Can We Still Be Optimistic With Illiberalism on the Rise?

The latest Freedom of the World report was recently released with some worrisome–though not surprising–news:

  • With populist and nationalist forces making significant gains in democratic states, 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
  • There were setbacks in political rights, civil liberties, or both, in a number of countries rated “Free” by the report, including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States.
  • Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 (45 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 49 (25 percent) Not Free.
  • The Middle East and North Africa region had the worst ratings in the world in 2016, followed closely by Eurasia.

The report is appropriately titled “Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy.” We’ve written about the dangers of populism here at Difficult Run before and how closed societies are detrimental to flourishing. Despite it being “the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom,” it’s worth noting the long-term trend:

More people live in democracies than ever before:

Let’s hope this recent downturn in global freedom is just a blip in an overall positive trajectory.