From democratic unraveling to resilience



States fail the same way businesses do – gradually and then suddenly, argues

There is nothing inevitable about the process of institutional decay. History is full of examples of countries rebuilding their institutions, just as it is full of examples of countries destroying them, he writes for Foreign Affairs:

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay all transitioned to democracy after years of brutal and often kleptocratic military rule. But for countries making such reversals, the process of institutional rebuilding is often slow, painful, and uncertain. Argentina still bears the scars of decades of Peronist rule and could be on the cusp of more democratic backsliding under President Alberto Fernández and his deputy, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Even countries that underwent relatively successful democratic transitions, such as Brazil and Chile, have contended with residual social conflict—catapulting the populist authoritarian President Jair Bolsonaro into office in the former and igniting massive protests last year in the latter.

A bipartisan commission has released a report that recommends 31 steps to strengthen America’s institutions and civic culture to help a nation in crisis emerge with a more resilient democracy, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences reports. The report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century, is being issued by a diverse commission of leaders in academia, civil society, politics, and business from across the ideological spectrum. Its 31 recommendations address six broad areas that are fundamental to a healthy democracy:

  • Culture of Shared Commitment
  • Connected Communities
  • Equal Voice, Equal Representation
  • Empowered Voters
  • Responsive Government
  • Social Media with Common Purpose

Changing a culture is not a one-time effort, former LAFD Chief Deputy Emile Mack tells the Berggruen Institute’s Nils Gilman. Change doesn’t come just by delivering an order. It doesn’t come from hiring a consultant, getting some training, then checking off a box it’s done. Change must be a continuous commitment, because otherwise, once a training or one-time effort is over, people will fall back.

Institutions don’t merit public trust if they serve special interests instead of the interests of the people, adds Acemoglu, co-author (with James A. Robinson) of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty and The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty.

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