Is There Something Wrong With Democracy? | NYT The Interpreter

Is There Something Wrong With Democracy? | NYT The Interpreter

This is the idea that
took over the world. First there was one democracy — then 10, then 20. There were some setbacks, but people really seemed
to want democracy. And eventually, most
of them got one. But 15 years ago,
democracy stopped spreading, and it might not
pick back up again. Even some places that
seemed safely democratic turned out not to be. And people are even
getting worried about established
democracies like the U.S. So is there something
wrong with democracy? I’m Max Fisher. I’m Amanda Taub. We’re journalists at
The New York Times. And this is the Interpreter. We can measure democracy
kind of like a health score. Over here, there
are full democracies like the United States. And over there are
dictatorships like North Korea. So the further
left a country is, the less democratic it is and the
further right a country, the more democratic it is. Now let’s see what
happens when we add how rich the countries are. The higher on the graph,
the richer the country and the lower on the graph,
the poorer the country. Generally, countries
have moved up and right. As they got richer, they
became more democratic. You’ve got your Englands,
your Latvias, your Indonesias. You see a pattern? Countries getting richer. Countries getting
more democratic. But look at countries like
China and Saudi Arabia. They got richer, but
never got more democratic. Look at Russia and Venezuela. They got democratic,
but then backslid, which wasn’t supposed to happen. So what’s going on? China looked exactly
like places we thought would become democracies next. They built up the rule
of law, civil society and some institutions. Normally, those are the building
blocks that eventually add up to democracy. But they were really designed
to make citizens just happy enough to protect the
authoritarian system from the will of the people. And whenever the
government feels like it could lose control, it uses the other side of its
strategy: violent oppression and coercion. We’re seeing this
in more places where dictators are learning how to
stop democracy from forming. And at the same time,
some elected leaders are developing
their own playbook for pulling democratic
systems down from within. A handful of seemingly
established democracies are sliding back
towards dictatorship. These countries didn’t
have coups or invasions. In each case, voters
elected strongman leaders who dismantled their
democracies from within. Venezuela had been
democratic for 40 years, then Hugo Chavez
rose on a message that only he spoke
for the people. People cheered as he
accrued power for himself, jailed his opponents
and tore down the democratic institutions
that constrained him. And when the dust settled,
Chavez was unchecked. Society descended
into chaos that is getting worse every day. Other elected leaders are
using similar tactics, but always bit by bit — in ways that aren’t
obvious and might even be popular at the time. One of the most
powerful forces that can turn people against
democracy is polarization. When people feel scared enough
of their political opponents, it feels more important to
protect their side than it does to protect democracy. Leaders can exploit that fear. So if you’re Russian
and you support Putin, you might blame
society’s problems on gay people or
nefarious Western plots. If you’re Turkish
and support Erdogan, you fear the secular elites
will impose military rule. And we’re seeing that kind
of polarization and fear start to take hold in
established democracies. “You are a racist,
no good American.” “I was just called a racist.” Could it happen in
the United States? It still feels impossible. And it might be. So far, the system is resilient. But the warning signs are here. Polarization. Populism. Distrust of institutions. A desire for strongman
leaders to smash the system. These things don’t necessarily
mean that democracy is doomed. But they show that in
times of social stress, even a free people can
dismantle their own democracy without realizing
they’re doing it. Democracy is still a pretty
new system of government. That century-long trend might
not have been a trend at all. Just a few one-time moments that
we mistook for inevitability. We want to believe it
will last forever, but we can’t be sure.

100 thoughts on “Is There Something Wrong With Democracy? | NYT The Interpreter

  1. I wanted to enjoy this video, but man some things bug me: 0:05 U.S. was not the first democracy, 0:48 England is neither an independent state, nor an alias for the U.K. NYT, get your facts straight.

  2. NYT is making a serious push towards new technologies. They have already the reputation and the talent (journos). Now they want (and are) conquering all-new millennial landscape. I would not be surprised if in the not so distant future NYT will partner with Netflix in making award-winning documentaries.

  3. democracy is the principle and practice of working together on a school project applied to every aspect of your life. anarco-capitalism is optimal

  4. It seems to me that societies have to go farther than just democracy in evaluating a country being in a situation where it provides well being for its people. Democratic government has to also be thought with an effective state as far as providing security and a good socio-economic situation for all the law abiding citizenry. Otherwise what we get is these weak democracies which not surprisingly end up as dictatorships very fast

  5. This is very biased. No consideration of the role of the USA in destabilising fledgling democracies, no discussion of why the fate of communist China is so different from the Soviet economically, no discussion of why a hybrid might work in some cultural contexts. Oh yeah,and no mention of the lack of integrity from media, which is largely what ails so many democracies from a political point of view. No thanks.

  6. There are so many reasons why this video is a poor example of journalism. This video doesn't establish the criteria for determining which countries are democratic, nor do they establish the criteria for wealth of a country. They also assumed that countries became democratic because people wanted democracy, and assumed that a nation's wealth is the cause of democracy and not the other way around. Just because the creators of the video put a graph together to illistrate their point doesn't make the evidence scientific. Our culture has a serious lack of critical thinking and scientific analysis, and institutions like NYT could foster those skills rather than producing this highly-opinionated and seriously flawed piece disguised as data-backed journalism.

  7. Are you serious? This analizes is so supperficial, I can't believe that you really bellieve this. Had Vezezuela been democratic for 40 years? What years are you talking about? Do you mean the period before Hugo Chavez had started to run the country, in 1999? From this point on, had Democracy crashed down for you? Let me try to understand this video. For you, Carlos Andrés Pérez was a great leader, right? with him, democracy was sure, for you. And then Hugo Chavez came and destroy everything? Right, I apreciate this kind of video that came to polarized the debate more than make we think what is democracy. Good work! But I can learn more about democacy reading Saramago than in this sick video.

  8. Your definition of democracy seems to be "what I personally approve of is a democracy". Democracy does not mean you get what you want, it means a nation of the people, for the people. You cannot just oppose the people's choice because you are personally against them.

    And I would say Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, are just as democratic as United Kingdom, United States, and Latvia. As in, the people can make any party they want and enter into politics, the people can protest or petition to change any policy they dislike or would like to be implemented.

    Russia has got a voter turnout of 80%+ where as USA has got a voter turnout of around 60%, the US populace in theory does not even elect their President where as in Turkey the last four changes to the constitution were done by a referendum, the people direct voting on the policies, in these ways I would say in some ways at least some of these countries you have defined as not democracy's are more democratic than the ones you seem to support.

    Again, democracy means the people rule, a nation of the people's ideals, for the people's benefit. It does not mean, "but I want this! Wah! This is a dictatorship if I don't get what I want!"

    Calling a state where every four or five years without delay there is an election in which the people elect almost all branches of government and where the people can more or less debate about or criticize what they want and where as I've said, in some situations the people directly vote for policies with a referendum a dictatorship will only get you one thing, it will only get people stop taking you seriously because you're obviously lying and your statements are based on your own personnel biases.

    Modern day Russia is a democracy for example, compare it with the Soviet Union and you will see what an actual dictatorship looks like.

  9. So NYT, will you ignore all the criticisms of your viewers? I just find it interesting is all that you shrug and go about your business when so many people tell you why in so many ways your statement is wrong.

    Is your objective to inform the people, as one might believe the objective of the press is, or to control the people's ideals by misinforming them? As you seem to be doing.

  10. First time I've ever commented on this channel, but this video is so superficial it makes my eyes bleed. Things don't 'just happen'. There are historical reasons why China or Turkey have taken their respective turns. Had a Marshall Plan been set up for the Soviet Union, Russia would have been an ally for life. Instead all she got was hair-brained privatisation and economic collapse. However, in this video, this historical moment is being reduced to 'polarisation', but this reading seems so parochial and linked to the way the US sees itself and how it thinks politics should be done. There's also the question of economics and the ruling ideologies in democracies around the 80s and 90s – one where the state was meant to get out of the way and allow the market to price everything. The myth was that democracy was needed for markets to run efficiently and remove corruption. Since 2008, what can be laughably called economic 'theory' (which isn't science) has been left in tatters. Mature democracies were left to 'socialise' the economic losses, causing suffering and slow growth for millions – this has made people really angry – particularly as inequality is rife in the OECD. Likewise into that political space left by 'democracies' authoritarian regimes have found they can run capitalism just as well, perhaps even better than democracies can. The offer they give their populations is that they can manage the contradictions in capitalism and while western states offer falling wages and degraded pensions, they say that they can provide the things people really want. Although I'm more Churchillian in outlook (democracy is the worst system, except for all the others), there is a sense that the model that swept away the post-war consensus has had its day. Simply leaving things to the market (which was tragically attempted in post-war Iraq) is simply a non-starter. Either there is a sense democracy can improve people's lives and shape or mitigate the effects of economic activity in a way that benefits the majority, or you simply have a forum for an unresolvable shouting match. Many other democratic states are able to compromise, look for common ground and continue democratic innovation. In contrast, the US looks like a relic and exactly what it is – a declining superpower that is no longer 'the model' people look to.

  11. democratists equate good rule of law and a fair justice system to 'democracy'. appropriating those ideals so whenever someone opposes majoriatarianism, they can rebuke "well dont you want a fair justice system or wealth or freedom.. the game is up and the world now values sovereignty after nearly a century of hegemony from the super power spreading democracy

  12. Yes, there is plenty wrong with democracy. For starters, we don't need democracy. Democracy is a pipedream of sheltered urbanites. If you want to know where we are going, stop daydreaming and go read Oswald Spengler. Grow up folks, there is no democracy and there never will be.

  13. Only land owners should be allowed to vote.

    What happens when the masses are allowed to vote?

    They figure out they can vote their way into money and always increase the size of government, looking at you women.

  14. Ok, so people don't like the leaders that the Left leaning media (read media) wanted in power so you say democracy is in danger?
    That is the very spirit of democracy, that people will elect who is a better leader for their country. As much as I hate Trump, I hate Hillary Clinton more, n that is democracy.

  15. The US style of democracy is NOT what most people vote for (308'000'000 US-Citizens), it's what a chosen bunch of people (538 electors) vote for! Indirect democracy is useless because fewer people have to be "bought" or manipulated to vote in a Leader. Also the word "Leader" bothers me in context to democracy. i just have a hard time to believe that 538 People can truly represent 308 Million People. And i forgot that a future President only needs 270 of these elector on his side to become president…

  16. Democracy is great and if some one try's to take it it will not end well and it is mainly the Democrats/communist who are trying to destroy to Democracy in every Democratic state good Americans can not get guns.

  17. I thought the USA was a Republic, not a democracy… glad you cleared that one up.  Also, isn't it ironic that the so called 'democrats' are the party wedded to the identity politics and division that is doing so much to undo democracy.  Leftists always think their current preference is inevitable because they assume everyone else agrees with them or would do if they were clever enough, but they don't.  Also, why is democracy so great?  It comes with no guarantee of freedom, equality, life, the pursuit of happiness or anything else that modern folk often cherish, so why democracy?  You failed ot address any of these points.

  18. "But they were really designed to make the citizens just happy enough"…hahaha yeah because we don't live in countries with really primitive forms of government were that would ever happen do we?….please what blatant guff. The average person is so far removed from the political process its laughable.

    They give you just enough belief in the form of elections and direct democracy e.g referendums every now and then. Tell me how often you as a private citizen have the right to put forward an idea into law? not a representative but you personally?

  19. Polarization in American politics is the result of the success of the conservative movement. That success has resulted in ever more extreme demands on the part of Republicans and encouraged their sense of political entitlement.

  20. Democracy in America would work a whole lot better if the American people themselves weren’t so goddamned stupid. But they are, so it doesn’t work too well. Look at our current president!

  21. American “democracy” works just fine ….. if you’re a corrupt right wing billionaire. But for the ordinary people? It kind of ….. doesn’t.

  22. Human beings are kind of stupid animals, and this is what screws up Democracy time and time again. People want tons of democracy for themselves and none at all for their fellow countrymen who disagree with them. I love the idea of democracy, but it’s the people themselves who keep screwing it up. Can democracy protect the people from their own ignorance? I wonder.

  23. Hugo Chavez is a “populist” in the same way as Trump… keep spreading that lie, people believe lies as long as they’re big and repeated often. Journalism is supposed to be pursuit of truth, however since the rise of a monopolistic meritocracy, all the news comes pre-spun and blended for ease of digestion. These condescending newz bites should come with pacifiers and a pill of molly

  24. There is nothing wrong with the idea of democracy. Only the people who've suffered under monarchy, communist govt.s and dictatorships know what a beautiful thing democracy is. American democracy is on another hand is just dynastic politics and a flood of propaganda from the only 2 parties that compete. We need to change the system, but there is nothing wrong with democracy

  25. This is an extraordinarily rosy-eyed, one-dimensional video about democracy. If we continue to assume that democracy includes formal rights for property owners and those who have accrued wealth, then we haven't learned very much about democracy. "Democracies" like the U.S. have always been founded on the dispossession and disenfranchisement of a select group of people, and though that group of people has changed over time, the fact of dispossession and disenfranchisement has remained. It's what has animated the U.S. from the beginning, and today wealthy white men continue to exploit and oppress workers, women, immigrants and people of color in order to maintain a grasp on power and profitability. This video limits its view by not taking into account all the various ways–economically, socially, and, thus, politically–people are oppressed well before they even arrive at the false choices presented to them on election day.

  26. 1:42, you mention China built up rule of law. No they didn't! And a "civil society'' you speak of. Totally muzzled and never really existed.

  27. Some countries are not meant to work with Democracy such as the Middle East. You try to do it. But you still failed

  28. the problem is not democracy. its money in any form i don't care what type of government you call yourself as long as money is involved you live under a dictatorship

  29. Personally I think democracy is barely better if at all than other systems. Many hereditary and absolute rulers were very good leaders both economically and socially. Like Alexander II of Russia or Elizabeth the first of England. While democratically elected leaders are sometimes horrible. Remember Hitler was democratically elected before he became a dictator. So basically I think what's important is how a leader rules rather than how he/she came to power.

  30. they have left out another democratic country turning dictatorship India after Narendra Modi took office even senior judges of the Supreme Court of India have expressed concerns over this

  31. a video about the risks of democracy and you're not going to mention germany? … wow, times have changed. So let's do this:

    1. economic instability. Too many poor and uneducated people are one of the biggest threats to democracy, because below a certain income, you are too stressed to be politically active and without a certain education you are easily manipulated.
    2. power must be spread among different institutions that operate relatively independent of each other. (like when the US court opposed Trumps muslim ban. It could only do that because it doesn't depend on Trump. In germany we tossed article 48 that set so called "emergency laws" in place. Hitler just needed to make up an emergency and boom, took over badshit crazyly).
    3. restraining liberty. yes, democracy is based on basic freedoms, like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to gather etc. However one fundamental restrain is needed: no freedom of undemocratic parties. (like the NSDAP in the thrid Reich)
    4. what else…? hmm… oh right: independence of the press.
    5. social debate. You're not going to stop ideology and propaganda from ever happening. The only chance you have is talking about it over and over again. Talk about it in schools, on social media, in satire shows, in philosophy-class, with your neighbour, with your parents, in the newspaper, in spinning-class…
    6. have restrains on hatespeech. Not just antisemitism. All hatespeech. Don't ban it, but restrain it. No death-threats. No threats of total anarchy. etc.
    7. have a credible and functional legal system. Otherwise people will feel like they need to take matters into their own hands.

  32. Great video! Perfectly explains the situation in countries like Russia and Turkey. Thanks New-York Times. Please make more videos like this

  33. "first there was one democracy". The USA was not first, and probably wasn't the biggest influence behind the democratic trend of the past century (though it certainly did play a significant role). Arguably, that was France. They where largely the ones who inspired all the latin-american revolutions against spain, for instance. The video was well done, but clearly from the biased position of proud USAmericans who seemingly failed to distance their work from their national pride. Another example of this USA-centicity is the incorrect noting of "England" as an established democracy. England isn't even a country; it's a region within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and doesn't, if I'm not mistaken, even have a regional parliament. Clearly, only minimal research was put into ascertaining that "England" was an established democracy. This attitude is disappointing coming from a respected source such as NYT and struck me, especially considering your other video on Youtube about how national identity is "made up". Otherwise, I enjoyed the video and I don't want anyone thinking I only feel critical, but I did feel it was important to bring to light issues about the video.

  34. Ohhhhhhhh fulll democracies like the united states and England, it’s always nice to know that 100 years after the end of colonization, the model is still to become white European lol , I’ll go home and tell all my friends

  35. Every political scientist knows that the spread of democracy isn‘t linear, there are bumps on the roads and steps back, even though in the long run democracy wins.
    And wealth and democracy are correlated, but resource-rich countries always have been outlyers, like Saudi, Venezuela and Russia. So it‘s not wealth that creates democracies, but wealth and democracy are both results of accountable, fair and efficient systems. Dictatorships are often inefficient and corrupt which is why only countries rich in natural resources can stay dictatorships without too much public opposition against mismanagement

  36. What?! Completely ignores the role of so-called democracies like USA in not only DE-DEMOCRATIZING the Middle East and Latin America, but also its own solid trend in de-democratization of black and native communities!

  37. Ok everyone in the comments needs to understand that we're not a democracy. We're a Republic, and its better that way.

  38. "You know, the path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back, and that's OK." President Obama.

  39. Democracy is: SOCIALISM,TYRANNY OF MOB RULE, ANTI-FREEDOM, ANTI-INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS, ITS CRAP!!! If Democracy were so great, then why did Greeks drop it like it was a hot potatoe?? America is a Constitutional Republic Article 4 section 4

  40. There is nothing wrong with democracy per se. There is a plenty wrong with the NYT propaganda. Civil polarization is a good thing; violent polarization is not. Thank God most of us here in sensible America grew tired of the polarizing, identity politics of Obama and Hillary and didn’t vote the recommendations of the NYT. Trump won for this reason: we got sick and tired of your pathetic, polarizing, name-calling identity politics!

  41. Your show should be called "The Brainwasher" …..people like you make me sick. The US is a republic and there is a difference. Did you know the word democracy is not in the constitution, declaration of independence, or any state constitution? Did you know founders despised democracy, as did Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle? Do you know why they hated it? I'm an anarchist, so I think any form of government is bad….but you gotta walk before you can run. Democracy is Tyranny.

  42. It's a joke to call the USA a full democracy. As both Jimmy Carter and Noam Chomsky have pointed out, the US is an oligarchy. As James Madison, the architect of the Constition said, "The purpose of government is to protect the opulent minority from the majority."

    Castro did not like communism, but the oligarchs in the USA were trying to destabilize his government so he had to turn to the only other world power.

    Donald Trump lost the popular vote. Without voter suppression, and vote rigging, he would have lost by a large margin.

    Why doesn't NYT do a story on why Hilary did not ask for a recount? A recount that would have surely made her president.

    It's up to the average person to get active and educated. There's a reason that Reagan took civics out of high school curricula.

  43. China took on some of the ideas of free market because communism wasn't doing it. Democracies only fail when socialism is introduced. Saudi Arabia never was a democracy. You need to unwind the commie/socialist propaganda from your brain and develop critical thinking.

  44. Saying that US has been a democracy since its creation is quite a stretch. The word Oligarchy is way more appropriate to describe a political system where a ruling elite (white males) vote for their leaders while segregating and denying any rights for others. American political system from 1776 until 1960ies was nothing more than pure Oligarchy, plain and simple, morally inferior to the Authoritarian governments. Anyone who says otherwise is either totally ignorant of American history, or purposefully spreads US government official propaganda and disinformation (like this Corporate NYT propaganda video).

  45. Shame on you for this piece of biased, irresponsible "historical analysis" at a time when far right extremists are threatening democracy and openly defending torture, all of course in the name of "democracy", because sure, only the left produced totalitarian regimes, the right is by definition democratic. Please review this video.

  46. You're calling the US a "Full Democracy"? Why? It's more deserving of a middle position. First Past the Post and a broken Electoral College, combined with unhinged authoritarian capitalism is making it far FAR from a "Full Democracy" – And you made this video in 2018??? Shame.

  47. Great points of view, I never thought on the fact that undemocratic nations could get richer without having to be democratic. It only takes a good or bad leadership on a country to make it or break it.

  48. First there was one democracy, NO, It was not the USA but Athens circa 500 BC, You have to stop being so Americanocentric, It doeesnt matter if Americans are liberal conservative or whatever,,,they are ALL Americanocentric,

  49. 1:30 "Look at Russia"

    ok, I did, so you're telling me the Russian part of the Soviet Union got progressively more democratic until 1968?

  50. This is a good analysis but you ignore that all of this populist movements have in common that the size of the state is so big that it becomes impossible to transition from a leader to the next. Most of them are either socialist or fascist and they both want to accumulate social control and the monopoly of violence reserved for the state.

  51. Constitutional Republic… do you really not know this?! NYT big problem of the problem… controlled narrative

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