Thursday, March 17, 2022

How Old is Democracy?

The animated map above shows the number of years each country in the world has been democratic at twenty year intervals from 1872-2021. Our World in Data's How Old are Democracies Around the World? interactive map shows that even in countries where people enjoy the right to vote the age of their democracy is still relatively young. 

As Our World in Data succinctly notes 

"This means that for most people, life under authoritarianism is either their current experience, or they remember a time when it was".

According to the classification of democracy used by Our World in Data only around half of the countries in the world are currently under democratic control. Only eight countries (Canada, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have been electoral democracies for a century or more. 

Of course the definition of democracy is open to debate. In 200 Years Ago Everyone Lacked Democratic Rights Our World in Data classifies every country in the world into one of four categories; Closed Autocracy, Electoral Autocracy, Electoral Democracy and Liberal Democracy. This is based on the Regimes of the World (RoW) classification system developed by political scientists Anna L├╝hrmann, Marcus Tannenberg, and Staffan Lindberg. 

An interactive map in this Our World in Data article shows which one of these four categories every country in the world fell into for every year since 1789. 

An accompanying graph shows the number of people living in democracies during this same period.This graph show that throughout the 20th Century the number of people living in electoral and liberal democracies steadily grew larger and larger, until over half of the world's population were living in a democracy at the beginning of the 21st Century. Unfortunately in 2019 India became an electoral autocracy (according to the Our World in Data classifications) which resulted in 1.4 billion people immediately having their democratic rights curtailed.

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