The Incredible Shrinking Democracy

Last week Bastian Herre (Our World in Data) published an insightful update of the state of democracy in the world. The world has recently become less democratic.

That democracy has been receding over the last 15 years is not news (unless Our World in Data had resisted to accept the crude reality so far: “Many more people have democratic rights than in the past. Some of this progress has recently been reversed.”)

But what’s actually more worrying is to put into perspective the number of people living under autocracies, and the timeline of the aggressive recession.

The number of people living in liberal democracies today is roughly 1 in 8, 13,8% in the world. That number reached a maximum in 2011.

The trend in the number of liberal democracies (countries) which had been growing for centuries flattened starting in 2005. But the number of “democratizing” countries topped in 1992. That year 72 countries with a population of 1,3B were in the process of improving their governance. Then the trend collapsed.

In every region of the world, democracy is under attack by populist leaders and groups that reject pluralism and demand unchecked power to advance the particular interests of their supporters, usually at the expense of minorities and other perceived foes.

(Freedom House, Democracies in Decline

The division between electoral democracies and electoral autocracies is blurring, meaning that likely you are still voting or will be able to do it in the future, but do not forget: If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.

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