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Yes democratic governance has stood the test of time. However, in its very attractiveness it can be dangerous. While that is understandable (people everywhere want the quick fix), it is easy to forget that in Britain democracy, as the Brits now know it, was some 1200 years in birthing and developing. American style democracy has had some two and a half centuries to define itself while becoming the new empire with an economic twist. Both of those political events rode the backs of innovation and development of infrastructure. Along with those achievements, democratic ideals became institutionalized. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand followed the same template, but with governance of the parliamentary type instead of the American tri-partite style. After WWII, Western Europe embraced democracy as did India and other remnants of the British empire.

In 1973 there were 45 democracies world-wide. The implosion of the USSR added many more. By 1995 or so, fully 120 nations were elective democracies. But all was not well with many of the newcomers, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela being type examples in rolling back gains in individual freedoms. Still others, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were unable to move toward full democratic governance. None of those stepping back or halting had evolved slowly, so their populaces were simply not ready for democracy in the Western sense. Ukraine went so far as to elect a totalitarian to replace a democrat.

We note however that China took a third path. China retained its one-party system, but liberalized significantly by turning capitalism loose and is now fast developing a middle class and an infrastructure worthy of envy.

Whether this step back will be permanent is not knowable. But suffice to say a malaise has set in and affects most western democracies. In the midst of this political upheaval, came the excesses in the newly globalized financial arena that led to the most serious and threatening down-turn since the Great Depression. That in turn has been blamed on Clinton, who, to save his political life, agreed with Republican legislators to sign legislation freeing the banking industry of the critical restraints that had been so effective in preventing financial panics after the Great Depression.

Our system of governance may indeed be as fragile as the thin membrane within each of us that separates our violent and peaceful clusters of traits. See Zimbardo , The Five Pillars and the links therefrom for more on these issues.


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