Does democracy have a future? Once, the tendency was to assume that the only future following “the end of history” would be one of free markets and liberal democracies. But in the 1990s and 2000s, vicious conflicts around the edges of the developed world led to the question of whether such a future was attainable by everyone. Moreover, the rise of nihilistic, religiously inspired terrorism signaled that some people desired an altogether different end to history.
To some observers, recent political developments imply that even voters in the free world don’t always want history to stay “ended.” We see instead the rise of political movements that eschew the trappings of open representative governance and explicitly reject classically liberal economics.
The latest effort to make theoretical sense of these movements arrives via economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientist James A. Robinson. In “The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty,” they explore why liberal democracy is so hard to achieve in the first place, despite the considerable political and economic fruits it offers.