Some people see this picture and say: Hey, look! Democracy is backsliding. We should do something.
I see this picture and think: We’ve reached a stable equilibrium. Europe, countries settled by Europeans, and countries colonized by Europeans for prolonged periods of time all enjoy market-oriented, liberal democratic regimes of varying degrees of stability.
Here’s how I think about Egypt: I wish the protesters well, but I suspect that democratic transitions outside this hazily-defined Euro-American zone of influence are a long way off. I’ve quoted this excerpt from Electing to Fight elsewhere, but I think it’s particularly relevant in an Egyptian context:
The “third wave” of democratization in the 1980s and 1990s consolidated democratic regimes mainly in the richer countries of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Southern Africa, and East Asia. A fourth wave would involve more challenging cases: countries that are poorer, more ethnically divided, ideologically more resistant to democracy, with more entrenched authoritarian elites and with a much frailer base of governmental institutions and citizen-skills. Botched democratizations in such settings could give rise to grave threats to international peace and security.
Egypt may liberalize one day, possibly even in the near future, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a region less hospitable to Western political traditions than the Middle East. For the most part, the countries most susceptible to Western influence have already transitioned away from authoritarianism; all that’s left now are the real hard cases.
(Map courtesy of The Economist, via)