Was Democracy Just A Moment?

This is the title of a 1997(!) Atlantic piece by Robert Kaplan, the foreign correspondent and advisor to various elements of US defense and foreign affairs institutions.   I have long recommended the piece as a warning against American complacency about the health of our own democracy, and the futility of promoting democracy in places without the cultural means to sustain it - Russia and China being  prime examples.  Again, strongly recommended -

Robert Kaplan.  Was Democracy Just A Moment?  Atlantic Magazine, December, 1997.

The global triumph of democracy was to be the glorious climax of the American Century. But democracy may not be the system that will best serve the world—or even the one that will prevail in places that now consider themselves bastions of freedom.

A stone tablet depicting Democracy crowning the people of Athens with a wreath.Gjon Mili / Getty

Now comes 2018, perhaps the nadir of our confidence in a democratic future.  In a few weeks, the American midterm elections will foretell whether we have a chance to preserve democracy against oligarchic or autocratic rule; and in a few weeks, Britain will determine whether it will have voted itself (in 2016) out of being a major world economy.  

We should hope that 2018 is the nadir.  You know the line about how the outlook is always darkest ... just before things go completely black.   But this short sampling of news from today fails to inspire -


Did Trump just kill the US auto industry?  David Goldman, Asia Times, September 22, 2018


Economic historians will cite July 9, 2018 as the date on which the US lost the trade war with China – before the war began.

That was when Germany’s top manufacturing companies – Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, BASF and Siemens – announced tens of billions of dollars of new investments in China as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang posed for a photo op with German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin.


Crash Out Brexit Virtually Guaranteed as EU Leaders Talk Tough to Theresa May, Reject Chequers Plan, and Give Her October Deadline

Britain Crash Out Nearly Guaranteed

 Posted by Ives Smith on September 21, 2018


and at Wolf Street -

Multiple Online Banking Systems Go Down in the UK

UK Payment Systems Go Down

by Don Quijones, September 21, 2018 

Payment chaos: For bottom-line-obsessed bank executives, IT systems are an expense to be slashed. The results are in.


A rationale for democracy as a form of government is that it is supposed to prevent big mistakes, or at least provide a means for correcting them once they occur.   Let's hope that idea works in the US and Britain, historically the two leading lights of democracy in the world.  I will write more on this topic in the near future.