Smith: Are we on the cusp of authoritarianism?

What does the world’s drift toward authoritarianism tell us about the nature of humankind? It gives us an indication that mankind is more comfortable when told what to do than when making its own decisions. A 2018 study on authoritarianism by the Economist’s intelligence unit (reported by Insider — formerly Business Insider) gave countries a numerical score out of 10. Above eight is a “full democracy,” while below four is an “authoritarian regime.” The study had five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair, whether governments have checks and balances, whether citizens are included in politics, the level of support for the government and whether people have freedom of expression. The study classified the 30 worst authoritarian regimes. One-third of those were developing countries in Africa. None were European. The rest were spread around the world. The United States was listed as a “flawed democracy.” It would seem logical to conclude that underdeveloped countries (over two-thirds of the total listed in the top 30) are there largely because they have never known any other form of government. Such countries do not have sufficient, familiar, non-authoritarian forms of government to hold up as goals for their people. As a result, there is often no cohesive, motivated opposition to the authoritarian regime in power. What is infinitely more difficult to understand is the ongoing phenomenon of a largely non-authoritarian country moving toward or into an authoritarian status. Take Hungary, Brazil, Turkey. India, Belarus, Ethiopia, Algeria and Venezuela: All of those countries […]

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