Why spite could destroy liberal democracy

As communism imploded in 1989, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama asked if liberal democracy was “the end of history,” being the form all societies were meant to take. The last few decades have suggested not. Illiberal democracies and democratic-authoritarian hybrid regimes continue to emerge.

Fukuyama has foreseen this possibility. He felt that citizens dissatisfied with freedom and equality could destabilize liberal democracy – starting history over again so to speak. One way for them to do it, I realized then that write a book about wickedness is whether such dissatisfaction has led to acts of wickedness.

So I think supporters of liberal democracy need to understand the danger of resentment.

The need for recognition

Fukuyama argued that political struggle provokes history. This struggle tries to solve the problem of thymos – an ancient Greek term referring to our desire to have our value recognized.

This desire may involve wanting to be recognized as the equal of others. But it can also involve wanting to be recognized as superior to others. A stable political system must meet these two wishes.

Communism and fascism have failed, argued Fukuyamabecause they could not solve the recognition problem. Communism forced people to humiliate moral compromises with the system. Fascism offered people recognition as members of a racial or national group. Yet he failed after his militarism led to the defeat of World War II.

In contrast, Fukuyama claimed that liberal democracy could solve the problem of recognition. Granting universal human rights, recognizing the dignity and worth of all, has made it possible to meet the desire for equality. Encouraging entrepreneurship, competitive professions, electoral politics and sport created secure opportunities for those who wanted to be recognized as superior.

But freedom can lead to inequalities, frustrating the desire to be recognized as equal. And measures taken to reduce inequalities can curb the desire to be recognized as superior.

These frustrated urges can lead to a malicious backlash. This could lead to decision making that weakens a liberal democracy. He might even tear the delicate net of rights that keeps liberal democracy together.

Counter-dominant malevolence

A desire for equality is find in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies. Every time someone outdoes themselves, the group belittles them. The means can range from gossip to murder.

If ancient humans evolved under comparable conditions, we probably evolved “counter-dominant” tendencies. Indeed, we see it today in the games imagined by economists.

In such games, the majority of people, when they are anonymous, pay to destroy someone else’s undeserved gains. Furthermore, almost half of the people, if it is anonymous, will destroy the fairly earned gains of others. We even see people pay to punish those who help them, finding the esteem acquired by generous people threatening. This is called the benefactor exemption.

Counter-dominant grudge can weaken liberal democracies. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, some people in the UK voted for the leave despite the elites, knowing that it could harm the country’s economy.

Likewise, in the 2016 US presidential election some voters supported Donald Trump to upset Hillary Clinton, knowing that his election could harm the United States. Regimes hostile to liberal democracy have encouraged such malicious actions in both UK and U.S. In the end, the counter-domination obtained through wickedness pull others down risk of destroying property rights in a communism race down.

Dominant malevolence

The desire to be superior to others, regulated by hunter-gatherer societies, unleashed about 10,000 years ago when agriculture began. People then lived in larger groups, with more personal resources. Search for domination, also gone of our evolved nature, could no longer be easily coerced.

The desire to be seen as the best can be socially productive and motivating. Yet, it can also lead to what’s known as pervasive wickedness. This may involve accepting one loss in order to maintain an advantage over another. For example, many of us would prefer earn less however to be ahead of our next than to win more and to be behind them. In the same way, about 10% of people accept less if it maximizes their lead over others. In short, the dominant grudge reflects a desire reign in hell rather than serve in heaven.

Keeping an eye on your neighbor?
Stephm2506 / Shutterstock

Dominant grudge is also seen in some people need chaos. Researchers have found that about 10 to 20% of people approve statements such as society should be reduced to ashes. It can represent frustrated status seekers who think they might ultimately thrive in the ruins.

Freedom, equality, democracy?

To avoid a malicious descent into hell, we need to understand what triggers the grudge. We know the grudge increases as increasing inequalities and competition. The benefactor exemption is greater in societies where the rule of law and cooperative norms – how acceptable tax evasion or tax evasion people are – are weaker.

An economically growing liberal democracy, seen as legal and fair, may be the most effective way to solve the problem of recognition. However, this society still has to face some members who believe that all inequalities are the result of oppression, while others think that any obstacle to inequalities is immoral. Such feelings still leave the door ajar for destructive acts of spite.

Yet if wickedness can threaten liberal democracy, it can also save it. When people violate values ​​that we find sacred, activity in the part of our brain that deals with cost-benefit analyzes is amortized. It encourages us to act regardless of the harm that may befall us, allowing us to upset the other.

At the end of the story, Fukuyama argued, people would no longer risk their lives for causes once considered sacred. But if no one believed that liberal democracy was sacred, who would dare to defend it?

To defend liberal democracy, it must be sacred. This is what motivates its defenders to “go to the end … whatever the cost”, like Winston Churchill once put. Despite this, liberal democracy can break up, but it can also be the sublime madness who saves him from tyranny.