:
The seemingly relentless rise of democracy made this approach seem reasonable, and perhaps it sometimes was. But much of the flowering of democracy took place in Western countries, or countries that inherited Western institutions and norms from Western colonizers. So advances in democracy that we attributed to our own benevolent influence probably reflected deeper-seated historical and cultural factors over which we have no control. It may well be that democracy has reached its limits.