The odd couple – globalization and democratization


There is a connection between the democratic recession and declining belief in a liberal global economy, says FT analyst Martin Wolf:

Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution has propounded the idea of a “democratic recession”.* Roberto Foa of the University of Melbourne and Harvard’s Yascha Mounk have referred to “the democratic disconnect”, pointing to a depressing loss of belief in democracy in the US and Europe.* ….The Polity IV database from the Center for Systemic Peace provides an invaluable picture of the progress of democracy since 1800. Between 1800 and 2016, the number of political regimes it rates “democratic” rose from zero out of 22 to 97 out of 167. Indeed, back in 1800 nearly all regimes were autocracies (see chart).

Liberal democracies have found it hard to come to terms with economist Dani Rodrik’s “trilemma” – namely, reconciling globalization, democracy and national sovereignty. States can have any two, but never all three. In his book After Europe, Ivan Krastev suggests that European governments persuaded themselves that they could have what Rodrik argued was unachievable — namely, “hyperglobalisation, democracy and self-determination simultaneously,” notes Jonathan Derbyshire.

The correlation of globalization and democratization though far from perfect, is close, Wolf adds:

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were a period of globalisation and democratisation. The 1920s and 1930s were, conversely, a period of de-globalisation and de-democratisation. The 1950s and 1960s were a period of rough stability on both fronts … Globalisation re-emerged in the 1970s, followed by democratisation. …

Yet deep conflicts also exist. Democratic politics depends on solidarity; capitalists do not care about nationality. Democracy is local; capitalism is essentially global. Democratic politics is founded on the equality of citizens; capitalism cares little about the distribution of riches. Democracy says all citizens have a voice; capitalism gives the rich by far the loudest. Electorates desire some economic security; capitalism is prone to boom and bust.

Both in the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy. RTWT

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