How democracies die – and are re-born


In How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt use international experience to examine the question. In recent cases, such as Hungary, Poland, Turkey, and Venezuela, or in older ones such as Italy, Germany, Argentina, or Peru, the cause was not the overthrow of an elected government, but the actions of elected leaders, notes Harvard University’s Ricardo Hausmann, a former minister of planning of Venezuela:

Spanish democracy died in the 1930s because a system of mutual recognition among fascists, conservatives, liberals, and Communists was impossible. Democracy in West Germany after World War II required a denazification process that banished the worldview that had led to disaster. As Frederick Taylor discusses in his book Exorcising Hitler, society-wide rejection of Nazi ideology did not happen overnight. It required concerted political action. After all, in 1952 25% of West Germans still had a positive view of Hitler, and 37% thought that their country was better off without the Jews.

Likewise, in Venezuela today, it will be impossible to reestablish liberal democracy if the current regime is allowed to return and expropriate again. Venezuela’s recovery depends on its capacity to translate the current catastrophe into a set of new social norms,” he writes for Project Syndicate.

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