Saturday, August 07, 2021

8.4% of world population live in a full democracy including Ireland

Among the world's top 10 most populous countries India and the United States in the past stood out as free democracies. Neither is today. While both Narendra Modi and Donald Trump know that racism can be a potent tool, the process of moving to authoritarianism was in place before they won national power.

China (1) and India (2) account for 36% of the global population. They are followed by the US (3); Indonesia (4); Pakistan (5); Brazil (6); Nigeria (7); Bangladesh (8); Russia (9) and Mexico (10).

Accounting for 58% of the global population of 7.79bn in 2020, none of the countries is a full democracy.

Western Europe is the crucible of global democracy but the long peace between European powers since 1945 and the relative peace of the Pax Romana (Latin for Roman Peace) of 27 BCE-180 CE (common era) bookends a history of carnage (Caesar Augustus, also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor and he reigned from 27 BCE until his death in CE 14. He did engage in wars.)

War has been a hallmark of humanity in history compared with peace and for 157 years a set of statistics has grabbed the attention of military leaders, US politicians, and academics who do not check sources and many book authors: In 3,400 years only 268 have been peaceful.

The 1932 book 'Inevitable War' has 3,421 years during which about 8,000 peace treaties were concluded, and in which time there were only 268 years of peace or 8%. The historians, Will Durant and his partner Ariel, have a line in 'Living History'(1968) that “In the last 3,421 years of recorded history, only 268 have seen no war,” without attribution. Barry O’Neill of the University of California, Los Angeles, in a 2014 paper noted "In 1996 Donald Kagan, a classicist at Yale, testified before the House Committee on National Security. Those hoping for permanent peace have forgotten that war is ingrained in civilization," he argued. Kagan had given the 268-years -of-peace count in his 1995 book, "On the Origins of War," quoting Durant's 1968 book.

Chris Hedges in The New York Times in 2003 uses the more common 3,400 statistic.

A 1931 French essay cited the statistics adjusted to 1925 from original fraudulent data. The "magical figures" date to 1864 when an obscure French philosopher, François Odysse Barot, set out the data for 1496 BCE to 1861 in "Lettres Sur la Philosophie de L Histoire" with 3,357 years of war and 227 years of peace. He claimed to have counted 8,397 peace treaties which were later expanded but Barot had engaged in a hoax.

Since 1945 Western Europeans have lived through the longest period of peace between major powers in 2,000 years of recorded history.

There are fears that rivalry between the United States and a rising China could lead to war.

The Thucydides Trap

Reviewing the past 500 hundred years, the Harvard Thucydides’s Trap Project has identified 16 cases in which a major rising power has threatened to displace a major ruling power. Twelve of these sixteen rivalries ended in war.

“It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.”

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 431 BCE

However, Arthur Waldron, a notable scholar on Chinese history and military affairs writes that two greatest classicists of the last century, Prof Donald Kagan of Yale and the late Prof Ernst Badian of Harvard, long ago proved that no such thing exists as the “Thucydides Trap,” certainly not in the actual Greek text of the great History of the Peloponnesian War.

"Although Thucydides presents the war as started by the resident power, Sparta, out of fear of a rising Athens, he makes it clear first that Athens had an empire, from which it wished to eliminate any Spartan threat by stirring up a war and teaching the hoplite Spartans that they could never win...The Spartans, Kagan tells us, wanted no war, preemptive or otherwise. Dwelling in the deep south, they lived a simple country life that agreed with them."

There may well be the emergence of something akin to the Cold War between the West and the late Soviet Empire, but the difference then was that the United States had very little economic engagement with the Soviet Union.

Breakdown of 36 democratic regimes since 1993

Academics led by Vanessa Boese at the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in a 2021 paper noted "that democracies have had a high level of resilience to the onset of autocratization since 1900. Nevertheless, democratic resilience has become substantially weaker since the end of the Cold War in 1989/1990. Fifty-nine episodes of sustained and substantial declines in democratic practices have occurred since 1993, leading to the unprecedented breakdown of 36 democratic regimes. Ominously, we find that once autocratization begins, only one in five democracies manage to avert breakdown. We also analyse which factors are associated with each stage of democratic resilience."

The V-Dem Institute's annual report for 2020 notes that Mauritius along with the likes of Brazil, India and Turkey, is one of the world’s top ten autocratising countries. "Last year the once unique African democracy was put on a blacklist for money laundering and terrorist financing by the European Commission. According to the African Arguments news site, "A key moment in Mauritius’ democratic decline was the 2019 general election. The island’s previous eleven elections had typically been well-managed, but this poll was fraught with allegations of irregularities and unfair practices."

The V-Dem report says that the share of the world's population living in autocracies rose from 48% in 2010 to 68% in 2020.

The report says: "The threat to freedom of expression and media intensifies. Thirty-two 32 countries are declining substantially, compared to only 19 just three years ago.

Freedom of expression and the media make 8 of the 10 indicators declining in the greatest number of countries over the past 10 years.

The repression of civil society is also intensifying. The V-Dem data register substantial deterioration in 50 countries over the past 10 years."

A report this year by the US-based Freedom House, investigating the scale and scope of translational repression, confirms that since 2014 at least 31 origin countries have carried out assassinations, assaults, abductions and other attacks against victims in 79 host countries across the globe.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Democracy Index 2020 has 22 full democracies from 167 countries (micro states are excluded).

Western Europe has 13 countries: Norway; Iceland; Sweden; Finland; Denmark; Ireland; Netherlands; Switzerland; Luxembourg; Germany; UK; Austria and Spain.

North America has one country: Canada

South America and the Caribbean has 3 countries: Uruguay; Chile; Costa Rica

Asia/Australasia has 5 countries: New Zealand; Australia; Taiwan; Japan; South Korea

The EIU has a category North Africa and Middle East. East of Suez to New Zealand has 42 countries, the population size is 4.71bn — 60% of the global population and just 5 full democracies.

Sub-Saharan Africa has one country: Mauritius (however it is no longer a full democracy; see above).

There are 44 countries in the region and 24 are absolute dictatorships while of the other 20, 13 hold fraudulent elections and the 7 others have flawed democracies such as South Africa where corruption is endemic.

That means that the whole of the African continent has no full democracy.

Last month the president of Tunisia ─ the birthplace of the so-called Arab Spring - announced the suspension of parliament, the sacking of the cabinet and he assumed emergency powers citing an imminent threat to the Tunisian state.

Eastern Europe has no full democracy: 15 Authoritarian/Hybrid regimes and 13 flawed democracies.

Full democracies: Countries in which not only basic political freedoms and civil liberties are respected, but which also tend to be underpinned by a political culture conducive to the flourishing of democracy. The functioning of government is satisfactory. Media are independent and diverse. There is an effective system of checks and balances. The judiciary is independent and judicial decisions are enforced. There are only limited problems in the functioning of democracies.

Flawed democracies: These countries also have free and fair elections and, even if there are problems (such as infringements on media freedom), basic civil liberties are respected. However, there are significant weaknesses in other aspects of democracy, including problems in governance, an underdeveloped political culture and low levels of political participation.

Hybrid regimes: Elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies — in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically, there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.

Authoritarian regimes: In these states, state political pluralism is absent or heavily circumscribed. Many countries in this category are outright dictatorships. Some formal institutions of democracy may exist, but these have little substance. Elections, if they do occur, are not free and fair. There is disregard for abuses and infringements of civil liberties. Media are typically state-owned or controlled by groups connected to the ruling regime. There is repression of criticism of the government and pervasive censorship. There is no independent judiciary.

The EIU report can be downloaded free from here.

In a new Freedom House report on Central Europe and Central Asia, the authors note "Democracy has never been the only game in town, but for more than two decades after the transitions that ended the Cold War, leaders and politicians continued to pay lip service to the democratic model. Over the past decade, however, amid the erosion of the liberal democratic order and the rise of authoritarian powers, the idea of democracy as an aspirational endpoint has started to lose currency in many capitals. Existing institutions’ failure to address pressing societal concerns, increasing polarization, and growing inequality have fueled uncertainty and anger, and major democracies’ mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has provided additional fodder to those interested in exploiting disillusionment with the traditional champions of democratic governance."

Tucker Carlson, Fox News' maestro of white grievance & racism with Orbán in Budapest, August 2021

European Union and the dictators

“If you don’t like it, there is also an alternative: Leave the Union,” Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister, told Viktor Orbán, the aspiring dictator of Hungary, Rutte recalled to reporters after a European Union Summit in June.

Orbán has declared that his government will hold a referendum on a controversial anti-LGBT law.

This week Fox News has been broadcasting from Hungary to show a right-wing American audience how a dictator could succeed.

"There's nothing funny about this encounter," Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University historian and expert on strongman leaders, wrote of Carlson's visit with Orbán. "Carlson's world aligns to an alarming degree with that of Orbán ... The goal of these alliances has always been to mainstream far-right values."

"Orbán has arguably been among the most successful sitting leaders at creating an electoral autocracy ...keeping a veneer of democracy going while turning elections into sham events, taking judicial and press freedoms away, and suffocating society slowly," Ben-Ghiat added. "This is where the GOP (US Republican Party) is heading, accelerating the agenda of the Trump presidency to undo our democratic freedoms and institutions."

While the rules of admission to the EU are strict once a member there are limited checks on behaviour. The so-called Article 7 disciplinary procedures can be blocked by two member countries.

Corruption in countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and Malta has not been sanctioned.

Hungary and Poland have taken EU cash; mainly German investments have provided employment while tens of thousands of Poles have taken advantage of the free movement of people.

In Poland, President Andrzej Duda warned last year that “LGBT ideology” is more “destructive to man” than Soviet communism. If he believes that he is a tinpot leader.

Hungary has been gifted €55bn in EU investments in 2004-2020 while Poland received €175bn according to the European Commission.

The New York Times reported in June 2021 that Orbán has engaged in massive corruption by providing billions in public funds to private interests.

Meanwhile, the OECD says Hungary spends less on health care than most other EU countries.

Mark Leibovich: Hungary is a version of what Trump wants for the US.

In early 2020 the Dutch judicial system stopped extraditing people to Poland on the grounds that they could not be assured of a fair trial in the country. The Financial Times reported in October that Poland’s national public prosecutor Bogdan Swieczkowski responded by ordering subordinates to conduct a “thorough analysis” of whether there were “obligatory grounds” for refusing to comply with European arrest warrants issued by the Netherlands, according to Polish media reports.

Public media in both Hungary and Poland have become state propaganda outlets while wealthy cronies of the regimes buy up financially challenged independent outlets.

The EU adopted rules last December which make it possible to stop payments from the EU budget to member states that do not respect the rule of law.

The decision on the suspension will have to be taken by the Council of heads of government by a qualified majority on the proposal of the European Commission.

Hungary and Poland have brought cases before the European Court of Justice questioning the legality of the mechanism, but these do not suspend its application.

Most external EU funds still go to non — democratic regimes. In 2018 and 2019, just over 84% of EU funds went to authoritarian and hybrid regimes.

Narendra Modi welcomes Donald Trump to the Narendra Modi Stadium (commonly known as the Motera Stadium, a cricket venue) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, February 24, 2020.

Modi and Trump

Narendra Modi ruled the Indian western state of Gujarat from 2001 to his victory in the national general election in 2014. In 2002 about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in a frenzy of mob violence.

The state is unique in India as it maintains a system of apartheid where Hindus are banned from selling residential property to Muslims. Reuters reported in 2014 that the Indian Express newspaper said in an  editorial: “More Muslims and Hindus have moved into separate spaces in Gujarat, finding trust and assurance only among neighbours of their own community, and it has ended up entrenching segregation and shutting Muslims out of the mainstream.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (English Indian People’s Party), has been the promoter of Hindu nationalism in post-independence India. It was the ruling party in the state of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Mosque was demolished by a mob of Hindu nationalist rioters in 1992. Last year Modi controversially laid a foundation stone for a Hindu temple on the site of the Babri Mosque.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and close ally of Modi, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist monk, is a racist who has referred to Indian Muslims as a "virus."

In 2019 the Muslim majority Kashmir state was stripped of special powers dating from Indian independence in 1947 and it was also divided into two federally controlled territories: Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir. The German broadcaster DW says "Political analysts warn that any attempt to grant more seats to Jammu's Hindu-majority areas is likely to have a huge backlash from the Muslim-majority areas."

Last year the Foreign Policy (FP) magazine noted on Modi "He can accept an ebbing of his electoral support as part of the dynamics of a functioning democracy. But that assumes the BJP is a normal political party, able to share the same democratic space as contending movements. It is not — its goals exclude different conceptions of what India is about. At the moment, as in other states, the wider structures of a democratic system still exist and limit the prime minister’s scope to move in a more openly authoritarian direction. However, most likely he will still try, drawing inspiration from how Viktor Orbán has been able to create what is in effect a dictatorship in Hungary. To achieve this, Modi will need an apparent crisis that justifies a shift to open authoritarianism. This should worry everyone — the traditional source of major crises for India is either internal ethnic unrest or war with its neighbours."

This year in FP a co-founder of a progressive Hindu organization wrote "The motto of the modern Indian state, printed on every note and coin, is Satyameva Jayate, a Sanskrit phrase meaning 'Truth Alone Triumphs.' But the current Indian government under Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power on a dangerous lie that they have been selling to India’s Hindus: that in a country where they make up 80% of the population, Hinduism is under threat — and will only prosper if they support the ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism."

In July 2021 it was revealed that the Indian intelligence service had used the Israeli Pegasus spyware to infiltrate the phones of about 1,000 citizens that Modi saw as a political threat to him.

When Dainik Bhaskar, a media group, widely read in the Hindi speaking heartland, criticised the Modi government for its poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, tax inspectors raided the company according to The Economist.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States. There have been 45 presidents since then (Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States [1885–89 and 1893–97] and the only president ever to serve two discontinuous terms.

Donald Trump was not the first crook or racist to be president but he is the first president to fraudulently claim that he won reelection.

Alexander Keyssar, a Harvard historian who studies elections, noted that there was a long history in America of using fraud as an excuse to push back on gains in enfranchisement among Black and other minority voters. White voters are becoming a smaller share of the US electorate, data show. “There are definitely echoes of this now,” he said. “There has always been an inclination to see new voters of different ethnicities or appearance as agents, or unwitting agents of fraud.”

Edward Foley, a law professor at the Ohio State University said “We’ve never had that. We’ve never had McCarthyism-style fabrication of a conspiracy theory applied to the process of counting votes … I would say it’s especially dangerous when it’s the electoral process because it’s the electoral process that ultimately allows for self-government. When the mechanisms of self-government kind of get taken over by a kind of McCarthyism, that’s very troubling.”

The Trump campaign, Republican allies, and Trump himself had mounted at least 42 legal challenges since Election Day. They've won zero. President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20.

In June 2021, 1 in 3 Americans believed the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

Trump envied dictators who were not hobbled by parliaments and independent justice systems.

In late December 2020, he pressured senior Justice Department officials to endorse his Big Lie. They refused. He wanted the 3 Supreme Court justices he had selected, to back him.

Trump had not won the popular vote in 2016 and on January 6, 2021, after the biggest insurrection at the US Capitol since it was burned by the British in 1814, 147 Republican lawmakers voted the way then-president Donald Trump and the rioters had demanded.

If Trump had been installed as president for a second term he would likely have claimed emergency powers.

Daily Kos

Minority rule has become common in the US

According to the Washington Post, the "last two Republicans to win a majority of the popular vote in a presidential contest were father and son: George H.W. Bush in 1988 and George W. Bush in 2004. At no other point since the elder Bush’s first term came to a sudden end with the 1992 contest has a Republican won the popular vote at all, much less with a majority of votes cast. While Republicans have controlled the White House for 12 of the past 20 years, only four of those years have resulted from a Republican having gotten more votes than his Democratic opponent."

Republican (GOP: Grand Old Party) senators last represented a majority of the US population in 1996. The party controlled the Senate from 1995- 2007 (with a brief interregnum in 2001–02 after a party switch by Jim Jeffords) and again from 2015 until 2021.

The Daily Kos news service says "Today, the 50 members of the Democratic caucus represent 56.5% of the 50-state population compared to only 43.5% for the chamber’s 50 Republicans, meaning Democrats have tens of millions more constituents but the same number of seats.

The GOP has appointed 6 of the 9 current Supreme Court justices and hundreds of lower court justices from a minority position. In 2016 Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the US Senate got away with refusing to accept President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court.

In 1829 President Andrew Jackson in his first annual written message to Congress proposed an amendment to the Constitution providing for direct elections for the presidency and vice presidency with a provision for a second election with the top two candidates standing.

Jackson wrote "although no evil of this character should result from such a perversion of the first principle of our system — that the majority is to govern it must be very certain that a President elected by a minority can not enjoy the confidence necessary to the successful discharge of his duties.

To the people belongs the right of electing their Chief Magistrate; it was never designed that their choice should in any case be defeated, either by the intervention of electoral colleges or by the agency confided, under certain contingencies, to the House of Representatives."

The Electoral College remains.


The expectation that rising standards of education and high economic growth in emerging economies would promote democracy, has been wide of the mark.

The fall of communism in Russia has made Putin a vicious dictator who according to President Biden is a killer. The Russian economy has an extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a powerful elite, with much of it held outside of the country.

The Nordic countries have high civic participation in national elections compared with for example Ireland.

In 2016 58% of the voting-age population (VAP) voted in Ireland, and in 2011 following a huge economic bust, 64% of the VAP voted.

In 2015 the VAP rate in Denmark for a parliamentary election was 82%.

In 2011 the VAP rate in Denmark was 82% - 18% higher than Ireland's rate.

In Denmark, lower-income voters are motivated to vote compared with their counterparts in Ireland.

Ireland Ireland is among low-voting nations in Europe

Sir Tom Stoppard at 84 on his new play 'Leopoldstadt' set among the Jewish community in Vienna in the first half of the 20th century. Stoppard was born a Czech Jew and he says in a BBC Newsnight interview on August 6, 2021, "I believe in truth and falsehood and I don't understand how society can operate without that any more than science can."