In 1989, the noted political scientist Francis Fukuyama predicted what he called “The End of History.” In his view, the struggle between Western liberalism and Soviet communism functioned as the primary driver of world events—thus with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, liberalism had won the battle, and eventually the world would fall into a quiet political consensus incorporating those values.
Of course, Fukuyama didn’t envision that the rising tide of Islamofascism would rush in to fill that void, culminating in the attacks of September 11, even if all the signs were there at the time. Nor did he anticipate the political realignment that would occur as a result, with smaller regional powers such as Iran pursuing nuclear weapons and ramping up support of terrorism in furtherance of its own hegemonic ambitions, or the hermit kingdom of North Korea actually getting the bomb and becoming a more than just a threat to its southern neighbor. In those respects, history proved far more resilient than Fukuyama imagined.
That’s one of the reasons I’m skeptical when any academic makes a sweeping pronouncement about the end of anything. As we’ve seen repeatedly, these predictions usually don’t have much of a shelf life. Whether it’s peak oil, the population bomb, the coming ice age or global warming Armageddon, the so-called experts have been wrong at least as many times as they’ve been right, so it would behoove us all to take whatever they say with a grain of salt. With that in mind, I would urge caution rather than panic when coming across headlines like this:
The Shocking Paper Predicting the End of Democracy
Human brains aren’t built for self-rule, says Shawn Rosenberg. That’s more evident than ever.
Shawn Rosenberg? Wasn’t he the wacky psychiatrist Richard Benjamin played in Love At First Bite?
Rosenberg, a professor at UC Irvine, was challenging a core assumption about America and the West. His theory? Democracy is devouring itself—his phrase — and it won’t last.
Oh, right. He’s a different kind of PhD—the kind who doesn’t much think of Joe Sixpack’s ability to govern himself. If you ever had any doubts as to the genuine disdain those who consider themselves our intellectual betters have for hoi polloi, read on and be enlightened:
As much as President Donald Trump’s liberal critics might want to lay America’s ills at his door, Rosenberg says the president is not the cause of democracy’s fall—even if Trump’s successful anti-immigrant populist campaign may havebeen a symptom of democracy’s decline.
We’re to blame, said Rosenberg. As in “we the people.”
One can almost hear him sniff, “Well, those people, anyway.”
Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and public figures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists.
His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”
Hmm. Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant populism… Angsty voters turning to right-wing populists… I’m beginning to sense a pattern here.
Rosenberg, who earned degrees at Yale, Oxford and Harvard, may be the social scientist for our time if events play out as he suggests they will. His theory is that over the next few decades, the number of large Western-style democracies around the globe will continue to shrink, and those that remain will become shells of themselves. Taking democracy’s place, Rosenberg says, will be right-wing populist governments that offer voters simple answers to complicated questions.
And again with the right-wingers. Could it be that Rosenberg doesn’t have a problem with the rabble so much as he has a problem with the wrong kind of rabble?
And therein lies the core of his argument: Democracy is hard work and requires a lot from those who participate in it. It requires people to respect those with different views from theirs and people who don’t look like them. It asks citizens to be able to sift through large amounts of information and process the good from the bad, the true from the false. It requires thoughtfulness, discipline and logic.
Unfortunately, evolution did not favor the exercise of these qualities in the context of a modern mass democracy.
In other words, if you don’t have the correct opinions—i.e., those of which Rosenberg and his fellow elites would approve—you’re unable to sift good information from bad, and far too susceptible to suggestion to have a say-so in how your own society is run. Of course, that doesn’t include the masses who never question the left-wing demagoguery that passes for news these days, because they’re content to do and think just what they’re told. Good citizens should also know their place.
[Rosenberg] has concluded that the reason for right-wing populists’ recent success is that “elites” are losing control of the institutions that have traditionally saved people from their most undemocratic impulses. When people are left to make political decisions on their own they drift toward the simple solutions right-wing populists worldwide offer: a deadly mix of xenophobia, racism and authoritarianism.
And there you have it: It’s the job of the elites to save people from themselves! Who gets to determine membership in the elite and why they’re so exceptionally qualified to run our lives for us is never mentioned—but alas, it isn’t up to us to question their wisdom or benevolence. We just owe them our fealty. After all, it’s the least we poor, unwashed rubes can do.
All kidding aside, what we’re witnessing here is the Left’s reaction to the wholesale rejection of their agenda. If the public no longer trusts the elite media because of its overt bias and hostility to a nation’s traditional values, the problem isn’t the media’s credibility—it’s the public’s ability to sift truth from lies. And if voters don’t deliver the results the political elite wants, the problem isn’t with the elite’s candidates or policies—it’s the voters’ inability to process complex issues. Therefore, in the Left’s view, the only solution is to do away with democracy altogether—and while we’re at it, get rid of the pesky free speech that allows the proliferation of dangerous ideas.
It’s no coincidence that all this is popping up in the age of Donald Trump and Brexit—perhaps the two greatest repudiations of the Leftist project. That’s why Democrats in this country have spent the last two years abusing the powers of the state to overturn Trump’s election, and why the Remainers in Great Britain’s government have tried everything to thwart the will of their own people. What is interesting to see, however, is how the Left is increasingly dispensing with their lip service to democracy and openly advocating totalitarianism.
Then again, how else are the elites going to shove their policies down everyone’s throats?