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Halcyon actively monitors change covering more than 150 key elements of life.

A Mundane Comedy is Dom Kelleher's new book. Extracts will appear on this site and across social media from early 2022. Please get in touch with any questions or thoughts.

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What's Changing? - Democracy

Democracy

 

Please see below selected recent democracy-related change.

 

See also:

 

November 2021

  • The link between democracy and addressing environmental crises is contested. On one hand, the people who will be most severely impacted by climate change are the same people who are often excluded from political decision-making. On the other hand, tackling climate change requires long-term commitments but democracies work on the premise of electoral cycles, noted Chatham House.
  • The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance for the first time added the United States to a list of backsliding democracies because of a decline in civil liberties and government checks and balances. The report cited former President Trump's questioning of the 2020 election results as "a historic turning point".

 

August 2021

 

March 2021

  • The strength of global democracy was tested by the coronavirus in 2020, The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Democracy Index fell by an average 0.07 points, the biggest drop since the annual ranking was first compiled in 2006. Government-imposed restrictions on individual freedoms and civil liberties due to the pandemic are partly responsible for the decline, and this is true for a majority of countries regardless of how well they managed the pandemic.
  • Chatham House warned that the global health crisis caused by the pandemic has presented authoritarian leaders in countries such as Belarus, Venezuela and Sri Lanka with an opportunity to further curtail civil liberties under the guise of pandemic control. Division and dysfunction has grown in a number of major democracies including India. Meanwhile, China has been a staunch and increasingly influential proponent of alternative models of governance internationally, arguing that democracy may not be the best system to deal with new and unprecedented threats. Against this backdrop, Freedom House’s most recent report marks the 15th consecutive year of declining freedom and democracy globally.

 

December 2020

 

November 2020

  • The Financail Times reported on research at the Centre for the Future of Democracy at Cambridge University, which showed a rise in global dissatisfaction with democracy since shortly before the 2008 financial crisis. The rise in dissatisfaction in the English-speaking democracies, led by the US, is striking. In 2020, the respected US-based think-tank, Freedom House, ranked the quality of US democracy 33rd in the world among countries larger than 1m people, between Slovakia and Argentina.

 

October 2020

  • Cambridge University’s Centre for the Future of Democracy published the deepest, most researched report ever on attitudes to democracy across generations. Young people are becoming steadily less satisfied with democracy. And today’s millennials are less satisfied than previous generations were at the same age. To reach this conclusion the study drew on data from 4.8 million respondents across 160 countries between 1973 and 2020. In 1995 the ‘satisfaction gap’ among young people was positive, meaning they were more satisfied with democracy than their elders. In 2020, it’s negative and trending down. The report suggests that in affluent democracies stagnant wages and rising house prices have left some young people feeling locked out of society.

 

September 2020

  • Democratic governments are edging their way towards ever greater data collection. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security proposes to expand radically the categories of biometric information it requires from immigrants. In the UK, Dominic Cummings, the PM’s chief adviser, is exploring the scope for every citizen to have a “digital ID”. A generation ago, such a proposal would already have whipped up a storm of protests over infringed civil liberties. But now? In 2020, Tortoise Media wondered whether more than a decade of smartphones, apps and unprecedented digital convenience has conditioned us not to care all that much.
  • A 2020 book called Climate Change and the Nation State by Georgetown University’s Professor Anatol Lieven says that if liberal democracies admit millions of new migrants, the resulting economic and political tensions will tear them apart. Social cohesion will break down, and ultra-right populists will prosper. The most likely result, says Lieven, is fascism. Lieven warns that in future, rich nations will face a choice. One between doing the right thing by millions of displaced people, or survival as liberal democracies. Given the alternative, he recommends they choose the latter.

 

March 2020

  • Venezuela's democracy on fire, literally. A fire reportedly destroyed some 50,000 voting machines stored in a warehouse in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, casting doubt on the country's ability to hold parliamentary elections later this year. There isn't enough evidence to determine whether the fire was accidental or somebody's act of sabotage, but accusations and hard evidence of past electoral cheating by Nicolas Maduro's government suggest the machines would not have been used for free and fair elections anyway.

 

February 2020

  • Increased use of technology will further erode core aspects of democracy and democratic representation over the next decade, agreed half of the tech experts surveyed by Pew on the impact of technology on democracy. Bad actors using social media and video deepfakes to spread misinformation will further undermine peoples' trust in institutions, they warned.

 

November 2019

 

August 2019

 

June 2019

 

May 2019

  •  A quarter of Europeans recently polled by the Center for the Governance of Change said they would prefer it if policy decisions were made by artificial intelligence instead of politicians.
  • For Raconteur, while digital disruption may have subverted democracy in some respects, in others it has revitalised it. Within government, digital tools are being used to engage citizens and improve service delivery. The London Datastore, a publicly accessible repository of datasets covering everything from health to transport and the local economy, is an example of transparent government underpinned by digital technology. Elsewhere, elected officials are engaging citizens directly in the democratic process. Madrid and Barcelona have used online platforms to facilitate participatory decision-making on a number of issues, including the city budget, In France, the Parlement et Citoyens initiative lets citizens offer input on live legislation.This is part of a “digital democracy trend” that has also led to the “development of participatory platforms adopted by a number of digital political parties, which have developed internal decision-making systems so their members can make proposals and vote on various issues”.
  • Evgeny Morozov, the Belarus-born technology writer, warned in his book, The Net Delusion, that "Western do-gooders may have missed how [the internet]… entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder - not easier - to promote democracy".

 

April 2019

  • Chatham House examined emerging political parties' innovative use of digital technology, analysed how successful online platforms might be in increasing participation and making politics more responsive, Do they offer a way to revitalise political parties and by extension democracy, or can it be argued that online participation as a tool can be exclusive and reinforce political divisions that already exist beyond the internet?

 

March 2019

  • Some 84 million Indians, equal to the population of Germany, became eligible to vote between India's most recent national elections in 2014 and 2019.

 

February 2019

 

January 2019

  • GZEROMedia examined whether developments in communications technology and big data might ultimately favour authoritarianism over democracy and asked whether the combination of big data, computing power, and artificial intelligence create a perfectly efficient form of authoritarianism by enabling rulers to deliver the better quality of life demanded by their population while simultaneously suppressing dissent and keeping people in line.
  • Indeed, Chatham House noted that within the last few years, perceptions of the relationship between technology and democracy have changed dramatically. Where once commentators predicted digital tools would empower citizens and deepen participation in the democratic process, events such as the Cambridge Analytica whistleblowing scandal or Russia’s alleged interference in the Brexit referendum have since sparked fears that these same tools could be harming Western democracy. 
  • A century ago, during the Weimar Republic, Max Weber delivered a lecture titled Politics as a Vocation. Democracy in modern nations, he argued, could take one of two forms: rule by bureaucrats acting from self-interest,or a “leadership democracy” in which a charismatic leader commands a party machine that can mobilise voters. For The Economist, Weber's teachings remain eerily relevant today.

 

December 2018

  • According to the Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, democracy did not go into decline in 2018 for the first time in three years. The index rates 167 countries by 60 indicators, including electoral processes and civil liberties. Just as populists with autocratic tendencies have won elections in recent years, so too has political participation shot up. But this year’s results may signal only a pause, not an end, to democracy’s retreat, warned The Economist.

 

November 2018

  • GZEROMedia warned that a growing challenge for democracies is that the technologies increasingly responsible for driving economic prosperity are simultaneously stoking social divisions, undermining trust in institutions, and concentrating power in the hands of a few select private sector firms. As a recent story in Wired pointed out, this presents a dilemma: making the digital revolution safe for democracy could also stifle innovation. The tighter the regulatory net closes, the greater the risk that firms in e.g. Silicon Valley end up at a disadvantage to Chinese competitors who are unlikely to face the same constraints on gathering and exploiting huge amounts of data.
  • The RSA examined what kind of economy is suited for living inside a democracy and asked how might we redesign our local economies - from the community level up to the national - in order to produce more equitable, inclusive and sustainable outcomes that benefit the largest number of people.
  • A report on Latin American attitudes towards democracy published by Chilean pollster Latinobarometro, suggested that things are not looking good: after eight consecutive years of declines, the percentage of the region’s people who said democracy is “preferable” to authoritarianism languished at the end of 2018 at just 48 percent, the lowest level registered since 2001. 
  • Cyberattacks that rip across the internet at light speed, election meddling and disinformation that tears at the fabric of democracy, the brazen theft of personal data and trade secrets – it’s the Wild West out there in cyberspace, warned GZEROMedia. French President Emmanuel Macron called for an international agreement to bring some order to the electronic frontier.
     

 

October 2018

 

September 2018

  • History provides uncomfortable lessons, warned The Economist. Among them is that systems of government are not immortal and that democracies can easily devolve into autocracy. As institutions decay and social norms fray, democratic habits are vulnerable to demagoguery and disintegration. One scholar ringing the alarm bell loudly is David Runciman of Cambridge University. The Economist interviewed him about how democracy ends.
  • Almost every aspect of our lives is shaped by digital technology and its immense efficiency, argued Raconteur. Many countries have now turned to various forms of e-voting, either by adopting electronic voting machines or offering people the chance to cast their vote online. While some privacy and security concerns remain, advocates say electronic voting helps uphold the accuracy and integrity of the result by preventing miscounts or any other mix-ups. As well as cutting election costs, internet voting offers the chance to boost turnout by engaging parts of the electorate not usually interested, or able, to get out to their polling station.
  • Further reading:

 

August 2018

  • Democracy is, apparently, floundering, warned Exponential View. In the United States, support for being governed by elected officials has declined, especially amongst the young. And more than half of the people living in democracies think their voice is “rarely” or “never heard”, according to this recent research. In many democratic countries, increasingly fragmented and entrenched ideological positions are compounding the growing influence of media consumed on algorithmically influenced platforms.
  • GZEROMedia warned that it’s clear that democracies around the world are under attack. Foreign entities are launching cyber strikes to disrupt elections and sow discord. Unfortunately, the internet has become an avenue for some governments to steal and leak information, spread disinformation and probe and potentially attempt to tamper with voting systems. In August 2018, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government.
  • What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe, warned The New York Times. For the NYT, this includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy "as we normally understand it" is already dead.
  • Meanwhile, an anarchist critique of democracy examined the concept in all its various forms. from alienation, to the logic of contextualised decision-making, the reduction of ideas to opinions and the near-universal acceptance of “majority rule”, but others want to go even furtherm believing "it is not enough for democracy to be radical; it must be revolutionary"
  • In a more positive note, at the turn of the 20th century, there were fewer than ten democracies in the world. By the turn of the 21st, that number had reached 80, with half of humanity governed by some form of democracy.
  • Furthermore, Human Progress notes that, in 1989, less than half of humanity lived under some form of democracy,, but by 2017, two thirds enjoyed the benefits of some form of representative government. None of the above denies the dangers of excessive populism. But the fortunes of democracy should be kept in a proper perspective. In terms how many countries qualify as more-or-less democratic, the world had reached its peak (so far) in 2016. The quality of democracy, however, has risen steadily and has never been higher, believes Human Progress.
  • Indeed, GZEROMedia noted that India’s democracy has withstood the test of time. The nation of more 1.3 billion people has to deal with divisions of language, class, and religion. The constitution recognises 22 separate major languages that are spoken by at least one million people. A majority Hindu nation, India also boasts the world’s second largest Muslim population, outstripped only by Indonesia. The vestiges of the hierarchical caste system, long since outlawed, continue to limit people’s educational, career, and life prospects. Despite these hurdles, the country has experienced seven decades of almost uninterrupted democratic rule. However, there are always risks, warns GZEROMedia: e.g. the government’s recent threat to strip 4 million people, many of whom are migrants from the predominantly Muslim Bangladesh, of their citizenship demonstrates the danger.
  • New democratic developments are also emerging - experiments in e-voting, or an increase in direct democracy, or the use of referenda more frequently to connect with citizens.

 

July 2018

  • Norway once again topped the Economist Democracy Index global ranking in 2017. The Nordics occupy the top three spots, with Iceland and Sweden taking second and third place. New Zealand comes in fourth place and Denmark in fifth. Finland is not far behind, in ninth place with a total score above 9. At the other end of the rankings North Korea, with a total score of 1.08, remains firmly ensconced in last place. Syria, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also bring up the rear, occupying the four slots above North Korea. The scores for Syria and Chad did not change in 2017 compared with 2016, but the scores for CAR and the DRC both declined in 2017.

 

June 2018

  • Afrobarometer research in 36 African countries between 2014 and 2015 found that 67 per cent of respondents saw  democracy as the best system of government. In 26 of the 36 surveyed countries, popular demand for democracy surpasses citizens’ perceptions of how democratic their countries currently are. However, while constitutional restraints – particularly term limits – and laws protecting civil liberties are coming under attack across the continent, citizens of many countries have staged protests against these retrenchments.

  • Although in the 2016 US presidential election, just 55.7 percent of the voting age population cast ballots, 25 other industrialised countries showed higher turnout than that in their last election cycle, according to a new study by Pew.

 

May 2018

  • There is no guarantee liberal democracy will survive the century, warned Quartz. Rival illiberal regimes in China, Turkey, and Russia claim broad popular support, and are now competing for legitimacy. The West’s remaining liberal democracies need to deliver for the populations if they want to survive, according to John Gray in the New Statesman.

 

April 2018

 

Pre-2018

  • More than 36% of the world’s population still live in "authoritarian regimes", according to the Democracy Index.
  • Global democracy suffered a significant regression in 2017, according to The Economist's latest annual Democracy Index published today. The Index – which assesses the state of democracy in 165 independent states and two territories in 2017 – has recorded the worst performance since the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis in 2010. Not a single region recorded an improvement in its average score in 2017 compared with 2016. One contributing factor to this has been a marked decline in media freedoms and curbs on free speech, through growing threats of government repression and new challenges from non-state actors. This year’s Democracy Index report has a special focus on media freedom and includes a new Media Freedom Index and global ranking. Key findings from the report included:

    • Deepening political, social and cultural divisions are becoming entrenched in many of the world’s democracies
    • Asia experienced the biggest democratic decline of all the seven regions
    • Spain has retained its status as a "full democracy", but its score fell sharply, in part because of the national government’s handling of the Catalonia crisis
    • Nordic countries occupy the top three spots of the ranking, with North Korea in last place,

 

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