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Polarization in Poland: A Warning From Europe - The Atlantic
"The emotional appeal of a conspiracy theory is in its simplicity. It explains away complex phenomena, accounts for chance and accidents, offers the believer the satisfying sense of having special, privileged access to the truth. But—once again—separating the appeal of conspiracy from the ways it affects the careers of those who promote it is very difficult. For those who become the one-party state’s gatekeepers, for those who repeat and promote the official conspiracy theories, acceptance of these simple explanations also brings another reward: power."
poland  hungary  politics  authoritarianism  conspiracy  smolensk 
13 hours ago by arsyed
The U.S. Needs a New Constitution—Here's How to Write It - The Atlantic
"Almost nobody uses the U.S. Constitution as a model—not even Americans. When 24 military officers and civilians were given a single week to craft a constitution for occupied Japan in 1946, they turned to England. The Westminster-style parliament they installed in Tokyo, like its British forebear, has two houses. But unlike Congress, one is clearly more powerful than the other and can override the less powerful one during an impasse.

The story was largely the same in defeated Nazi Germany, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, which all emerged from American occupation with constitutions that look little like the one Madison and the other framers wrote. They have the same democratic values, sure, but different ways of realizing them. According to researchers who analyzed all 729 constitutions adopted between 1946 and 2006, the U.S. Constitution is rarely used as a model. What's more, "the American example is being rejected to an even greater extent by America's allies than by the global community at large," write David Law of Washington University and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.

That's a not a fluke. The American system was designed with plenty of checks and balances, but the Founders assumed the elites elected to Congress would sort things out. They didn't plan for the political parties that emerged almost immediately after ratification, and they certainly didn't plan for Ted Cruz. And factionalism isn't the only problem. Belgium, a country whose ethnic divisions make our partisan sparring look like a thumb war, was unable to form a governing coalition for 589 days in 2010 and 2011. Nevertheless, the government stayed open and fulfilled its duties almost without interruption, thanks to a smarter institutional arrangement.

As the famed Spanish political scientist Juan Linz wrote in an influential 1990 essay, dysfunction, trending toward constitutional breakdown, is baked into our DNA. Any system that gives equally strong claims of democratic legitimacy to both the legislature and the president, while also allowing each to be controlled by people with fundamentally different agendas, is doomed to fail. America has muddled through thus far by compromise, but what happens when the sides no longer wish to compromise? "No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people," Linz wrote.

There are about 30 countries, mostly in Latin America, that have adopted American-style systems. All of them, without exception, have succumbed to the Linzian nightmare at one time or another, often repeatedly," according to Yale constitutional law professor Bruce Ackerman, who calls for a transition to a parliamentary system. By "Linzian nightmare," Ackerman means constitutional crisis—your full range of political violence, revolution, coup, and worse. But well short of war, you can end up in a state of "crisis governance," he writes. "President and house may merely indulge a taste for endless backbiting, mutual recrimination, and partisan deadlock. Worse yet, the contending powers may use the constitutional tools at their disposal to make life miserable for each other: The house will harass the executive, and the president will engage in unilateral action whenever he can get away with it." He wrote that almost a decade and a half ago, long before anyone had heard of Barack Obama, let alone the Tea Party.

You can blame today's actors all you want, but they're just the product of the system, and honestly it's a wonder we've survived this long: The presidential election of 1800, a nasty campaign of smears and hyper-partisan attacks just a decade after ratification, caused a deadlock in the House over whether John Adams or Thomas Jefferson should be president. The impasse grew so tense that state militias opposed to Adams's Federalist Party prepared to march on Washington before lawmakers finally elected Jefferson on the 36th vote in the House. It's a near miracle we haven't seen more partisan violence, but it seems like tempting fate to stick with the status quo for much longer.

How would a parliamentary system handle a shutdown? It wouldn't have one. In Canada a few years ago, around the same time Washington was gripped in yet another debt-ceiling crisis, a budget impasse in Ottawa led to new elections, where the parties fought to win over voters to their fiscal plan. One side won, then enacted its plan—problem solved. Most parliamentary systems, which unify the executive and legislative branches, have this sort of fail-safe mechanism. If a budget or other must-pass bill can't get passed, or a prime minister can't be chosen, then funding levels are placed on autopilot and new elections are called to resolve things. The people decide.

Arend Lijphart is a political scientist who has spent much of his career trying to answer the fundamental question, "What works best?" and he thinks he knows the answer. "Democracies work best if they are consensus instead of majoritarian democracies. The most important constitutional provisions that help in this direction is to have a parliamentary system and elections by [proportional representation]. The U.S. is the opposite system, with a presidential system and plurality single-member-district elections," he said an email, drawing on complex quantitative analysis he's done to compare economic and political outcomes across dozens of democratic countries with different systems.

If he had to pick any country whose system we might like to try on for size, he'd pick Germany. "Some aspects of it do need to change, of course," he says. Yet it's a nice bicameral federal system for a large country, like ours, but it has a proportional representation parliamentary system."

[via: https://twitter.com/maxberger/status/1061501440642949120

"America is the only presidentialist system (I.e. a separately elected legislature and executive) that hasn't lapsed into dictatorship.

Literally every single other presidentialist system in the world has failed.

It's only a matter of time before ours fails as well."
https://twitter.com/maxberger/status/1061838637795631105
us  constitution  government  2013  alexseitz-ald  presidency  latinamerica  bruceackerman  parliamentarysystem  politics  governance  authoritarianism  constitutionalcrisis  barackobama  teaparty  canada  consensus  juanlinz  democracy 
15 hours ago by robertogreco
Egypt’s path from autocracy to revolution—and back again - Brothers, generals and suckers
Today’s American administration does not even wish it were different. To them, Mr Sisi has said all the right things. He wants to moderate Islam and reform the economy. He calls Mr Trump “a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible”. Mr Trump, in turn, celebrates Mr Sisi’s tough leadership and calls him “a fantastic guy”. Like so many others, the American president seems unconcerned that autocracy is again breeding misery and extremism in Egypt.
authoritarianism  world 
4 days ago by corrales
Polarization in Poland: A Warning From Europe - The Atlantic
This is not 1937. Nevertheless, a parallel transformation is taking place in my own time, in the Europe that I inhabit and in Poland, a country whose citizenship I have acquired. And it is taking place without the excuse of an economic crisis of the kind Europe suffered in the 1930s. Poland’s economy has been the most consistently successful in Europe over the past quarter century. Even after the global financial collapse in 2008, the country saw no recession. What’s more, the refugee wave that has hit other European countries has not been felt here at all. There are no migrant camps, and there is no Islamist terrorism, or terrorism of any kind.

More important, though the people I am writing about here, the nativist ideologues, are perhaps not all as successful as they would like to be (about which more in a minute), they are not poor and rural, they are not in any sense victims of the political transition, and they are not an impoverished underclass. On the contrary, they are educated, they speak foreign languages, and they travel abroad—just like Sebastian’s friends in the 1930s.

What has caused this transformation? Were some of our friends always closet authoritarians? Or have the people with whom we clinked glasses in the first minutes of the new millennium somehow changed over the subsequent two decades? My answer is a complicated one, because I think the explanation is universal. Given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all societies eventually will.

******

Polarization is normal. Skepticism about liberal democracy is normal. And the appeal of authoritarianism is eternal.

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Americans, with our powerful founding story, our unusual reverence for our Constitution, our relative geographic isolation, and our two centuries of economic success, have long been convinced that liberal democracy, once achieved, cannot be altered. American history is told as a tale of progress, always forward and upward, with the Civil War as a kind of blip in the middle, an obstacle that was overcome. In Greece, history feels not linear but circular. There is liberal democracy and then there is oligarchy. Then there is liberal democracy again. Then there is foreign subversion, then there is an attempted Communist coup, then there is civil war, and then there is dictatorship. And so on, since the time of the Athenian republic.

******

Democracy and free markets can produce unsatisfying outcomes, after all, especially when badly regulated, or when nobody trusts the regulators, or when people are entering the contest from very different starting points. Sooner or later, the losers of the competition were always going to challenge the value of the competition itself.

More to the point, the principles of competition, even when they encourage talent and create upward mobility, don’t necessarily answer deeper questions about national identity, or satisfy the human desire to belong to a moral community. The authoritarian state, or even the semi-authoritarian state—the one-party state, the illiberal state—offers that promise: that the nation will be ruled by the best people, the deserving people, the members of the party, the believers in the Medium-Size Lie. It may be that democracy has to be bent or business corrupted or court systems wrecked in order to achieve that state. But if you believe that you are one of those deserving people, you will do it.
authoritarianism  europe  politics  america  history 
4 days ago by corrales
The Institutional Turn in Comparative Authoritarianism | British Journal of Political Science | Cambridge Core
The institutional turn in comparative authoritarianism has generated wide interest. This article reviews three prominent books on authoritarian institutions and their central theoretical propositions about the origins, functions and effects of dominant party institutions on authoritarian rule. Two critical perspectives on political institutions, one based on rationalist theories of institutional design and the other based on a social conflict theory of political economy, suggest that authoritarian institutions are epiphenomenal on more fundamental political, social and/or economic relations. Such approaches have been largely ignored in this recent literature, but each calls into question the theoretical and empirical claims that form the basis of institutionalist approaches to authoritarian rule. A central implication of this article is that authoritarian institutions cannot be studied separately from the concrete problems of redistribution and policy making that motivate regime behavior.
comparative  political_science  authoritarianism  institutions  review  via:henryfarrell 
6 days ago by rvenkat
Young Activists Go Missing in China, Raising Fears of Crackdown - The New York Times
“What kind of privilege do they have to completely disregard the law and civil rights?” Mr. Yu wrote. “How dare they unscrupulously and arrogantly beat up students and kidnap one at Peking University.”

The disappearance of the activists is the latest flash point in a long-running battle between activists and the authorities.
china  authoritarianism 
7 days ago by corrales
After Democracy: What's Next When Freedom Erodes?
Illiberal democracy and electoral authoritarianism can both be seen in practice around the world today. And both of these undemocratic types threaten to take hold if democracy erodes, backslides, or even dies in the United States. Although the specter of illiberal democracy is imminent but could soon evaporate, the United States’ vulnerability to electoral authoritarianism is both long-standing and likely to persist, regardless of what transpires in the midterm elections and in elections to come.
democracy  authoritarianism 
8 days ago by altoii
Events canceled, editor expelled: Hong Kong's losing freedom
The cancellation of literary and artistic events and the refusal to allow a Financial Times editor to enter Hong Kong have reignited concern about freedom of expression in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. A last-minute decision Friday to reinstate the literary event illustrates the...
authoritarianism 
8 days ago by joeybaker

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