·        
As China’s influence has grown,
America and Europe have lost their appeal as role models and their appetite for
spreading democracy.

·        
The Obama administration now
seems paralysed by the fear that democracy will produce rogue regimes or
empower jihadists.

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·        
China poses a far more credible
threat than communism ever did to the idea that democracy is inherently
superior and will eventually prevail.

·        
Why should developing countries
regard democracy as the ideal form of government when the American government
cannot even pass a budget, let alone plan for the future? Why should autocrats
listen to lectures on democracy from Europe, when the euro-elite sacks elected
leaders who get in the way of fiscal orthodoxy? ~TOU-FUCKEN-CHé~

·        
Ok, to be fair, The Chinese elite
is becoming a self-perpetuating and self-serving clique. The 50 richest members
of the China’s National People’s Congress are collectively worth 60 times as
much as the 50 richest members of America’s Congress. China’s growth rate has
slowed from 10% to below 8% and is expected to fall further—an enormous
challenge for a regime whose legitimacy depends on its ability to deliver
consistent growth.

 

There
Is Still Hope: Here’s How

Democracies
always look weaker than they really are: they are all confusion on the surface
but have lots of hidden strengths. Being able to install alternative leaders
offering alternative policies makes democracies better than autocracies at
finding creative solutions to problems and rising to existential challenges,
though they often take a while to zigzag to the right policies. But to succeed,
both fledgling and established democracies must ensure they are built on firm
foundations.

 

Robust
Constitutions and the Ability to Resist Majoritarianism

·        
Idea that democracy as a powerful
but imperfect mechanism: something that needed to be designed carefully, in
order to harness human creativity but also to check human perversity (a
deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable or unacceptable way; contrariness.),
and then kept in good working order, constantly adjusted and worked upon.

·        
The power of the state needs to
be checked, and individual rights such as freedom of speech and freedom to
organise must be guaranteed.

·        
The most successful new
democracies have all worked in large part because they avoided the temptation
of majoritarianism—the notion that winning an election entitles the majority to
do whatever it pleases.

o    India
has survived as a democracy since 1947 (apart from a couple of years of emergency
rule) and Brazil since the mid-1980s for much the same reason: both put limits
on the power of the government and provided guarantees for individual rights.

 

·        
Foreign leaders should be more
willing to speak out when elected leaders try to erode constraints on their
power, even if a majority supports it.

·        
Robust checks and balances are
just as vital to the establishment of a healthy democracy as the right to vote.

 

Exercising
Self Restraint

·        
The key to a healthier democracy,
is a narrower state

·        
James Madison (4th US President):
“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great
difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the
governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

·        
Governments can exercise
self-restraint by adopting tight fiscal rules

o    Eg.
Sweden has pledged to balance their budget over the economic cycle.

·        
Governments can introduce “sunset
clauses” that force politicians to renew laws every ten years, say.

·        
They can ask non-partisan
commissions to propose long-term reforms.

o    Eg.
The Swedes rescued their pension system from collapse when an independent
commission suggested pragmatic reforms including greater use of private
pensions, and linking the retirement age to life-expectancy.

o    Eg.
Chile has been particularly successful at managing the combination of the
volatility of the copper market and populist pressure to spend the surplus in
good times. It has introduced strict rules to ensure that it runs a surplus
over the economic cycle, and appointed a commission of experts to determine how
to cope with economic volatility.

·        
Self-denying rules can strengthen
democracy by preventing people from voting for spending policies that produce
bankruptcy and social breakdown and by protecting minorities from persecution.

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