Political polarization has paralyzed the functioning of democracy in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Taiwan, where students have recently occupied the parliament building. Civil liberties and political opposition are under intensified assault by an abusive prime minister in Turkey. Indian democracy is increasingly diminished by brazen corruption and rent-seeking. Several African democracies have failed, and others are slipping. The Arab Spring has largely imploded, and Egypt is in the grip of military authoritarian rule more repressive than anything the country has seen in decades. After invading and swallowing a piece of Ukraine, Russia now poses a gathering threat to its democratic postcommunist neighbors. For the eighth consecutive year, Freedom House finds that the number of countries declining in freedom have greatly exceeded the number improving. And most of the advanced industrial democracies, including the United States, seem unable to address their long-term fiscal and other policy challenges. Is there an emerging global crisis of democracy? And if so, why?
Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he directs the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Diamond also serves as the Peter E. Haas Faculty Co-Director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford. He is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy and also serves as Senior Consultant (and previously was co-director) at the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy. During 2002-3, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and was a contributing author of its report Foreign Aid in the National Interest. He has also advised and lectured to the World Bank, the United Nations, the State Department, and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies dealing with governance and development. His latest book, The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World (Times Books, 2008), explores the sources of global democratic progress and stress and the prospects for future democratic expansion.