Educate the next generation so as to cope intellectually, morally, and politically with the messiness and complexity of the world.
In developing democracy in the United States and Europe over the last few centuries, the people of both continents have forged five fundamental safeguards against the tyranny of those with dangerous personality disorders. These safeguards are: representative democracy, in which leaders are freely elected and freely removed by the people; the separation of church and state, which limits the ability of tyrants to wield the power of the state on behalf of sectarian causes; social democracy, in which the state has the responsibility to redistribute wealth in order to minimise poverty and ensure social cohesion; pooled sovereignty, which reduces nationalist sentiment and deprives tyrants of a rallying cry to arms; and the protection of individual human rights in law, including the rights of minorities, which deprives tyrants of their most vulnerable scapegoats. Although the mix of safeguards varies between the United States and Europe, and between countries in Europe, they together characterise the Western democratic model. Continue reading
This article first appeared on Open Democracy Transformation
The release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury has heightened concerns about Donald Trump’s mental fitness for office. In her review of the book for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin says that it shows Trump to be “an unhinged man-child utterly lacking in the skill needed to be president”—despite Trump’s assertion that in fact he’s a “very stable genius.”
In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that Wolff’s revelations “prove—yet again—what a vile, narcissistic and dangerous man we have in the Oval Office.” And in the New Yorker, Masha Gessen, warns that Trump’s White House is “waging a daily assault on the public’s sense of sanity, decency, and cohesion. It makes us feel crazy.”
Is there any way to get beneath the daily assault on our sanity and try to understand what might be driving the chaos of the Trump Presidency? A good place to start is with the word that many say best sums up the man, which is narcissism. Continue reading
While Americans debate Trump’s domestic policies on health and tax cuts, the rest of the world worries that a leader with Trump’s volatile temperament has his finger on the nuclear button.
Today, nuclear weapons occupy the headlines in a way not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis. On the positive side, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an advocacy group that promoted the historic treaty to prohibit these weapons that was reached at the United Nations in July 2017. Although the treaty has been dismissed by the world’s nine nuclear-armed powers, its proponents believe that it will help to build a groundswell of support for the destruction of all nuclear weapons as the only way to guarantee that they will never be used again. This article first appeared on Open Democracy Transformation. Continue reading
Although several Muslim countries are democracies – including most notably Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation – arguments about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy continue. On the one hand, research reveals a positive correlation between the proportion of a country’s population that is Muslim and its propensity toward authoritarianism. On the other hand, analysis of the World Values Survey, find that “surprisingly similar attitudes toward democracy are found in the West and the Islamic world.” While debates about the compatibility of Islam and democracy in general continue, the specific political ideology of islamism is an extreme, fundamentalist, political ideology that is vehemently opposed to the basic tenets of democracy. Continue reading
China’s success in recent decades has been remarkable. Economic reforms have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of severe poverty, the greatest reduction in poverty ever. Beneath China’s spectacular economic progress, however, the Chinese Communist Party retains much of its authoritarian nature. But while the Party still relies on many of the classic tactics of authoritarianism to maintain its grip on power, supporters argue that the China Model has some critical advantages over the model of liberal democracy. Continue reading
In many countries around the world today, governments are designed not primarily to govern but to serve the personal enrichment of ruling elites. Kleptocracy is the term used to describe such ‘government by thieves’, whereby top political elites systematically raid state resources with impunity. Kleptocracy is enabled by the absence of democratic checks and balances on those in power. Kleptocratic governments undermine the rule of law, subjugate the courts and media, and deploy state security services to enrich the ruling elite and pacify the population. Kleptocracy is largely responsible for creating and perpetuating many of today’s global crises, including acute poverty and hunger, war, religious extremism, and global inequality. Continue reading
Through the rise of populism, those who feel they lost out in the culture wars that have been fought democratically across Europe and the United States in recent decades are fighting back, and this time they do not feel the need to be restrained by the rules of democracy.
Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last decade, and the recession is deepening. For three decades, from the mid-1970 to the mid-2000s, the world witnessed a spread of democracy never before seen in history. During this time, the proportion of democratic states doubled, from around 30 percent of the world’s independent states in 1974 to about 60 percent in 2006.  Since 2006, however, the spread of democracy has ceased, and many existing democracies have reverted to authoritarianism. This authoritarian resurgence is also happening in long-established Western democracies which are experiencing a threat not seen since the 1930s – the choice by large swathes of their electorates to vote for less democracy.  Continue reading