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When Democracy Gets Old

Beyond a respect for basic democratic processes and values, one thing that the world's democracies share is that they are all skewing older. Insofar as this trend leaves them more risk-averse and less capable of generating a long-term vision, it may be time to consider lowering the voting age.

ROME – This week, US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual Summit for Democracy, to be followed in roughly a year’s time by a second in-person gathering of leaders from around the world. More than 100 governments have been invited to attend.

Granted, not all invitees are democratic stalwarts. In fact, the democratic credentials of many are questionable, to say the least. Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Serbia made the cut, despite their authoritarian leanings, and geopolitical considerations also led the White House to include Brazil, India, the Philippines, and Poland, notwithstanding those countries’ democratic backsliding in recent years.

In any case, the more interesting question concerns those countries whose democratic credentials are not in doubt. Do they have common characteristics beyond the fact that they hold free and fair elections, maintain the rule of law, and ensure freedom of expression and other individual rights?