Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Why People are Turning against Democracy

Sean Illing of Vox interviewed Yascha Mounk about his new book, The People vs. Democracy. Mounk thinks people genuinely are becoming less enthusiastic about democracy. That's because, he says, they were never really devoted to democracy, just to what seemed to be working, and right now democracy doesn't seem to be working:
Yascha Mounk
People no longer feel that the political system is actually delivering for them. I think there are three primary drivers of the rise of populism. One of them is the stagnation of living standards for ordinary people. From 1935 to 1960, the living standard of the average American doubled. From 1965 to 1985, it doubled again.

People never loved politicians or Washington, but when it came time to vote, they said, “Well, I’m doing twice as well as my parents did. My kids are going to do twice as well as me, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.” But living standards haven’t gone up in decades, and now they’re just saying, “Let’s throw some shit against the wall and see what sticks.” . . .

Our system has failed at one of the core ambitions of a democracy, which is to translate popular views into public policies. That’s because of the role of money in our politics, because of the revolving door between legislators and lobbyists, and because the political class has become separated from the bulk of the population. . . .

For a long time, political scientists have wanted to believe that it’s because liberal democratic ideals — rule of law, separation of powers, minority rights, individual rights — have a real, independent power among citizens, and that once German citizens saw them in action, they accepted them in some deep way. But I don’t think that’s true — in Germany or elsewhere.

Sean Illing

I don’t either, and my sense is that in Germany, as in America, people embraced a system that appeared to be working — but that attachment was always contingent upon the system working. The minute it stopped working, or was perceived to not be working, everything was up for grabs again.

Yascha Mounk
I think that’s right. This is what political scientists call “outcome legitimacy,” which means a system’s appeal is based on its ability to provide order and give people stuff, and not, as many people believe, on some deep ideological attachment.
I don't think this is the whole truth, but I think it is a big part of the truth. If you want democracy to survive, you have to make it work for more of the people. Right now a majority of Italians seems to think that democracy hasn't delivered them anything recently but corruption scandals, EU regulations, and a horde of refugees, and they are not happy about it.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

How quickly people forget.