The dismantling of freedom begins with attacks on unfettered media and an independent judiciary
Nothing ages so badly as visions of the future. When the fall of the Berlin Wall was followed by the implosion of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama celebrated by publishing his bestseller, The End of History and the Last Man. The book argued that, with the demise of its main ideological competitor, the world would belong to liberal democracy. He has been much mocked since for failing to foresee that democracy would face the emergence of fresh threats and the resurgence of old foes in new guises in the shape of nationalism, religious extremism, autocratic capitalism, unaccountable tech titans, cyber warfare and even, in the case of North Korea, legacy Stalinism. But fair’s fair. For a while at least, his thesis was true.
The end of the Cold War accelerated what is sometimes referred to as “the third wave” of democratisation in the late 20th century. The peoples of eastern Europe were liberated to choose their own governments. African presidents-for-life were sent into retirement. Much of Latin America, once a grisly tableau of coups, insurgencies, juntas and death squads, embraced the tenets of democracy. India was no longer a shining exception to autocracy in developing Asia, as more of the world’s most populous continent followed the democratic path. By the turn of the century, more than 100 countries could be reasonably classified as democracies, albeit often flawed ones. A hundred years before, you could barely find 10 democracies on the world map. If your definition of democracy includes, as really it ought to, women having the vote, then there was New Zealand by 1900 and some bits of Australia and that was it.