Foreign Policy Digital

The Evolution of the Strongman

Why authoritarians have grown more liberal as democracies have grown more authoritarian.

Even as news programs sound alarms about democracy in crisis, the truth is that authoritarian regimes govern a smaller percentage of the world’s countries today than at any time in the post-World War II era. The percentage of authoritarian regimes in power peaked in the late 1970s at the height of the Cold War, reaching about 75 percent. By 2000, just under 50 percent of countries were governed by authoritarian regimes. As of 2017, a scant 38 percent were.

So why all of the doomsday talk about ? Well, although it has become somewhat rare for democracies to fully collapse into autocracy—indeed only two arguably did so in 2016 (Turkey and Nicaragua) and none in 2017—many democracies today are moving in the authoritarian direction. This is troubling because,.

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