Democracy and Freedom – Mediocrity is a threat

GIS – Comment by Prince Michael of Liechtenstein*

Democracy and Freedom | People in Western democracies are losing trust in government, but that is hardly a surprise. Political mediocrity has caused leaders to make promises they cannot keep while shunning other points of view. Nothing less than freedom itself is at stake.

democracy and freedom
Democracy and freedom. Too often, politicians choose the easy route of promising solutions on which they cannot deliver and denouncing all dissenting voices as “radical” instead of standing for their principles, engaging in healthy debate and solving difficult problems. © GIS

Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill uttered these words in 1947, and today they remain as true as ever.

In line with this important topic, please mark your calendar: XVI. International Gottfried v. Haberler Conference 'On the Morality of the State and the State of Political Morals' May 20, 2022 in Vaduz (Principality of Liechtenstein)

Since democracy is better than all of the other forms of government we have tried, one might expect that in Western democracies, trust in government and its institutions would be high. This is not the case. For many years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has measured the relationship between people and their governments. Citing the 2022 edition of the measure, Reuters pointed out that it had fallen to “new lows.” However, it also showed rising scores in autocratic states like China.

“The biggest losers of public trust over the last year,” the article continues, “were institutions in Germany, down 7 points to 46, Australia at 53 (-6), the Netherlands at 57 (-6), South Korea at 42 (-5) and the United States at 43 (-5). By contrast, public trust in institutions in China stood at 83 percent, up 11 points, 76 percent in the United Arab Emirates (+9) and 66 percent in Thailand (+5).” Businesses, however, “retained strong levels of trust globally,” due to their role in “developing vaccines and adapting workplace and retail practices.”

These are woeful scores for the “liberal democracies.” But what might be the underlying reason? Like many good things, democracy is susceptible to misuse. Many systems label themselves “democratic” though they have no democratic qualities whatsoever. The former German Democratic Republic or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea come to mind.

Other places may have leaderships that act in a rather autocratic manner but have nevertheless been selected in a democratic way – Singapore is one example. In yet other places, there are successful democracies based on wide decentralization and the principle of subsidiarity, coupled with a strong element of direct democracy, such as in Switzerland. Most Western countries have systems of representative democracies with different degrees of centralization and federalism.

However, democracy is under constant threat – as is freedom. Just as freedom is a precious public good and must continuously be defended, so must democracy. The challenge for democracy is less autocracy, but rather two other phenomena: populism on one side and excessive bureaucracy (sometimes called “technocracy”) on the other …

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Political Mediocrity


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