Liberal Democracy’s Fading Allure

Download the article [PDF]

Journal of Democracy coeditor Marc F. Plattner discusses the factors that account for the troubled condition of liberal democracy in the October 2017 issue.

Standard explanations cite factors such as slowing economic growth and rising economic inequality, political polarization and gridlock, globalization, and moral and cultural decadence. Yet such explanations cannot account for the speed with which democracy’s decline has surged to the forefront of political discourse around the world. And it can hardly be a coincidence that disaffection with liberal democracy and support for populist parties are growing in both new and longstanding democracies alike. Simultaneously, authoritarian regimes of various stripes are showing a new boldness as the confidence and vigor of the democracies wane. Liberal democracy will regain its former health only if voters become convinced not only of democracy’s intrinsic merits but also of its superiority to all possible alternatives.

There is no denying that liberal democracy ultimately depends on the will of the majority. If voters keep making poor electoral choices or unreasonable demands on their governments, especially ones that threaten to erode the liberal aspects of the regime, then liberal democracy cannot endure.”

– Marc F. Plattner

Photo credit: USAID/Flickr