Jul 102013

Francis Fukuyama, who once famously and incorrectly predicted the End of History, is now writing about the Middle-Class Revolution and the end of authoritarian regimes around the world. Because he was so wrong before, we should be careful about jumping on Francis’s train. He has a tendency to speak the speak of the classical liberal economist and right of centre politician (monetarist, puritannical, ever hopeful that liberal democracy will eventually rule the world and bring about the End of History).  Still, he writes a good, authoritative story that only begins to fray when it’s held up against reality. Just because you own a cell phone and can tweet doesn’t mean you’re middle-class.

[In China], as in other parts of the developing world, the rise of a new middle class underlies the phenomenon described by Moises Naím of the Carnegie Endowment as the “end of power.” The middle classes have been on the front lines of opposition to abuses of power, whether by authoritarian or democratic regimes. The challenge for them is to turn their protest movements into durable political change, expressed in the form of new institutions and policies. In Latin America, Chile has been a star performer with regard to economic growth and the effectiveness of its democratic political system. Nonetheless, recent years have seen an explosion of protests by high-school students who have pointed to the failings of the country’s public education system.

The new middle class is not just a challenge for authoritarian regimes or new democracies. No established democracy should believe it can rest on its laurels, simply because it holds elections and has leaders who do well in opinion polls. The technologically empowered middle class will be highly demanding of their politicians across the board.

The U.S. and Europe are experiencing sluggish growth and persistently high unemployment, which for young people in countries like Spain reaches 50%. In the rich world, the older generation also has failed the young by bequeathing them crushing debts. No politician in the U.S. or Europe should look down complacently on the events unfolding in the streets of Istanbul and São Paulo. It would be a grave mistake to think, “It can’t happen here.”

via Francis Fukuyama The Middle-Class Revolution – WSJ.com.

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