The end of The End of History

Sombre column in Spiegel Online occasioned by the political infighting in Berlin:

The idea that democracy was somehow the endpoint of development was megalomaniac. As long as there is something to redistribute, every system has it easy. But in the past 11 years, freedom around the world has receded. Of 195 states only 87 are still free, 59 are partially free and 49 are not free at all according to the NGO Freedom House. Turkey and Russia have turned their backs on the group of democracies while Poland and Hungary look to be not far behind. Meanwhile, the United States is foundering. One would hope that should be enough to focus minds in Berlin. There is, after all, a lot at stake.

There is. The thing that struck me about the column, though, was the reference to our complacency about the inevitability of liberal democracy. I love Francis Fukuyama’s two books about political order (‘origins’ and ‘decay’), but the first volume, in particular, is a bit like Darwin’s Origin of Species — with liberal democracy coming to serve as the political version of Homo Sapiens. (That’s what “getting to Denmark” was all about.)

The problem is that evolution is an ongoing process. Even Homo Sapiens continues to evolve, but at a relatively leisurely pace. Political evolution, on the other hand, runs at a much faster pace. Liberal democracy might, in the longer view of history, just turn out to be a blip.