In the last couple of years, various conflicts and issues have been emerging throughout the world. President Trump recently expressed his current sentiment regarding global affairs in an ABC Exclusive interview with journalist David Muir. “The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets,” said Donald Trump. The sheer lack of optimism and hope expressed in Mr. Trump’s statement is certainly troubling to many citizens around the world.
To those who are worried about the recent changes occurring over the past few years including the rise of far-right populism in the West, radical Islamic terrorism in the Middle East, and ethnic nationalism, do not worry. These processes are only minor setbacks in the development of an inclusive modern global society and offer opportunities for opposition forces to develop better strategies for future success. Although these changes may halt initial progress towards the development of more open societies, liberal democracies have shown to possess the greatest potential in providing global peace and stability over all other forms of governance.
Francis Fukuyama, esteemed professor, public intellectual, and author of various publications including The End of History and the Last Man, claims that there are no viable alternatives to liberal democracies. In his seminal 1989 essay titled The End of History? Fukuyama states, “the triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism”.
Fukuyama goes on to suggest that “what we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”. The ideology he is suggesting is one that takes on a broader characteristic, influencing social, cultural, political, and economic expectations within all levels of a society. In essence, one can view this ideology as a simple template that generalizes the organization and zeitgeist for a particular society.
Recent setbacks may pose some threats to liberal democracy at the moment including dwindling public support. “Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations”, writes Amanda Taub in The New York Times. This loss of faith in democracy may be partially explained by the lack of trust citizens have in the current political establishment. With this in mind, it becomes more obvious why citizens would back populist candidates claiming to be anti-establishment even though in many cases such candidates represent fringe ideologies on either side of the political spectrum.
Conflicts in the Middle East have resulted in political vacuums being occupied by terrorist organizations due to failed interventions. Regarding liberal democracy, some hypotheses are startling, “in fact, there is some evidence to suggest that democracy, and especially the process of democratization, can actually encourage terrorism,” writes Samuel Helfont in The New Republic. Interventions by the United States in Iraq, Libya, and Syria have resulted in the growth and expansion of organizations like ISIS in addition to increasing general political instability. Forcing democracy down the throats of developing countries is a messy endeavor resulting in larger global issues that impact the developed world, an example being the current refugee crisis.
Has democracy failed? No, by all means, these pitfalls do not stand up to the various successes of liberal democracy. As of today, three-fourths of the world experiences some sort of functioning democracy. The benefits of a free market system and the guarantee of human rights are both byproducts of adopting liberal democracy as an international framework for organizations like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and other various international alliances. Democracy is messy in nature, but that is exactly why democracy is the most sought after form of government in the world. With democracy, it is not a question about which side has the best militia or army, but which side offers the best solutions to many of the difficult challenges facing citizens.