Tom Ginsburg Interviewed on How Authoritarians Undermine Democracies

"Today's Authoritarians Are Very Creative At Turning Democratic Institutions To Their advantage" : Interview With Tom Ginsburg

SP: Your recent book "How to Save a Constitutional Democracy" has stirred considerable interest in view of the recent disturbing phenomena of 'democratic backsliding' which is taking place in many democracies. How widespread is this phenomena across the globe?

Tom: Unfortunately, very widespread. Political scientists tell us that the number of democracies around the world peaked in 2006, and that the numbers have been declining since then. 'Backsliding' refers to previously established democracies declining in quality, sometimes to the point where we can no longer use the term. Venezuela is a good example, and Poland and Hungary are coming close. To be sure, there are some positive stories, including this year's events in the Maldives and Sri Lanka. But there is significant concern, even in large countries like yours and mine.

SP: Democracy it is believed was born in 507 BC in Athens launched by Cleisthenes,the Alcmaend. Isn't it ironic that after 2500 years we are now witnessing erosion of democracy,instead of evolving more sophisticated forms of democracy with far more stronger institutions? With the technological and scientific advancement we are faced with this situation of 'backsliding of democracy' which is mirroring in many parts of the globe?

Tom: On one level it is a surprise, but on the other hand it may make some sense. Technological and economic change involve significant disruption, and that makes people ripe for simple solutions. A lot of authoritarians tell people simple stories about how an enemy is responsible for all their problems.

Another thing is that technology makes surveillance easier. And it opens up democracies to external manipulation of the media, which can be done instantaneously and invisibly. So perhaps we should expect some difficulties with democracy in our current era.

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Constitutional democracy