This time it’s the end of democracy: Fukuyama and big-tech

How to Save Democracy From Technology: Ending Big Tech’s Information Monopoly puts forward a confused and inadequate set of arguments concerning the “gigantic Internet platforms Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter”. Its focus on yesterday’s technological challenges while tomorrow’s threats are almost upon us is disappointing, and misses where the real threat to democracy and individual freedom is beginning to take form.

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Cancel culture and the Harper’s Letter: a moan from the Ivory Tower or call to the liberal battlements?

The Letter on Justice and Open Debate published on 7 July 2020 and signed by 150 noted authors, academics, and public intellectuals cuts straight to a key fault line in liberalism. A collection of privileged individuals are claiming an unfettered right to say or write whatever they wish on the grounds that this right is the “lifeblood of a liberal society”. If this highly contestable claim is correct, it can then be asked if a liberal society is justifiable.

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Confronting global warming and other looming crises: can democracies marshall the necessary expertise?

Confronting the dramatic trends taking place in the rates of global warming, destruction of the environment, extinction of biodiversity, and global social injustice urgently requires unprecedented societal and economic transformations. Can major democratic economies overcome the combination of disillusionment with government and distrust of experts, and position themselves to bring about the transformations these crises demand?

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Inequality and repression undermine democracy and market economy worldwide (BTI Transformational Index)

The latest BTI Transformation Index shows that the rule of law and political freedoms are being eroded in an increasing number of democracies, and the number of people who are governed poorly and less democratically is increasing worldwide. The BTI ratings for quality of democracy, market economy and governance have dropped to their lowest level.

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Securitisation – turning problems into threats (Allan Behm)

One of the more disturbing tendencies of modern governments is ‘securitisation’ – transforming policy problems into threats, thereby elevating them into the national security domain. In many western democracies security is accorded pre-eminent status among the various domains of public policy, creating the preconditions for securitisation to elevate the levels of state intervention in a way that displays, emphasises and enhances the power of the state and its control over its citizens.

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Year of the rat. The strategic consequences of the coronavirus crisis (Bruno Tertrais)

Bruno Tertrais proposes a provocative list of trends might be exacerbated or accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. The list begs the tantalising question of how each of these trends might impact on the progress and direction of the others. How might the decline of globalisation affect the rise in authoritarianism and the risk of conflict? How might sovereignism and isolationism retard responses to the ecological and climate crises of the Anthropocene?

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Serbian democracy: a case of state capture? (BCSP)

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) has produced a disturbing report on what it describes as the “deliberate political undertaking in which political actors use the consequences (both real and imagined) of the previous government as justification for the complete capture of the state’s institutions” in Serbia. At a time when the EU is struggling to live up to its core political values, the Serbian government’s commitment to the rule of law and separation

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The Deep State conspiracy theory: Is Trump laying the groundwork for The Great Presidential Robbery?

Should US presidential hopeful Joe Biden prevail in November, the grounds will have been laid for Donald Trump to cry foul – with the potential for a crisis of political legitimacy. Australian policymakers, struggling with balancing the economic relationship with China and the security relationship with the US, should be following domestic trends in America with nervous apprehension.

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Historical amnesia: Great power behaviour and criticism of China

Positioning the adversarial relationship with China as one of morally superior western democratic nations in competition with a somehow illegitimate and malevolent China is an exercise in historical amnesia. The democratic United State’s 1890 – 1920 trajectory from western hemisphere state to global power has some economic, military and foreign policy parallels with authoritarian China’s growth in the twenty-first century.

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Global dissatisfaction with democracy at record high (Cambridge)

According to a report released in January 2020 by the Bennett Institute (Cambridge), many large democracies are now at their highest-ever recorded level for democratic dissatisfaction, including the UK, US, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. Many large democracies are now at their highest-ever recorded level for democratic dissatisfaction, including the UK, US, Brazil, Mexico and Australia A report released in January 2020 by the new Centre for the Future of Democracy at the Bennett Institute, University

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Evgeny Morozov: COVID-19 and the relationship of capitalism, neoliberalism and technology’s ‘solutionism’

In government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evgeny Morozov sees a ‘feast of solutionism’ being unleashed. [W]e can see two distinct strands of solutionism in government responses to the pandemic. “Progressive solutionists” propose that timely, app-based exposure to the right information could “nudge” people to behave in the public interest, while “punitive solutionists”, by contrast, want to use surveillance infrastructure to monitor and manage daily activities. The risk, he argues, is that the pandemic will supercharge the solutionist state, … creating an excuse to fill the political vacuum with anti-democratic practices.

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Geostrategic shifts in a time of contagion

The COVID-19 crisis will affect the global geostrategic situation in a number of ways. Economic conditions within nation states and across the globalised world will have shifted; governments will be juggling austerity policies, tax increases and welfare demands. Liberal and democratic values, and confidence in political leadership, are likely to have suffered. And internationally, the future geostrategic situation could turn on whether China or the US bounces back best from the current predicament.

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What COVID-19 tells us about preparing for global warming

While it is difficult to see an inflection point during a crisis, missing that moment is potentially catastrophic. To subsequently persist with former paradigms when the world has shifted is folly. The artefacts of neo-liberal economics—globalised production, transnational supply chains, international finance, the erosion of the welfare state, and the abandonment of responsibility to the faceless market by governments—have produced a world not-fit-for-purpose in a crisis.

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David Runciman: Coronavirus has not suspended politics – it has revealed the nature of power

In an article in The Guardian, David Runciman shows how the pandemic has removed “one layer of political life to reveal something more raw underneath”. He writes, “As Hobbes knew, to exercise political rule is to have the power of life and death over citizens. The only reason we would possibly give anyone that power is because we believe it is the price we pay for our collective safety. But it also means that we

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Liberal democracy: the prognosis post-COVID-19

Gloomy assessments of the status and prospects for liberal democracy are increasingly common, reflected in numerous surveys and a range of research which variously blames neoliberalism, globalisation, capitalism, media and the failure of democratic institutions. Governments’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic seem likely to at best aggravate the current trend and at worst accelerate it. The prognosis for liberal democracy post-Covid-19 is not auspicious.

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The Trumping of international law and democratic institutions

Past US presidents used the potency of the American liberal democratic ideal to rally like-minded nations and to rein in and chasten the world’s miscreants. The liberty and justice rhetoric appealed to and generated hope among peoples suffering under autocracy and oppression. The ideal inspired, and could be leveraged for influence. But under President Trump, the important institutions of constitutional democracy and international law have suffered serious damage, and the long-term prospects for peace and stability have been undercut as a result.

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Thuringia and European democracy after Merkel

In German politics, a strong party taboo was broken when Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party joined with the centrist Free Democrat Party leader in Thuringia, Thomas Kemmerich, to form a government with the support of the right wing Alternative for Germany. The breaking of the taboo might reflect the passing of the generation of Angela Merkel, shaped by the complex social, political and economic legacy of the Nazi past, a divided Germany, post-Soviet national reunification and the emergence of the European Union.

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