🔎Facty Friday Edition #102: Indicators of democratic decline?

This 102nd edition of Facty Friday takes a nuanced view of the indicators showing democratic backsliding.


Elections are still competitive, but does that mean democracy is okay?

To know if democracy is declining, we first must define what democracy is. One definition focuses on competitive elections, where (nearly) everyone can vote and the incumbent can lose. Using this definition, one paper suggested that democracy is not in decline. They showed that incumbents are not becoming more likely to win elections and that elections are not becoming less competitive. However, other research noted that things like civil liberties have declined. And though elections still lead to turnovers of power, we are less likely to see “clean” turnovers of power that do not involve violent protests and other irregularities. Taken together, this research suggests that perhaps it is not democracy that is declining, but rather the conditions that sustain democracy, like freedom of expression and association.


Democracies must set an example of good governance

A 2020 paper considered the causes of the recent democratic decline. Among many factors, it highlighted the struggle of democracies to address major global challenges, like the 2008 global financial crisis and the EU's migration crisis. The paper noted that emboldened autocracies took advantage of these policy failures to spread a false narrative of autocratic dynamism and efficiency. Though democracies enjoy better governance, faster economic growth, and fewer catastrophic policy failures than autocracies, autocracies have successfully portrayed themselves as the more functional models of governance. This research suggests that democracies can best support further democratization by providing examples of good governance for the world to see.


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