The Retreat of Global Democracy

A nasty, unintended side-effect of globalization is its corrosive effect on democracy. Even if individual countries are becoming more democratic, it seems, the sum of global democracy is shrinking thanks in no small part to globalization.

Democracy means many things, but at its core it requires that people choose their rulers and that votes be weighted equally. But globalization means that nations and peoples can exert an asymmetric influence. America can cut off trade with Cuba not only by curtailing its own trade but by threatening punitive action against others who trade or invest in Cuba. Cuba, however, can do little to hurt America's economy. Likewise, China can injure Taiwan in ways that Taiwan cannot reciprocate.

Of course, the powerful have always encroached on the sovereignty of others. Take the story, perhaps apocryphal, of an Indian diplomat showing a map of South Asia to Stalin. "India is a very big country," Stalin observed, and then pointing to Sri Lanka said, "What is the name of this little Indian island?" "That is not an Indian island, sir," the diplomat replied, "it is a sovereign nation." "Why? "Stalin asked.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now