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The progress seen in the late 20th century has stalled in the 21st.
But turfing out an autocrat turns out to be much easier than setting up a viable democratic government.
The new regime stumbles, the economy flounders and the country finds itself in a state at least as bad as it was before.
But their fundamental demand is one that has motivated people over many decades to take a stand against corrupt, abusive and autocratic governments. More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures.
That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal.
In the 18th century only the American revolution produced a sustainable democracy.
During the 19th century monarchists fought a prolonged rearguard action against democratic forces.
Faith in democracy flares up in moments of triumph, such as the overthrow of unpopular regimes in Cairo or Kiev, only to sputter out once again.
Outside the West, democracy often advances only to collapse.
The crisis turned the Washington consensus into a term of reproach across the emerging world.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has broken the democratic world’s monopoly on economic progress.