jair bolsonaro protest Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Why is Democracy Faltering?

While technological progress has brought important gains, it has also left many segments of the population feeling vulnerable, anxious, and angry, fueling a crisis of democratic legitimacy. Though it is not immediately clear how we can confront this crisis, it is clear that business as usual won't cut it.

NEW YORK – Jair Bolsonaro, the frontrunner for the Brazilian presidency, is a far-right, gun-loving, media-baiting hyper-nationalist. The fact that he would be right at home among many of today’s global leaders – including the leaders of some of the world’s major democracies – should worry us all. This compels us to address the question: Why is democracy faltering?

We are at a historical turning point. Rapid technological progress, particularly the rise of digital technology and artificial intelligence, is transforming how our economies and societies function. While such technologies have brought important gains, they have also raised serious challenges – and left many segments of the population feeling vulnerable, anxious, and angry.

One consequence of recent technological progress has been a decline in the relative share of wages in GDP. As a relatively small number of people have claimed a growing piece of the pie, in the form of rents and profits, surging inequality of wealth and income has fueled widespread frustration with existing economic and political arrangements.