Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gwyyn Guilford — Harvard research suggests that an entire global generation has lost faith in democracy

Provocative research. I have several thought about this.

First, was the meaning of "democracy" presumed or specified. If "democracy" is defined as "government of the people, by the people and for the people," then no nation today is living under democracy. Most liberal democracies are republics, which have been controlled by elites historically and this remains true today. Patricians are seldom much concerned about the interests of the plebeians other than with respect to getting their votes periodically in elections.

Secondly, if "democracy" is taken to mean "majority rule," then the United States is not a democracy, for several reasons. Most importantly, minorities are protected from the tyranny of the majority by constitutional rights and a judiciary as a check and balance on the legislative and executive powers. 

In the US, the senate is comprised of two senators from each state regardless of size or population. This protects state sovereignty in a federation. 

Less important — usually — is the role of the electoral college in balancing the interests of different demographic areas, chiefly the state with large urban populations and the states with large rural populations. But this becomes very important when the winner of most electoral votes does not carry a majority.

These aspects of liberal democracy result in some of the paradoxes of liberalism that result in dissatisfaction with political liberalism.

In addition, political liberalism must be harmonized with social and economic liberalism, which engenders further paradoxes of liberalism.

While the study suggests the rise of illiberalism, the obvious question is why this change in attitude has occurred, what it pretends, and how it can be addressed in liberal democracies.

Harvard research suggests that an entire global generation has lost faith in democracy
Gwyyn Guilford
ht Jerry Lynn Scofield at Naked Capitalism


Bob said...

When "democracy" fails to deliver the goods, people get upset. Ask the millennials or potential ISIS recruits what they believe the status quo offers them.

A consumerist, status obsessed culture only makes it worse.

Ryan Harris said...

I suppose the importance of the survey depends on what you see as the underlying causes of the shift in attitudes.

My fake news narrative is that it represents dissatisfaction with orthodox political establishment. If they can't/won't deliver it reflects poorly on Democracy because they were purportedly elected democratically to serve the people.

Try taking away basic rights that are implicit in democracy and people won't be happy, unless of course, by giving up rights they could have rising incomes and higher standards of living, fewer wars and all that then it might be worth trading off democracy to have a better quality life.

Looking at recent experience in Hong Kong, Beijing thought they could slowly clamp down and over decades imperceptibly roll back freedom and install the CCP bit by bit but that hasn't worked at all, it is back firing and creating more, not less resistance.

Matt Franko said...

It works if competent people are the ones elected...

Take this last election, Trump is much more competent than Clinton she wouldn't know a debit from a credit...

Yet a lot of people voted for Clinton anyway as they dont look at material competency as important... to those people it was about "feelings" or some sort of non-material issues like electing the first Title IX President to follow the first Title VII President or whatever they were thinking wrt non-material issues....

You vote for a bunch of unqualified/corrupt people and then things get all screwed up and its not democracy's fault...

Watch with Trump things are going to significantly improve from a material perspective....

Tom Hickey said...

HK is actually more democratic under China than under Britain. Previously it was a British colony without a hint of democracy for the people. The last British governor tried to poison the well before Britain pulled out by creating an elected council — along with passing a law that HK's did not qualify for entry into the UK as former British subjects. The Brits were as imperial wrt HK as anywhere. All the talk of "Western values" there is BS, as it was in the rest of the colonies. Worse, the Brits were hopeless racists.

I have not visited HK since the Brits left, but I was there several times under British rule. There was a sharp division between the elite and the ordinary people and HK still has the highest Gini index in Asia. I was pretty appalled at the contrast, but that was standard in Asia at the time, but no worse than the Black ghettos in the US, like the NW section of DC compared with the rest of the city.

The crocodile tears being shed in the West over Chinese "suppression of democracy" in HK are, as usual, fake.

The HK elite don't want actual democracy in HK because they would lose control to the much much more numerous ordinary people.

The actual issue is whether China should be able to control the election of the HK chief exec, which, in my view, would likely benefit most people in HK since China is socialist country.

Tom Hickey said...

Was Hong Kong more democratic under British rule or under Chinese rule?

Ryan Harris said...

Maybe when people lose freedoms they value democracy.
Under the Brits, they didn't have democracy but had freedom and limited rule of law.

Under the CCP they have some democracy but less freedom and a legal tradition out of Beijing that values harmony over liberty.

Tom Hickey said...

Hong Kong is world's freest economy; US slips on freedom score. #1 for 22 years in a row.

jrbarch said...

To me it reads like Millennials have ‘tuned in, dropped out’ but have nothing to ‘turn on’ (that they know about).

I go back to identity. Lose interest in something you have been involved with and you lose that part of your identity. Not that I think your ‘political identity’ or your ‘job identity’ is you. And I don’t think Millennials think that either. So in that sense, they are ahead – but wandering.

Ryan Harris said...

When I think of freedoms I never think of the freedom to sell and buy with anyone and everyone the world over. Maybe that should be in the constitution. Make forex a proper civil right then.

Ignacio said...

Having freedom to starve (libertarian paradise) is not a good substitution of food.

There has to be a balance between material distribution and freedom, or it doesn't work. That's why "market liberal democracies" have more or less worked well for the majority, as they are neither purely democracies (mob rule), neither libertarian paradise ("freedom to throw people under the bus and to starve").

There are unwritten social contracts, when those are broken, people loses faith in the system. That's what has happened, and is happening. But, as Tom usually points, economic liberalism is antithetical with democracy, and hence the tensions arise and the system degrades over time. We are ina period of reformation, one way or an other, there will be 'restoration' or 'revolution', but the status quo of the last 30 years cannot continue its trend.