Political Freedom On the Rise Around the World Despite Naysayers

The next U.S. president doesn't need to try to set the world right.


Listening to the GOP presidential candidates, you would think that humanity is sprinting toward the gates of hell. What's needed, the talking heads on TV maintain, is a strong leader to set the world right. But, the world is already on the mend—irrespective of the actions of the megalomaniacal narcissist in the Oval Office today or the megalomaniacal narcissist poised to replace him in January 2017.

In recent years, plenty of commentators expressed concerns about the future of political freedom. As late as last year, Freedom House's "Freedom in the World" survey found that autocrats "now increasingly flout democratic values, argue for the superiority of what amounts to one-party rule, and seek to throw off the constraints of fundamental diplomatic principles."

What a difference a year makes!

In the America's, Argentina and Venezuela stepped back from the precipice. Far from being a vanguard of autocratic renaissance, Cuba is once again isolated as the hemisphere's sole full-fledged dictatorship. Africa and the Middle East remain, as ever, a bloody mess. Still, Nigeria, Africa's largest economy and most populous country (there will be more Nigerians in 2050 than Americans), saw a peaceful and largely free election that, for the first time, transferred power to an opposition candidate. Finally, the luster came off China and Russia—two countries that so many would-be autocrats pointed to as alternative models of political and economic development.

Back in 2014, John Mueller of the Cato Institute organized a conference entitled "Francis Fukuyama's 'The End of History' 25 Years Later." I had the privilege to participate. In my remarks I concluded that Fukuyama's thesis concerning the eventual triumph of economic and political liberalism remained relevant. Political freedom, as the Human Progress chart above illustrates, is not in retreat! 

Moving forward, there are at least three distinct reasons for continued optimism. First, over half of humanity now resides in the cities. The urban share of the world's population will grow to 66 percent by 2050. Urban dwellers have been, historically speaking, more politically assertive than the peasantry. A corollary second reason for optimism is the spread of information and communications. As anti-government protests from Kiev to Hong Kong show, large groups of urbanites are now able to organize and show their displeasure with government policies in very short periods of time. The third reason is the near certainty that the world in 2050 will be much richer than it is today. According to Reason's own Ron Bailey, if the world economy grows by 3 percent per annum, inflation adjusted global GDP per capita will increase from $10,285 in 2014 to $21,737 in 2050. Typically, people with more wealth have more to lose and are, therefore, insistent on more predictable and accountable governing structures.

Political freedom in the world is in a decent shape. The next occupant of the White House should focus on fixing the domestic mess left behind after 16 years of misrule by the Bush/Obama duumvirate.

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  1. Would this be the same world in which British subjects can be prosecuted criminally for saying mean things to others? Where The French government can place protesters under house arrest to prevent them from protesting? Where American colleges and universities punish speech and expressive conduct at the direction of the United States Department of Education?

    If you want to criticize American foreign policy over the past 16 years, say so. There is plenty to criticize. But let’s not pretend we are seeing a worldwide march toward freedom and liberty.

    1. That’s similar to what I was going to say. Europe is going backwards on free speech (with the exception of Norway which is the only country that supports it). There is a full scale assault on the First Amendment but it’s holding strong. In my opinion Obummer/Obozo has been really good on First Amendment issues though his staff (e.g. Hilary and Loretta) don’t seem to understand it. Trump will be terrible. Cruz will be great until the next terror attack and then he’ll revoke it.

      1. There is a full scale assault on the First Amendment but it’s holding strong.

        Rather, the government has already been ignoring the first amendment for a long time and the situation simply hasn’t gotten much worse.

    2. But they have turnover in gov’t w/o violence. That’s the point of this piece.

      1. Come now, stop being so simple. We must bake everything into one, there can be no exceptions or divergence from The One True Message.

  2. What’s needed, the talking heads on TV maintain, is a strong leader to set the world right.

    They offer the world order!

  3. Marian assumes that democracy (mob rule) is an antonym of dictatorship of synonym of freedom (from coercion). Hitler was elected and reelected much like FDR, Chavez and Evo Morales, so there is nothing magical about the number of dunces choosing to be ordered about at gunpoint. Indeed, by wrecking her own articles at the outset with sloppy definitions and false assumptions, she exemplifies HL Mencken’s view of the democratic process: “The democrat, leaping into the air to flap his wings and praise God, is for ever coming down with a thump. The seeds of his disaster, as I have shown, lie in his own stupidity: he can never get rid of the naive delusion – so beautifully Christian – that happiness is something to be got by taking it away from the other fellow.”

  4. ” Bush/Obama duumvirate”

    I think you misspelled dumbvirate.

    1. Obviously a play on triumvirate. Works better as duumvirate (duh-um-vi-rate).

  5. We have a serious “apocalyticism” problem in America, primarily on the right. This fatalism is nearly inbred by religious idealism that is disguised under the false premis that “god is love.” It is my hope that secularism will continue to infiltrate American religions so that future generations will be able to see the failed thinking that the world is an inherently evil place, destined for judgement. We can be better as humans and if fatalistic religions would get out of the way, we could improve even faster.

  6. “Optimism is cowardice.”
    ? Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life

  7. The new “Cold War” is not being fought between nation states that have adopted an ideology, but between those who seek authority, and those who seek to liberty.


  8. I’m not convinced of the case for optimism. But then, it’s always hard to sit back and look at the bigger picture. If wealth continues to increase, then damn the liberal democracies and their decidedly unliberal policies, Marian’s right. But I continue to see too many politicians who want to pass more bad laws and take more money away from the “citizens”.

  9. Good thing, since the US lacks the will and the leadership to do so.

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  11. Political freedom should not be celebrated, as it does not lead to economic freedom. Unfortunately, it seems that only stable, right-leaning dictatorships (such as those of Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew, or the Gulf region monarchs) can promote economic freedom. Libertarian ideals such as free speech are compromised in the process.

    1. What is economic freedom, and what keads to it? Other than smart choices and hard work in a politically free and protected system of laws where all can transact to exchange their labor, goods or ideas for whatever the highest bidder will pay–without governmental intervention exploding the exchange process? Does being forced (under threat of jail) to spend 30%, 40%, 50% or more of your life working for free for the government–AKA taxes–constitute political or economic freedom?

  12. Males getting exterminated and females being enslaved and gang-raped would beg to differ.
    This is the idiocy of pseudo-intellectualism.

  13. Good news! I admit I chuckled a little at the somewhat redundant statement that if the economy would just grow by 100 percent, then global income would grow by 100 percent. But still a positive report.

  14. What about Iran? Don’t we need a republican savior to ride in on his gallant steed and shock and awe the Iranians into oblivion in 2017?

    1. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

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