Brian Klaas in Alternet:
For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is losing faith in democracy. Between Donald Trump’s rise in American politics and the predictable but self-inflicted "Brexit" economic shockwave, many are now openly asking what was previously an unthinkable question in the West: can people really be trusted with self-government? Is it time to ditch democracy and try something else? After the Soviet Union fell, democracy expanded at an unprecedented rate. Today, global democracy has receded slightly every year since 2006; in other words, there has been no democratic forward progress for the last decade. At the other end of the spectrum, powerful authoritarian regimes are becoming more authoritarian. Across multiple indexes and measures, democracy is steadily declining at worst and stagnating at best. Unless the trend is reversed, anyone born in 2016 will be, on average, less free than someone born during the 1990s. These declines are not an accident; they are the battle scars of a struggle between the rule of the people and the rule of despots and dictators. Right now, the people are losing.
However, the democratic sky is not falling. The world remains more democratic than it has been at almost any time in human history. Many countries that were bastions of authoritarian repression just a few decades ago are now democracies. Nonetheless, the recent retreat of democracy is serious cause for concern. This is not a theoretical philosophical debate. Billions of people remain trapped in unresponsive, unaccountable regimes where ruthless oppression is common. As many despots have rolled back democracy or refused to embrace it, they have found an unlikely accomplice: the West. Western governments, in London, Paris, Brussels, and most of all Washington, have directly and indirectly aided and abetted the decline of democracy around the globe. This unfortunate truth comes despite the stated goals of all Western governments and despite the personal principles of almost everyone in those governments. Overwhelmingly, Western elites genuinely believe in democracy. They want democracy to spread. Moreover, Western governments have been, are, and will continue to be the biggest force backing democracy in the world. But their current approach is backfiring. … For the moment, though, the West is suffering an acute case of democracy promotion fatigue. Its leaders have less of a stomach for the short-term risks it presents than they used to.