Making the World Safe for Democracy


One hundred years ago, in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany “to make the world safe for democracy.”  Pax Americana, the relative peace and stability which has lasted since the end of WWII, is due to the overwhelming economic and military strength of the United States.
The Chinese population at 1.3 billion is four times as large as the U.S. population.  Its economy is growing much faster than ours and will surpass ours in 10 or 15 years.  There is little, if anything, the U.S. can do to prevent this from happening.

China is a non-free, non-democratic, totalitarian state.  We hope that it will remain peaceful towards the U.S. as its economic strength, and eventually also its military strength, surpasses our own, but it would be risky to assume this for sure.
What then should we do to prepare for the day when we are no longer the dominant power on earth?  In my opinion, our best preparation for this inevitable day is to make democracy as strong as possible around the world.

In this respect, look at the latest report from Freedom House which measures the state of freedom around the world on an annual basis.

  • In the past 30 years the percentage of free countries has increased from 34% to 45% and the percentage of non-free countries has declined from 32% to 25%.
  • In the past 10 years, the number of free countries has declined from 47% to 45% while the number of non-free countries has increased from 23% to 25%. In other words democratic progress has been stagnant for the past ten years.

Conclusion.  Democracies rarely go to war against one another.  Other democratic countries are our best friends and so we want more of them.  But there is nothing simple or obvious in figuring out how to accomplish this.

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2 thoughts on “Making the World Safe for Democracy

  1. Jack,

    It is nice to see that you are broadening your commentary beyond immediate, economic issues. Now what should we be doing to enhance democracy in America, even though we are a ‘Republic’? To do so, I should think we would have to be more expansive in our voting opportunities and also a greater debate on how freedom of expression can be enhanced. The country also needs a dialogue on the matter of objective and subjective truths. Several other debates should include such topics as: (a) quality of votes, i.e.actual or equal representation, (b) a resolution to gerrymandering, (c) restrictions to money spent on campaigns, (d) availability of voting opportunities, etc.

    Just a thought or two that came to mind as I read your essay.


    • What I am saying is that our own free and democratic way of life ultimately depends on the strength of democracy around the world. Freedom House shows that much progress towards world wide democracy has occurred in the last 30 years but further progress has been stalled for the past 10 years.
      It is interesting that Freedom House rates democratic practice in the U.S. as high but not at the very top. Clearly we can make further progress along the lines that you suggest.

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