Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1524762938: "Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves.... Chávez in Venezuela... Georgia, Hungary, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Ukraine. Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box...

...The electoral road to breakdown is dangerously deceptive. With a classic coup d’état, as in Pinochet’s Chile, the death of a democracy is immediate and evident to all. The presidential palace burns. The president is killed, imprisoned, or shipped off into exile. The constitution is suspended or scrapped. On the electoral road, none of these things happen. There are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance. Many government efforts to subvert democracy are “legal,” in the sense that they are approved by the legislature or accepted by the courts. They may even be portrayed as efforts to improve democracy—making the judiciary more efficient, combating corruption, or cleaning up the electoral process. Newspapers still publish but are bought off or bullied into self-censorship. Citizens continue to criticize the government but often find themselves facing tax or other legal troubles.

This sows public confusion. People do not immediately realize what is happening. Many continue to believe they are living under a democracy. In 2011, when a Latinobarómetro survey asked Venezuelans to rate their own country from 1 (“not at all democratic”) to 10 (“completely democratic”), 51 percent of respondents gave their country a score of 8 or higher. Because there is no single moment—no coup, declaration of martial law, or suspension of the constitution—in which the regime obviously “crosses the line” into dictatorship, nothing may set off society’s alarm bells. Those who denounce government abuse may be dismissed as exaggerating or crying wolf. Democracy’s erosion is, for many, almost imperceptible...


#noted

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