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Democracy’s distressing retreat

FILE - In this July 14, 2017 file photo, French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Pierre de Villiers, right, drive down the Champs Elysees avenue during Bastille Day parade in Paris. Macron's government is unveiling a bill to boost military spending, notably amid demands by NATO and President Donald Trump for European countries to pitch in more for their own defense. (AP/Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

Ten years ago, Stanford professor Larry Diamond – a recent guest on my radio show – noted the world was suffering a “democracy recession” with self-government and civil liberties in retreat almost everywhere.

When the Soviet Empire collapsed 30 years ago, some observers proclaimed “The End of History” with permanent victory for the ideals of personal liberty and free markets. But with the rise of authoritarian powers like China, Iran and Putin’s Russia, that process seems to have reversed.

Even in NATO nations like Turkey and Hungary, not to mention developing states like South Africa, Venezuela and Brazil, democracy seems imperiled by corruption and extremism. The Economist publishes a Democracy Index highlighting 60 indicators that found most of the 167 measured nations saw lower scores last year.

There’s no easy fix for this disturbing trend, but the United States could help the situation by setting an example for democratic governance with less polarization, acrimony and gridlock than we display today.

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