Democracy: So There's Bad News

There are now more democracies on earth than ever. Well, so much for the good news. While a new Pew study shows that 97 countries are currently democracies, up from just 37 in the mid-1970s, the bad news is that across the globe “democracy” is losing its luster.


Over the past twenty years, popular support for democracy has dwindled globally, especially in many of the Latin American and former Soviet countries that shook off dictatorships just a generation ago. Meanwhile, a third of Americans today say they prefer a strongman to a system of checks and balances, up from just 25% in the mid-1990s, according to the World Values Survey, a global poll. A majority of Indians polled agree.

At the same time, the quality of democracies is deteriorating. Freedom House, an outfit that rates governments’ protection of basic rights, press freedoms, and separation of powers, has registered a steady decline in democratic indicators for more than a decade now. These measures are subjective, but the avowedly illiberal cast of current Central European governments, Turkey’s authoritarian turn after last summer’s coup, or the popular embrace of extrajudicial killings by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are stark recent examples of the trend. And a subtler specter of illiberalism arises every time the US president, for example, attacks the media or the judiciary.

To reverse this trend, defenders of democracy face three daunting challenges. First, deep structural problems of income inequality, social polarization, and corruption have all, in various combinations, eroded faith in the institutions of democratic government, boosting the appeal of strongmen or populist outsiders who promise to fight back, get things done and clean up graft. Second, social media seems to be offering more tools of control to authoritarian governments while exacerbating polarization in democratic societies. And lastly, for many, the spectacular rise of authoritarian China presents a fresh challenge to the idea that liberal democracy is the best route to national prosperity and power.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, it has a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. Last week, in furtherance of those commitments, Microsoft shared a grooming detection technique, code name "Project Artemis," by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function.

Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

Meng Wanzhou, CFO of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, is under house arrest in Vancouver and could be extradited to the United States. What is she accused of, and what are the political implications of prosecuting her? Cybersecurity expert Samm Sacks discusses the case with Ian Bremmer.

Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.

Ian Bremmer breaks down the current situation as China rapidly expands its technology sector and carves its own path globally in cyberspace. He discusses the history of the economic relationship between the two nations, and the geopolitical consequences of the decoupling. While Huawei and the current legal action against its CFO Meng Wanzhou are the biggest tech flashpoints between the U.S. and China at the moment, that is just the tip of a very large iceberg that some analysts believe is a new Cold War.

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for twenty years, but he has a problem: his current presidential term ends in 2024, and the constitution prevents him from running for re-election then.

As a result, the question of what he'll do in 2024 has been on the minds of Russia's oligarchs, spooks, bureaucrats, and a lot of ordinary folks, as well. After all, over the past two decades, Putin has made himself, for better and for worse, the indispensable arbiter, boss, and glue of Russia's sprawling and corrupted system of government. As the current speaker of Russia's legislature once said, "Without Putin, there is no Russia." Not as we currently know it, no.

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