Are dictatorships becoming the preferred model?....
Bret Stephens writes that dictators are riding higher in the polls than Western democracies (think Putin v. Obama):
Maybe it's something in the water. Or the culture. Or the religion. Or the educational system. Or the level of economic development. Or the underhanded ways in which authoritarian leaders manipulate media and suppress dissent. The West rarely runs out of explanations for why institutions of freedom—presumably fit for all people for all time—seem to fit only some people, sometimes.
But maybe there's something else at work. Maybe the West mistook the collapse of communism—just one variant of dictatorship—as a vindication of liberal democracy. Maybe the West forgot that it needed to justify its legitimacy not only in the language of higher democratic morality. It needed to show that the morality yields benefits: higher growth, lower unemployment, better living.
Poor performance undermines even successful models, and will eventually undermine dictators too:
A West that prefers debt-subsidized welfarism over economic growth will not offer much in the way of an attractive model for countries in a hurry to modernize. A West that consistently sacrifices efficiency on the altars of regulation, litigation and political consensus will lose the dynamism that makes the risks inherent in free societies seem worthwhile. A West that shrinks from maintaining global order because doing so is difficult or discomfiting will invite challenges from nimble adversaries willing to take geopolitical gambles.
At some point the momentum will shift back. That, too, is inevitable. The dictators will err; their corruption will become excessive; their cynicism will become transparent to their own rank-and-file. A new democratic wave will begin to build.
Whether that takes five years or 50 depends on what the West does now. Five years is a blip. Fifty is the tragedy of a lifetime.
Except, I would caution: dictators have ways of staying in power not available to democracies. Also: what if voters--let alone, what if courts--prefer identity to performance, and vote for someone because of color, gender or some other immutable characteristic--or, just as bad, because of emotional satisfaction derived from a belief that a candidate "cares about me"?
That is how one gets governments that fail for decades--think Detroit, the District of Columbia, California. The presidential contest in 2016 will see if voters choose identity over performance, as they did in 2008 & 2012, despite the president's abysmal first term.
Bottom Line. No victory is permanent, and voters can over time unlearn lessons that were thought to have been learned for all time.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Economy, National Security, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics