Fareed: The Threat to Democracy Isn’t Just from Where You Think

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

September 14, 2018

Fareed: The Threat to Democracy Isn't Just from Where You Think

There's growing concern that democracy is on the retreat around the world. But the erosion of core democratic norms isn't just coming from the right, Fareed argues in his latest Washington Post column. The left should look in the mirror, too.
 
The fear that many on the left have is not that figures like Steve Bannon are "dull and uninteresting, but the opposite—that his ideas, some of which can reasonably be described as evoking white nationalism, will prove seductive and persuasive to too many people," Fareed writes.
 
"Hence his detractors' solution: Don't give him a platform, and hope that this will make his ideas go away. But they won't. In fact, by trying to suppress Bannon and others on the right, liberals are likely making their ideas seem more potent. Did the efforts of communist countries to muzzle capitalist ideas work?"
 

The Big Winner of the Financial Crisis?

Tomorrow marks 10 years since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection. Philip Stephens suggests for the Financial Times that while the financial crisis was a devastating blow for the West, there was one country whose fortunes it arguably transformed for the better: China.
 
The financial crisis saw the "collapse of the US-designed international system and of the liberal market worldview embedded in the Washington consensus. Previous crashes had hit Asia, or Latin America. This failure struck at the system's core," Stephens writes.
 
"The resulting psychological boost for rising nations of the east and south—and for none more than China—was as significant as the heavy economic costs imposed on rich democracies by recession and austerity. China acted decisively to mitigate the deflationary impact of the crash. Europe opted for self-defeating fiscal austerity.
 
"The emperor had shed his clothes. The end-of-history theorizing so fashionable after the fall of Soviet communism was revealed as hubris — an impression bolstered further by the West's slide towards populism and beggar-thy-neighbor nationalism."
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When Two Tribes Go to War

Tribalism doesn't necessarily have to be about ethnicity or religion, write Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld in The Atlantic. "[P]olitical loyalties can become tribal too. When they do, they can be as destructive as any other allegiance." Just look at the United States today.
 
"The causes of America's resurgent tribalism are many. They include seismic demographic change, which has led to predictions that whites will lose their majority status within a few decades; declining social mobility and a growing class divide; and media that reward expressions of outrage," they write.
 
"All of this has contributed to a climate in which every group in America—minorities and whites; conservatives and liberals; the working class and elites—feels under attack, pitted against the others not just for jobs and spoils, but for the right to define the nation's identity. In these conditions, democracy devolves into a zero-sum competition, one in which parties succeed by stoking voters' fears and appealing to their ugliest us-versus-them instincts."

The Fish Fights Are Coming

As the world has focused on terrorism and great power rivalry, another potential source of conflict has largely been overlooked, writes Kate Higgins-Bloom in Foreign Policy. Get ready for the fish fights.
 
"Part of a middle-class lifestyle is a middle-class diet, which includes far more protein than poor people consume. As a result of that shift, the global demand for protein will outpace population growth, increasing between 32 and 78 percent, according to some estimates. Meeting that demand could require an additional 62 to 159 million metric tons of protein per year," Higgins-Bloom writes.
 
"The supply of both wild and farmed fish will not keep up. The current annual global catch of seafood is 94 million metric tons. And all around the world, the wild populations of both migratory fish, such as tuna, and less mobile species, such as flounder, are being overfished. Scarcity has already forced Chinese fishing fleets further and further afield in search of their catch."
 
"The political leaders of rising powers will feel enormous pressure to secure the resources their citizens demand—even if it means violating international norms and rules."
 

How Syria Could Get Even Messier

As the war appears to be nearing an end, the focus is turning toward shaping post-conflict Syria. But differing visions for the country's future could leave two apparent allies on opposite sides, suggests Con Coughlin for The National.

"Moscow's approach is, in essence, governed by the principles of realpolitik, which in the case of Syria simply means the military presence it has enjoyed in the country since the Cold War," Coughlin writes.

The Iranians, meanwhile, "believe they have every right to reward themselves by establishing a permanent military presence in Syria, thereby enabling to improve their offensive capabilities against Israel.

"But this tactic is unlikely to go down well in the Kremlin, where Mr Putin has developed a good relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."
 

Some Good News on Inequality

Developing countries are closing the quality of life gap with their wealthier peers, The Economist notes, citing data from the UN's Human Development Index (HDI).
 
"The index combines four simple measures: life-expectancy at birth; gross national income per person; average years of education; and expected years of school," The Economist says.
 
"In 1990 a child born in sub-Saharan Africa could expect to live just 50 years. Today, assuming current mortality trends persist, newborns can expect to live for 61 years. As a result, the gap in life-expectancy between the world's poorest region and the global average has narrowed by four years. Similar gains have been registered in educational outcomes and income, meaning that all 189 countries with HDI scores have improved their marks since 1990, by an average of 0.5% a year. Just seven countries have seen a reduction in their HDI score since 2010, often as a result of war or famine."

 

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