Democracy

Report Downgrades Quality of American Democracy, But Trump's Election Is Just a Symptom

Populism is a result of government's separation from its citizens over decades.

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Voter
Molly Riley/UPI/Newscom

"U.S. no longer considered 'full democracy,' group says" is how The Hill is headlining a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. This newly released study, by the analysis and research wing of The Economist, is getting much more media attention than previous editions (they've been doing this for nine years) because of the election of populist Donald Trump and because America has sunk, barely, below the score threshold they use to classify a "full democracy" to a "flawed democracy."

Let's be very clear, though: The report is not "punishing" the United States with a downgrade because it elected Trump (though titling the report "Revenge of the 'deplorables'" is obviously intended to link the two—and it seems to be working). The report takes great pains to explain how Trump's rise was a long time coming and it points not a few fingers at the entrenched political establishment. The reason America's democracy has dropped a rank is because its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests. And so America also sees less political participation by voters.

Of the five categories the report uses to categorize strength of democracies, America has dropped below the eight out of 10 threshold in two of them: "Functioning of government" and "political participation." Here's how the report views the factors that have helped drive an increase in populist political movements (not just in the United States but in the United Kingdom as well):

The decline in party membership accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s, and while the traditional political parties remain in place today, they are so disconnected from wider society that they bear no relation to their forebears of the 1950s. Parties of the left (social-democratic, socialist, communist) and the right (Christian-democratic, conservative), which dominated the post-war body politic, have lost touch with their traditional supporters and, as a consequence, have lost votes and influence. As they lost touch with their former social constituencies, political parties became closer to the state; they moved to the centre ground to try to widen their support base. Gradually the world view of party and political elites began to develop in contradistinction to, and in opposition to, that of the voters they had increasingly neglected and left behind.

The revolt against the elites has been driven by economic and social factors, but it is also a consequence of the shift over the past few decades of the mainstream parties towards the centre ground of technocratic politics. There has been a growing estrangement of political parties from the electorate, as well as a growing gulf in the values held by political elites and ordinary people. More than anything, the 2016 events were a reaction against the way in which political elites have been conducting politics—by keeping the electorate at arm's length, by avoiding the issues that are important to people, and by presuming that everyone shares their moral values. The 2016 revolt demonstrated that vast swathes of the electorate do not share those values and have had enough of being ignored.

This isn't just about Trump. The chasm between the Republican Party and citizens brought about the Tea Party conservatives. The chasm between the Democratic Party and its citizens kept Bernie Sanders in play as a candidate and thorn in Hillary Clinton's side. The report notes that this situation has been advancing for ages.

The economic shifts that came as a result of deindustrialization and the de-emphasis on manufacturing have contributed to income inequality within the United States (It's possible to acknowledge this reality without having to embrace more government intervention in wages as a solution). Again the report understands that the decline of manufacturing as part of our jobs base has actually been happening for a very long time. It's not pretending this is a new thing. But the persistence of its impact on some sectors of American society is affecting the financial and health status of a good chunk of the population, even if statistics show that we're all better off than we've ever been. The report notes in fairly stark terms the mortality trends among poor, less-educated whites in America:

In middle age, poorly educated American whites are dying at such a high rate that they are driving up the average death rate for all middle-aged white Americans. The death rate for whites aged 45-54 with no more than a high-school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2014. According to the study, the catastrophe for uneducated, middle-aged white males had only one parallel in a modern peacetime setting: the impact of HIV/AIDS on the gay community.

An interesting detail in the report. The United Kingdom had its own populist movement that ultimately voted in favor of the Brexit—the decision to leave the European Union. That the U.K. had a vote to decide whether to remain or leave increased electoral participation and therefore caused its democracy score to improve, counter to prevailing trends.

It's worth mentioning that vote because it's a reminder that when the Brexit vote went against the outcome desired by a good chunk of the establishment, there was a debate over whether the public should have even been allowed to vote on the matter. It's an excellent example of how this political rift has played out in the real world: "The public might not vote how we want them to, so let's think about whether we should let them vote!" But these are the same types of people who are going skim over the reporting of this study and also conclude that Trump is somehow the threat to democracy that is bringing America's score down and ignore their own contributions.

Populism very obviously has the potential to lead to increased authoritarianism. It's an established but unfortunate paradox that people tend to respond to failing government systems by demanding that they do even more and for government to get even larger. It is nevertheless important to separate that likelihood out from the citizenry's demand for control and responsiveness from their own political systems. Technocratic rule can lead to authoritarianism as well, and that's what we've seen under President Barack Obama, not to mention the income inequality that comes from government spending its money on itself and not its constituents. Technocratic rule turns its nose up at school choice, despite its popularity among parents, because the "right people" no longer have as much control over what children learn. Focusing too much on a "mob rule" vs. "elite rule" axis potentially ignores the possibility of "self rule."

All of this analysis highlights that it's important to soberly look at what policies are coming out of the Trump administration and whether they advance human liberty or threaten it, and that makes him no different from any previous president. Encouraging Trump's deregulation efforts is an easy choice because it will not only help reduce income inequality in depressed areas by dropping the costs of doing business, it could also increase the perception that the government is responding to the needs of its citizenry not its bureaucrats. Discouraging Trump's trade protectionism is an easy choice for the same reason—it will not make lives better for Americans, it will cost jobs, and it will drive up prices for goods purchased by the very people Trump is claiming to try to help.

And while there is a lot of analysis connected to Trump's policy proposals (to the best that we can discern them) there's also a lot of "pants on fire journalism" (for lack of a better term) in response to every single thing that's happening, such as top officials over at the State Department quitting. Or that Trump didn't wave before getting on a plane.

The full report can be downloaded here. Note that you have to register with the site in order to get access, but it's free.

NEXT: Director of Anti-Sex Trafficking Doc I Am Jane Doe Doesn't Understand the Laws She's Trying to Reform

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  1. U.S. no longer considered ‘full democracy,’ group says

    Well that’s a relief.

    1. I don’t recall when it ever was.

      1. Clearly you didn’t listen to Obama for 8 long, long, long years.

      2. Indeed.

        It is a Constitutional Republic – not a democracy.

        1. While this is certainly true, almost no one means pure, direct democracy when they say “democracy” and the Economist clearly doesn’t mean that here. Pretty much all of the world’s “democracies” are constitutional republics (or the effective equivalent) with democratically elected legislators.

          1. In that case, I can continue to assume that their distinction between “pure democracy” – which doesn’t mean what the plain words say – and “flawed democracy” – which is a subjective judgement – is complete nonsense.

  2. “The reason America’s democracy has dropped a rank is because its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests. And so America also sees less political participation by voters.”

    When they have an election and nobody votes, we’ll all be better off.

  3. The voters are revolting! The candidates are too.

    1. TDS. smdh

      1. Those aren’t even words. Are you crashing? Do you need some juice or saltines?

        1. You wouldn’t have cared about my blood sugar back when Obama was in charge.

          1. I’m just trying to help Make America Glycemically-stable Again.

            1. What, at this point, does having lunch matter?

              1. It doesnt. We will all be dead soon. Trump something something extinction event.

                *tosses grilled cheese sandwich to a dog*

                1. My thoughts and prayers are with you if the dog sleeps in the same room as you.

                  1. My wife is always feeding the dog people-food. His bed is in our bedroom, but it’s near a window for a reason.

                  2. Cheese isnt so bad. Try feeding a dog an egg yolk and then taking it on a road trip.

                    1. That is the weirdest masturbation euphemism i’ve seen yet.

    2. You said it. They stink on ice!

  4. REPRESENTATIVE REPUBLIC =/= FULL DEMOCRACY.

  5. At this point, I’m not sure the Big Mac Index even has any credibility left. Nothing else the Economist does is worth a shit.

    1. Indeed. The Economist desperately needs to return to its classically liberal roots and move away from its pension for technocratic statism.

      1. Agreed. It needs to retire that mindset altogether.

      2. *penchant, not pension, damn it.

        1. You got it right the first time.

  6. I was going to complain about the group issuing this report, but the Economist Intelligence Unit? Who could have a problem with that? Economists are good, intelligence is great, and they’re a unit? I’m sold.

    The reason America’s democracy has dropped a rank is because its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests.

    …And this is a bad thing, right? Herbert Spencer would be rolling over in his grave, if he hadn’t been cremated.

    1. its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests

      To those citizens i say, welcome to the club. It’s called “being rational,” and we drink pretty much constantly.

      1. I mean, you get to say I told you so, but then they just scream that you’re a racist and a fascist and try to sucker-punch you. Make up your minds, people.

        1. It’s a good thing i enjoy being right more than i enjoy being invited to other peoples’ houses.

      2. To those citizens i say, welcome to the club. It’s called “being rational,” and we drink pretty much constantly.

        You need to wipe the alcohol from your chin and swallow a burp when you say it.

    2. Perhaps his ashes are twisting in the wind?

  7. The question that remains unanswered, to me, is that if the elites are so disliked/out-of-touch, how do they keep generally winning elections? Trump’s win is just one election and even then it was fairly close. What factors keep putting disliked insiders and well connected politicos back in office time and time again?

    1. Laziness, fear, stupidity, and cupidity.

      1. Ok, but what about the voters?

      2. A politicians four main weapons are laziness, fear, stupidity, cupidity and a short attention span.

        A politicians five main weapons are laziness, fear, stupidity, cupidity, a short attention span and an almost slavish devotion to the tribe.

        Wait, wait, let’s start over.

        Amongst a politician’s weaponry…..

      3. Less sardonically, I think the government is generally less representative nowadays, in multiple ways. How districts are drawn and apportioned, how votes get counted and what votes mean, the power of established parties and interests, all of these things have changed in subtle ways.

        1. Don’t forget all those unelected bureaucrats who ‘help’ us run out lives.

          1. Aye, but Congress could gut those agencies like fish with the voters’ backing.

    2. We may hate it but we have to keep voting for lizards, lest the wrong lizards get in.

    3. “On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

      “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

      “I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

      “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

      “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

      “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

      “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

      “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

      “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”

      1. +1 Lemon looking for Gin

      2. “What so unpleasant about being drunk?”

        “Ask a glass of water.”

      3. Long live the Lizard King.

      4. To summarize the summary of the summary: People are a problem.

      5. -1 pot of geraniums, -1 whale

    4. Money

    5. Keep in mind that one of the biggest arguments for Hillary v Trump was that even if she was a pathological liar and a crook, she was one who’d do those things through normal channels. People fear what they view as systemic change.

      1. And no doubt that argument swayed many people. But Sanders had appeal from almost the opposite position; that radical change is needed.

        1. But within the ‘normal’ parameters. I think a lot of Bernie bros recognized that moar freee shit isn’t exactly a new paradigm in US politics, even if the Bernie was promising the mostest epic amounts.

          1. Sanders wanted to put “normal people” in charge of the Federal Reserve. Much as I despise the Fed and would like to see it gone, I don’t think elevating someone with no understanding of monetary theory into controlling the entire nation’s money supply is anything short of (stupidly) radical.

      2. One woman said to me (paraphrased) “I know she probably does terrible things but, after watching House of Cards, I guess they all do that, it’s just what they have to do to get things done. So I can overlook it.”

        1. There’s really only one way to respond to that kind of “logic.”

    6. Go out on the street and talk to the 8 out of ten voters who know exactly jack-shit about their elected officials and you will find that they all hate politicians yet mention specific names and you would think they were rock stars. They cant tell you a single thing about them, but rock stars they are.

      1. Yeah. They hate them as a class, but not as individuals. Unless they are on the wrong team.

    7. It’s damn near impossible to get into an election based on sharing attitudes with the people alone, it takes the support of Institutions, and the elites have a lock on those (almost by definition).

      Trump wouldn’t have done it without celebrity and without coopting hostile institutions through manipulation (e.g. baiting the shit out of the DemOp media). And they may have even supported him deliberately in the primary, as a pied piper strategy.

      Short of a fundamental rethinking of democracy that makes holding office, not just voting, accessible to ordinary people, Trump is a one off, for better or worse.

      1. I doubt it. Trump is the vanguard of a line of non-politicians to come who’ll succeed politically. People saw him do it, now they’ll all do it.

    8. how do they keep generally winning elections?

      Approximately 15% of voters can describe what could generously be called an ideology.
      Whereas, 35% of the sample couldn’t even put themselves on the same side of an issue during two successive interviews.

      Summary of Source (full source can be found with a google search)

      1. thank you for pushing me to wikisum!

    9. Elites are the only ones who can make it on the ballot for the major parties.

      1. Right, but that’s because they win primaries. Or are you saying they can’t even got on the primary ballots?

        1. They can try, but the elites will rig it so they can’t win.

    10. They still win at an alarming rate, but the Tea Party “primaried” a bunch of folks, so it isn’t all just elites getting re-elected.

    11. I think there are basically two groups of non-elites in America nowadays:
      1. The poor, the working class, and the middle class who got crushed in the 2008-09 recession: this group believes that elites should use their power to provide the American Dream, and is furious with them for not doing so or being inclined to do so. Hence their willingness to embrace non-politicians like Trump.
      2. The rest of the middle class, and the upper-middle class: this group believes that elites should use their power to provide the American Dream, and they still believe (possibly naively) that the elites will still do so if given enough trust and enough power.

      It’s not that these two groups disagree on whether they should get free shit. Their disagreement basically comes down to staffing.

  8. The report notes that this situation has been advancing for ages.

    It’s almost limitless like people know there’s something wrong with banding together into such large groups but can’t place what the problem is.

    1. How on Earth did the word ‘limitless’ sneak in there? Is the CIA in my phone?

      1. It isn’t necessarily the CIA (they aren’t as awesome as Apple), it could be someone else trying to use your phone to communicate subtle messages (buy Apple products).

        1. My iPhone is one of the best anti-Apple advertising there is.

      2. “””Is the CIA in my phone?””‘

        No were not!

        Ok, maybe a little.

        Just when your not using it

        Except for when we really need it

  9. The report takes great pains to explain how Trump’s rise was a long time coming and it points not a few fingers at the entrenched political establishment.

    Oh, now that Obama’s balls are out of their mouth, they decide to have a look at his “legacy”?

    1. Funny that, isn’t it?

      they let the douchbag weaponize government, and now they are all worried the wrong tyrant has control of said weaponized government

      1. Yeah, they loved the idea of the executive being all powerful and subverting congress with a pen and phone. They never complained about execution by drone, or domestic spying. I say one of the problems with politics is the replacement of principles with team support. It not what is done, it’s who is doing it. I know that’s not new.

        I saw something on MSNBC, I think, talking about how wrong it is for the whitehouse to lie. Now? I thought. Only when it’s not their guy do they care about being lied to.

  10. So we’re a *flawed* democracy – according to these guys, which democracies *aren’t* flawed?

    (standard disclaimer about republic not democracy)

    1. 1. Norway
      2. Iceland
      3. Sweden

      1. Seriously?

        I mean, you’re kidding, right?

        1. 1 Norway 9.93 10.00 9.64 10.00 10.00 10.00 Full democracy
          2 Iceland 9.50 10.00 8.93 8.89 10.00 9.71 Full democracy
          3 Sweden 9.39 9.58 9.64 8.33 10.00 9.41 Full democracy
          4 New Zealand 9.26 10.00 9.29 8.89 8.13 10.00 Full democracy
          5 Denmark 9.20 9.58 9.29 8.33 9.38 9.41 Full democracy
          6 Canada 9.15 9.58 9.64 7.78 8.75 10.00 Full democracy
          6 Ireland 9.15 9.58 7.86 8.33 10.00 10.00 Full democracy
          8 Switzerland 9.09 9.58 9.29 7.78 9.38 9.41 Full democracy
          9 Finland 9.03 10.00 8.93 7.78 8.75 9.71 Full democracy
          10 Australia 9.01 9.58 8.93 7.78 8.75 10.00 Full democracy
          11 Luxembourg 8.94 9.60 8.71 8.22 8.38 9.24 Full democracy
          12 Netherlands 8.80 9.58 8.57 8.33 8.13 9.41 Full democracy
          13 Germany 8.63 9.58 8.57 7.78 7.50 9.71 Full democracy
          14 Austria 8.41 9.58 7.86 8.33 6.88 9.41 Full democracy
          15 Malta 8.39 9.17 8.21 6.11 8.75 9.71 Full democracy
          16 United Kingdom 8.36 9.58 7.14 7.22 8.75 9.12 Full democracy
          17 Spain 8.30 9.58 7.14 7.22 8.13 9.41 Full democracy
          18 Mauritius 8.28 9.17 8.21 5.56 8.75 9.71 Full democracy
          19 Uruguay 8.17 10.00 8.93 4.44 7.50 10.00 Full democracy

          1. How many of those nations have hate speech laws and have political parties that are illegal?

            1. How many have a right to bear arms?

              1. That’s one of the big reasons that the US ranked lower to begin with.. great democracies arm bears or something, because the plebes bearing arms is problematic for the folks in charge..

          2. Norway – A slight assimilation problem with certain immigrants
            Iceland – The public loves the system so much that something called the Pirate Party is influential
            Sweden – same, plus they don’t clear the streets right after a snowstorm because they’re ant-sexist

            Uruguay – They can’t even do dope properly: “Three years after Uruguay became the first South American country to create a legal market for marijuana, seven out of every ten cannabis consumers still acquire the product on the black market.”

            1. delete the term “same” under Sweden

            2. They’re vikings, dude, piracy is part of their cultural heritage.

            3. I didn’t know the swedes had a problem with female ants.

          3. A few years ago I was in Uruguay. Apparently, they had an election shortly before my trip since the political posters were still everywhere. Their left-wing party ran for re-election on the basis of having legalized marijuana and gay marriage during their term in office. It occurred to me that probably their Left is not completely awful. And unlike in the US gay marriage became law in Congress not in Court.

            1. “Heh heh, you are gay.”

              /Homer Simpson

          4. UK is first past the post

            They have not had a party win with over 50% since 1930 or so.

            So they have been minority government since then even though they are given almost unlimited power

    2. Doesn’t Australia have compulsory voting? I’m sure they ace the public participation criterion.

  11. “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    1. “Actually, we’re an anarcho-syndicatist commune.”

      1. -1 sword

        1. Monty Python sure seemed to have a lot of insight into the mindset of radical leftists, I wonder how that happened. Were they in the Comedy Union Local 45 or something?

          1. I think being university students in the UK in the 60s gave you a good dose of that sort of thing.

      2. “Actually, we’re an anarcho- syndicatist commune syndicated comments section.”

  12. that makes him no different from any previous president

    What? That can’t be true. But that would mean the responsibility is on us! No, NO, NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

    ….

    *sob*

  13. This different than the Hobo on the street yelling “the end is nigh!”

    I suspect the Hobo reaches more people, even though they have the same message.

  14. The reason America’s democracy has dropped a rank is because its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests.

    Isn’t that a fancy way of saying “they abandoned the two party system and votes in a guy that scares us”?

    1. Furthermore, they had us as a “full democracy” when ballot access for third parties was a serious barrier for entry but move us down a peg when a complete outsider upsets the two-party stranglehold by co-opting one of those parties?

      This sounds like it’s full of shit.

      1. There is a good reason it sounds that way.

      2. Canada’s ranked higher than the United States…and as Pan always likes to point out, one of the reasons we have a serious TOPMANism problem is specifically because we’re less democratic than the States and trying to avoid getting the input of the filthy plebs at every available opportunity. When the Libs recently got into power they started looking at voting system reform, and the talk of a referendum to approve it came up. The resounding response amongst Liberal supporters? That the voters were too stupid to understand voting systems, so why would you give them a say?

        Yeah, this list is stupid.

        1. Quebec’s language laws alone should drag Canada below the USA.

          You know it’s all a bag of bull shit when Canada passes the USA. Here’s the thing. The USA still has a liberty impulse while the rest of the West doesn’t. This means the perception of the USA will always looks ‘unstable’ because it lets citizens be free. Europe and Canada are statist nation-states and we’re like the drug addicts trying to drag the USA into their shitty illiberal constructs.

          We have it exactly BACKWARDS.

          So whenever rankings like this come up, aside from laughing, I can’t but think of Arkham’s patients ranking which asylums are the best.

          1. How any member of the EU could be classified as a FULL DEMOCRACY is beyond me. They have an entire overarching government layer (and its accompanying bureaucracy) that is beyond the direct reach of voters.

        2. A trust deficit causes the US to become a “flawed democracy”
          Trust in political institutions is an essential component of well-functioning democracies.

          Growing popular disaffection with the key institutions of representative democracy has been a factor
          in the democratic regression of recent years and in the rise of insurgent, populist, anti-mainstream
          parties and politicians in Europe and North America

          Fuck.

          1. It takes till page 54 to get to the good stuff (hey, conclusion first, argument last, lazy fucking journalists will bail out after exec summary after all!)

            Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy, on a 0 to 10 scale, is based on the ratings for 60 indicators, grouped into five categories:
            electoral process and pluralism;
            civil liberties;
            the functioning of government;
            political participation; and
            political culture.
            Each category has a rating on a 0 to 10 scale, and the overall Index is the simple average of the five category indexes.

            So US fell because….I’d guess, because one of criteria is, can a third-party gain power (not counting that US parties are far more loose coalitions, where negotiations actually take place, than, say, Canadian ones, so yes, a faction, such as Tea Party or Bernie Socialists can gain or lose power).

            Is the legislature the supreme political body, with a clear supremacy over other branches of
            government?

            Welp, there’s a big fat 0 to US, where it’s the Supreme Court (it can choose not to override legislature – it can shitcan it any time it wants).
            Popular perceptions of the extent to which citizens have free choice and control over their lives.
            Public confidence in government.
            Public confidence in political parties
            Voter participation/turn-out for national elections
            Women in parliament. % of members of parliament who are women

            1. Perceptions of rule by experts or technocratic government; proportion of the population that
              would prefer rule by experts or technocrats.

              Shockingly, lower is better? I’m surprised.

              44. Is there a free electronic media
              You get half-credit for “Pluralistic, but state-controlled media are heavily favoured. One or two private owners dominate the media.” FUCK

              Are citizens free to form professional organisations and trade unions?
              Unions get their own category, separate from civic organizations, because freedom.
              Also, if it’s Firefox or their shitty PDF but this was painful to scroll through. You can get the Average US score in each of the five categories on page 46 (44 if you look at page numbers in PDF), but not breakdown per question.
              Fuck this thing, fuck Reason for writing about it, fuck my stupid Aspie asshole brain for spending 15 minutes going through it.

              1. I for one thank you for doing it and saving me the trouble.

            2. Women in parliament. % of members of parliament who are women

              Oh, wow. Bigger joke than I thought. Uganda’s getting top marks I’m sure.

          2. Growing popular disaffection with the key institutions of representative democracy has been a factor in the democratic regression of recent years and in the rise of insurgent, populist, anti-mainstream parties and politicians in Europe and North America[.]

            The Economist seems to conflate the growing popularity of minor parties with “democratic regression.”

      3. And who also won while spending half of the money as the opposing candidate, who ironically had “getting unaccountable money out of our politics” as one of her major campaign themes.

    2. It’s a fancy way of saying somebody taught the dumb sheep to think. You get points taken off if your people don’t remain fat and stupid and lazy and happy.

    3. Isn’t that a fancy way of saying “they abandoned the two party system and votes in a guy that scares us”?

      You may have missed this, but Trump is a Republican.

      1. And yet you would have to be blind to notice a certain dissimilarity to other people with that label in Washington. Even if it’s just that he feels his role is to act, not to obstruct.

      2. That may be so, but did voters vote for Trump because he ran as a Republican or in spite of that fact?

        1. One cannot deny that, since 10 million people who’ve never voted in a Republican primary before voted in last year’s Republican primaries, there was something different about Trump’s candidacy. Whether those people voted against him, for him, or some mix thereof, a different dynamic was at play than in other recent primary elections.

      3. Much to the chagrin of many Republicans, not least of whom being the RNC. Yes, Trump is as much a Republican President as any previous individual nominated by the GOP and elected to office. However, he is about as close to a party outsider as has been seen in a very long time. Eisenhower is the last one to come close, and that’s more because he wasn’t a party politician before he became President, not because he was disliked by the party.

    4. You have it backward. They’re saying Trump is a result, not a cause.

  15. “Note that you have to register with the site in order to get access, but it’s free.”

    If I must surrender one ounce of personal information, then it is fact NOT free. Costs involve more than just fiat currency.

    1. You must be a hoot at parties.

      1. Babe Magnet!

        1. Babe: “Are you free to ditch this party and go back to my place for drinks?”

          Billy Bones: “If i must be contained within your place of residence, or any vehicle en route thereto, then i am in fact NOT free.”

          Babe: [walks away]

  16. The reason America’s democracy has dropped a rank is because its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests.

    They are certainly using the wrong metric. If Gary Johnson won in a landslide, he would be ripping much of those government institutions to shreds. What is undemocratic about that?

    The reason for voter malaise — whether voters know it or not — is government overreach. Losing trust in government institutions and feeling that the political parties that seek to control state power no longer represent their interests is the expected and democratic reaction.

  17. Uruguay 8.17 10.00 8.93 4.44 7.50 10.00 Full democracy

    Haha Uruguay is more democracy than USA

    When I see that even one measure is voters trust in Gov’t I am forced to disregard the entire thesis.

    1. “Open your mouth and close your eyes, and you will get a big surprise.

      “Uh uh…no peeking! Don’t you trust me?”

      /government

  18. They are forming their ranks. BLM, Pussy hats, Doomsday Clockers, now this bunch of idiots. At least the lunatic fringe is starting to move back to the fringes.

    Crawl back under your rocks motherfuckers.

  19. In middle age, poorly educated American whites are dying at such a high rate that they are driving up the average death rate for all middle-aged white Americans.

    And they say Americans don’t care about keeping social security solvent.

  20. “The death rate for whites aged 45-54 with no more than a high-school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2014. According to the study, the catastrophe for uneducated, middle-aged white males…”

    So we’ve gone from calling them “high school educated” to “uneducated” in the same article? WTF? That’s why they fucking hate left-wing media. I also heard a guy on CNN call the high school educated “uneducated” soon after the election.
    Those stupid voters ruined it for us!

    1. Those same people will be happy to tell you how awesome public schooling is.

    2. Nice catch. They can’t help letting the mask slip, can they.

      1. And Scott is next to Soave the least educated person on the staff. Who the hell is he to call anyone uneducated?

        1. You may or may not be right about Scott’s intentions, but the quote came from the report, not Scott.

    3. I know an awful lot of people with college degrees who are immensely stupid and ignorant, to the point that they should be considered “uneducated” regardless of their credentials.

      1. Me too. In fact the dumbest most misinformed people I know all have college degrees. The idea that more formal education produces a better democracy is a cargo cult if there ever was one.

      2. *looks around* – are you looking at ME?

  21. According to the study, the catastrophe for uneducated, middle-aged white males had only one parallel in a modern peacetime setting: the impact of HIV/AIDS on the gay community

    But what about white privilege?

  22. U.S. no longer considered ‘full democracy,’ group says

    The US was never a “full democracy”. It was designed as a representative-democracy bound by a document called a ‘constitution’ that gives the government certain powers. I know why wannabe tyrants and tyrant enablers twist language and use disingenuous terms, and it is getting old.

  23. So I haven’t read the full report (and probably won’t) but based on Shack’s description it seems like respect for government is baked into the definition of “full democracy” without considering whether that respect is deserved.

    If lots of people came around to the idea that government is not a good avenue for solving many social issues, lost respect for government as a result, but instead turned to private, voluntary institutions, that could lead to a more civilly engaged population that also functions better.

    Context matters and it doesn’t seem to me that rebelling against elites is necessarily a cause for concern.

    1. I find the term ‘elites’ to be quite offensive. They are born naked, screaming their heads off and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on just like everyone else. They get one go at life, no practice runs, just like everyone else. They fuck up nearly everything they touch because they make decisions about things they know nothing about and have little motivation not to because they don’t suffer the consequences of their fuckups.

      Despite their belief, they are not smarter than everyone else and they are mostly just parasites.

      Elites, my ass.

      1. Of course they are no better than anyone else, but they, and more importantly their supporters, think they are. So the term is useful though not completely accurate. “Soi disant Elites” sounds too elitist (on the part of the speaker), and is awkward even in English translation.

        1. I wasn’t shooting barbs at anyone here that used the term. Didn’t mean to come off that way, only meant to express my disdain for those that actually do think they belong to such a class.

      2. Most importantly in my view, elites, generally, are insulated from the consequences of their decisions. Where’s the incentive to think carefully and act conservatively* when there’s no real accountability?

        *as in, act restrained, not necessarily as a political conservative

  24. t, there was a debate over whether the public should have even been allowed to vote on the matter.

    And remember, one of the core definitions of right-wing is the belief that a limited number of elites are the ones who are fit to lead… I’m sitting here thinking about which sector of the so-called political spectrum I hear that from more…

  25. I knew I should have put a (“Yes, yes we all know that America is not a full democracy, nor are any of the other countries”) caveat in the story just to stop people from reflexively pointing it out.

    1. What do you mean, “you people”?!?

      1. As I understand, Postrel would have never put up with this.

        1. The difference between democracy and towels is that one of those things is incredibly popular, quite useful, can protect vulnerable people, and should be taken with us as we expand throughout the galaxy, and the other is democracy.

    2. While you are at it, why don’t you explain the difference between populism and the public supporting things you don’t like. It appears to me that you don’t understand the difference. The majority of the voters disagree with you about trade and immigration. Their expressing that preference through their votes doesn’t make them guilty of populism and all of its panoritive connotations.

      Please stop using words the meaning of which you don’t understand as a way to slander your opponents.

    3. No problem, Scott. We found more than enough other holes in the worthless thing.

    4. Eh, you can’t ever satisfy a real autist stickler. Trust me, I’m on either (and sometimes both) sides of that argument often enough.
      And as Rhywin points out, that’s the least of report’s problems.

  26. “U.S. no longer considered ‘full democracy,’ group says”

    Oh for fuck’s sake…

  27. Populism very obviously has the potential to lead to increased authoritarianism. It’s an established but unfortunate paradox that people tend to respond to failing government systems by demanding that they do even more and for government to get even larger.

    As a libertarian, this is the single most frustrating feature of our modern time.

    Nick Gillespie has been correct about one thing: People are losing trust in institutions. I can see it everywhere around me, and I suspect everyone else does too. And I’m not talking about what you see on TV and on twitter, I mean, in the cubicle next to you. I’m surrounded by a mishmash of conspiracy theorists (which may be too strong a term, but I’m running with it) who believe the only reason we don’t have a cure to cancer and AIDS is some kind of corporate cabal running everything, everything is beholden to some dirty interest– and it permeates everything, from the food you eat, the video games you play. It’s everywhere. And the suggested solution is always the same: More government, more regulation.

    1. Next time it comes up, tell them Joe Biden cured cancer. He even got a medal for it.

    2. Yhe only reason we don’t have a cure to cancer and AIDS is some kind of corporate cabal running everything…And the suggested solution is always the same: More government, more regulation.

      Haven’t they figured out that the government and corporations are one and the same-Controlled by The Illuminati.
      What kind of conspiracy theorists are they?

  28. The reason America’s democracy has dropped a rank is because its citizens have lost trust in government institutions and no longer feel as though the political parties represent their interests.

    So, an allegedly constitutional republic is downgraded as no longer being a full democracy when the citizenry acquires a more realistic view of government?

    1. And it expresses that distrust not through violent revolution but through the political process and by voting for a political outsider who promises to change things.

      See my comment above. Scott thinks it is populism any time his side loses an election.

      1. So is it democracy when the winner of the election is disqualified by the two main political parties from having any votes counted?

        Total voting age population in U.S. : 232 million

        Votes for Clinton: 66 million
        Votes for Trump: 63 million
        Votes for 3rd party candidates: 8 million
        Voted but left prez race blank: 2 million
        Did not vote: 93 million

        Actual winner: NOTA (None of the above) in a landslide
        Elected: Trump

        1. NOTA and DNV are not equivalent. Although I agree with the gist of your sentiment, people choose not to vote for many reasons, not the least of which being that the outcome in many states was a foregone conclusion and thus their vote individually would have no impact.

  29. So in other words, according to The Economist, a democracy=a technocratic bureaucracy where half your income goes to taxes and everyone is taken care of by the state.

    1. Having the public go to the polls and vote to reject and remove the ruling elite is the opposite of Democracy. Democracy is the voters voting as they are told. Anything else is populism.

      This is what The Economist and Scott actually think.

      1. God dammit, John, I like you, but why do you set yourself up like that?

        Populism very obviously has the potential to lead to increased authoritarianism. It’s an established but unfortunate paradox that people tend to respond to failing government systems by demanding that they do even more and for government to get even larger. It is nevertheless important to separate that likelihood out from the citizenry’s demand for control and responsiveness from their own political systems. Technocratic rule can lead to authoritarianism as well, and that’s what we’ve seen under President Barack Obama, not to mention the income inequality that comes from government spending its money on itself and not its constituents. Technocratic rule turns its nose up at school choice, despite its popularity among parents, because the “right people” no longer have as much control over what children learn. Focusing too much on a “mob rule” vs. “elite rule” axis potentially ignores the possibility of “self rule.”

        Scott ain’t Robby. He actually considers the obvious counter-argument before he writes an article.

        1. No he doesn’t. Read it again. He calls things he likes like school choice good popular will. Things he doesn’t like like protectionism or immigration control are populism. He is just as technocratic as those he criticizes. He just disagrees on what things the voters should support.

          1. I did. The word populism appears twice. Once in subheader (“Populism is a result of government’s separation from its citizens over decades.”) and once in the paragraph I quoted. My read is that “school choice” and “government to get even larger” are two examples of things Populism might demand. That citizenry’s demand for control and responsiveness from their own political systems is also a populist demand, contrasted with Technocratic rule in the next sentence.

            He is just as technocratic as those he criticizes. He just disagrees on what things the voters should support.

            No, that’s the point of “technocrat” – giving exactly zero fucks about what “voters support”. Technocrat says, at most, voters should choose from a menu of technocratic option, while system is set up so that any non-technocratic options can NEVER be implemented. This is literally the continental Western European political system since WW2 onward. I.e. doesn’t matter how many votes LePen or Wilders get – unless they can alone get a majority, they will not be allowed to sniff power.

            1. He calls. Oth Brexit and Trump populist. What makes them populist other than they support things Scott doesn’t like? Scott is just angry the elites didn’t keep the voters in line.

              1. What makes Trump and Brexit populists is that they went contrary to the wishes of current governmental power structure and appealed to the populace itself. Much like, say, Grachii brothers were populists, despite being aristocracy.
                Again, like Grachii, they haven’t gone outside the broad system of government, but they didn’t follow the customary way to go about satisfying their demands (in case of Brexit, a vote in Parliament; in case of Trump, glad-handling the donors and party leadership for years while waiting hist turn).
                Yes, when elites fail to keep a movement in line, and the movement presents itself as presenting the interests of the majority of people, such movement should be described as populist. Otherwise what’s the word for? Sanders ran a populist campaign, too.

                He didn’t call it “revolutionary”, “insurrectionist”, “demagogic”, “unlawful”, “illegitimate” or any of the things that populism can but doesn’t have to be. Now, Dalmia, Soave, Gillespie? I can believe they use “populist” as a synonym for “cockroach.” I give Scott benefit of the doubt, until I have reason not to.

    2. But, in one of the questions, if Low proportion of your populace wants a technocratic government, you get a good score.

      Read the thing, read the questions. I at this point have no idea what the fuck it measures. It’s like, half is “how much freedom government lets you have – with freedoms chosen by us” and half is “how much does populace believe in government’s benevolence”.

  30. Man if only some guy wrote an iron law about the tendency for Democracies overtime to devolve into oligarchies due to the entrenching of political parties as institutions for their own power, and the fundamentally anti-democratic statist nature of them.

    If only.

    We could have some ways to describe why the report blaming ‘dissatisfaction in government’ is missing the point, that instead the institutions have become ossified and self reinforcing.

    1. Voters occasionally going to the polls and electing leaders who terrify the elites and their toadies like Scott is what a healthy democracy looks like.

      1. I really don’t get what your problem with Shackford is. He seems to be one of the few writers here that isn’t losing his shit over Trump.

        1. My problem with him is he writes articles like this. He isn’t quite as bad as Soave or Chapman but that is a very low bar

          1. My problem with him is he writes articles like this

            … a pretty solid piece looking at the nuances of the report and pointing out how it doesn’t peddle the narrative that the MSM is selling about it.

            1. It’s not solid at all. He doesn’t know what populism means other than it is a slander to describe the voters when they don’t agree with him. Don’t confuse his threat clearing for actual thought and analysis.

              1. Except he’s not “slandering” anyone. Trump’s election and Brexit were populist. So what? It’s not “slander” to call a spade a spade. A rejection of technocratic consensus in favor of the interests of the people is pretty much definitionally populism, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. You’re the one who thinks populism is a dirty word; nothing Scott said attaches a negative connotation to it.

          2. Sorry, John, but I think you are crazy here. Suffering from Shackford derangement syndrome for some odd reason. Your take on this article is detached from reality.

      2. their toadies like Scott

        Uh, no. Dalmia, Chapman, sometimes Gillespie. But Shackford? Not hardly.

        1. He is being so hear. He just doesn’t quite agree on the result. But like the technocrats,he confuses the public disagreeing with him with populism.

          1. Did you read what he wrote?

            The chasm between the Republican Party and citizens brought about the Tea Party conservatives. The chasm between the Democratic Party and its citizens kept Bernie Sanders in play as a candidate and thorn in Hillary Clinton’s side.

            1. Read the next part where he calls Trump a populist movement and refers to Brexist as one. That word means something and most of it is panoritive. What makes Trump populist other than it won an election and supports positions Scott doesn’t like? Scott doesn’t know or even consider that. He just slanders the voters as populist and laments that the elites didn’t communicate the truth to the dumb hillbillies. Fuck him.

              1. What makes Trump populist other than it won an election and supports positions Scott doesn’t like?

                What makes Obama technocratic other than he won an election and supports positions Scott doesn’t like?

                Two can play this game. Obama was a technocrat. Trump is a populist. Those are both true and neither is any more pejorative than the other in the context of libertarianism.

              2. Pedant gonna pedant but:
                “Populism is a political style of action that mobilizes a large alienated element of population against a government seen as controlled by an out-of-touch closed elite that acts on behalf of its own interests”

                That certainly describes Trump well, also elements of Obama’s 2008 campaign.

                1. John seems to have decided a year or two ago that Shackford is a piece of shit and nothing is going to change his mind, apparently.

            2. Shackford shows insufficient love for our great Vicar of the People.

              And for the record, populism is often (perhaps most often) used to describe politicians who are socially/culturally conservative and economically illiberal (or ‘progressive’ we would say in the US). Now Trump may not quite be William Jennings Bryan, but he is more ‘culturally conservative’ (at least as of late) than most Democrats, and certainly more mercantilist than capitalist; so as far as American politicians go, he fits the description of populist better than anyone else up there.

              And John, populism is viewed by sensible people as an insult for good reason. Right now that dipshit in the Whitehouse is promising to impose a 20% tax on imported goods from Mexico because a bunch of retarded hillbillies think ‘they took our jerbs!.’ Those of us who pull our own weight have to pay more for goods because lazy douche bags don’t want to compete in a global market; they want handouts by another name. Proof positive of the stupidity and arrogance of the masses.

              Let me guess: ‘oh but it’s so worth it to see our economy strangled just to get to see those elite, ivory tower economists with all their crazy theories about specialization and comparative advantage get upset about it.’

              1. I mean, are you saying it’s NOT worth it to watch people get in a tizzy over this stuff? Especially when a lot of those people are genuine elitists who are not really so much angry that Trump wants to do XYZ as they are that they’re not the ones getting to do XYZ to slightly different people?

                1. I’m kidding, btw. I don’t think that came across.

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