The state of things

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One way to get something of a sense of how big of a problem we may be facing – if, for example, constitutional populism more than occasionally proves to be anti-constitutional populism – is to look at the state of democracy around the world.

Freedom House does this annually in their “Freedom in the World” assessment, which they make according to a scoring methodology designed to give one a sense of the state of things.

The assessment for this year found many countries to be less free/democratic than in previous years – but, crucially, the report documents the weakening of democratic norms around the world by marking the 13th consecutive year of decline. Key elements of concerns highlighted by the Freedom House methodology are summarised in this graphic:

While we are not huge fans of reducing such a quintessentially qualitative phenomenon to a numerical value(s), it does help to see through the morass of developments in so many different political systems, to get some sense of the breadth and depth of what has unfolded around the world in recent years.

This image from Freedom House shows in green those places they assess as “free”.
Click here to go to their site and read more or check the interactive map.

Right now, what we take away is that the concerns of our project are very much in evidence in this assessment, and there is not yet a lot of light on the horizon for further change for the better.

Another quantitative approach is to look at how people feel about the institution of democracy – for example the recent paper from Jan Zilinsky (New York University) entitled Democratic deconsolidation revisited: Young Europeans are not dissatisfied with democracy. The abstract:

Is democracy running out of steam? In recent years, politicians, pundits, and academics have voiced the idea that young citizens in industrialized democracies lack commitment to a democratic system of politics. This paper analyzes evaluations of democracy among over 350,000 Europeans between 2002 and 2017 and shows that – contrary to popular perceptions – young people are generally more satisfied with democracy than older citizens. Moreover, satisfaction with democracy has increased among Europeans of all ages. As long as citizens believe that democratic regimes work well in practice, it is doubtful that support for democracy will erode.

Read more of the Zilinsky article