The people versus democracy - AEI

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Event Summary

Thursday at AEI, Yascha Mounk discussed his book “The People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It” (Harvard University Press, 2018).

In his lecture, Dr. Mounk examined the growing success of populist movements worldwide. He outlined three conditions that have kept democracy stable in the post–World War II era: steady increases in living standards, largely mono-ethnic and monocultural societies, and strong public opinion gatekeepers that tempered political debate. He argued that stagnant real wages, cultural change, and social media have all contributed to populism’s rise in Europe and the United States.

Following the lecture, AEI’s Norman J. Ornstein, Jonah Goldberg, and Stan Veuger joined Dr. Mounk for a panel discussion. Dr. Ornstein focused on the broad political problems facing the US, including Congress’ unwillingness to check the other branches, political tribalization, and the declining norms of politics. Mr. Goldberg pushed back against Dr. Mounk’s materialist explanation for the rise in populism, arguing that increased movement in the US has broken down civil society, exacerbated status-class anxiety, and weakened people’s sense of social belonging. Dr. Mounk responded that economic development has been uneven, and many talented individuals leave their communities for better opportunities elsewhere. Dr. Veuger pushed back on the rise of populism in Eastern Europe despite increasing living standards.

— Philip Hoxie

Event Description

From Modi to Berlusconi and from Zeman to Orban, populist politicians with authoritarian tendencies continue to gain traction. In “The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It” (Harvard University Press, 2018), political scientist Yascha Mounk argues that liberal democracy itself is at risk: that we are increasingly faced with a choice between either liberal oligarchy or illiberal populism.

Join AEI for a presentation of the book, followed by a discussion of whether matters are indeed that dire and, if they are, how they came to be so and whether the situation is reversible.

Join the conversation on social media by following @AEI and @AEIecon on Twitter and Facebook.



4:45 PM

5:00 PM
Stan Veuger, AEI

5:05 PM
Yascha Mounk, Harvard; New America; Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

5:25 PM

Jonah Goldberg, AEI
Yascha Mounk, Harvard; New America; Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Norman J. Ornstein, AEI

Stan Veuger, AEI

6:10 PM

6:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Isabelle Staff at [email protected], 202.862.5885.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries or to register a camera crew, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at AEI and a senior editor at National Review. A bestselling author, he writes a nationally syndicated column that appears regularly in more than 100 newspapers across the United States. He is also a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a Fox News contributor, and a regular member of the All-Star Panel on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” He was the founding editor of National Review Online. The Atlantic magazine identified Mr. Goldberg as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. Among his awards, he was named in 2011 the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of leading publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas” (Penguin, 2012) and “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change” (Doubleday, 2008).

Yascha Mounk is a lecturer on government at Harvard University, a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America, and executive director at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. His primary research interests lie in political theory and comparative politics. Next to his scholarly work, Dr. Mounk occasionally writes about European and American politics for publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Die Zeit, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and he appears on radio and television programs including CNN, NPR, and the ARD. He has written three books: “Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014), a memoir about Germany’s fraught attempts to deal with its past; “The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State” (Harvard University Press, 2017), which argues that a growing obsession with the concept of individual responsibility has transformed western welfare states; and “The People Versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It” (Harvard University Press, 2018), which explains the causes of the populist rise and investigates how to renew liberal democracy.

Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at AEI, is a longtime observer and analyst of American politics and Congress. He is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic and is an election eve analyst for BBC News. He currently serves as chairman of the Campaign Legal Center. He participates in AEI’s Election Watch series and served as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Dr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the McCain-Feingold law, which reformed the campaign financing system. He played a major role in Senate committee reform, in the creation of the Congressional Office of Compliance, and in the creation of the House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 and named one of 100 top global thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine in 2012. His many books include the New York Times bestseller “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism” (Basic Books, 2012) with Thomas Mann, which was named Book of the Year by Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog, one of the 10 best books on politics in 2012 by The New Yorker, and one of the best books of 2012 by The Washington Post. The book’s revised edition, “It’s Even Worse Than It Was,” was published in April 2016.

Stan Veuger is a resident scholar at AEI, where his research is in political economy and public finance. He is also the editor of AEI Economic Perspectives. Dr. Veuger has been a visiting lecturer of economics at Harvard University and is a fellow at the Center for the Governance of Change at the IE School of International Relations in Madrid. His research has been published in leading academic and professional journals, including the Journal of Monetary Economics, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economics and Statistics. He is the editor, with Michael Strain, of “Economic Freedom and Human Flourishing: Perspectives from Political Philosophy” (AEI Press, 2016). He also writes frequently for general audiences on economics, politics, and popular culture. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, the Los Angeles Times, The National Interest, The New York Times, and USA Today, among others. Dr. Veuger serves as the chairman of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Netherland-America Foundation. He received a Ph.D. and an A.M. in economics from Harvard and an M.Sc. in economics from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. He completed his undergraduate education at Utrecht University and Erasmus University Rotterdam.

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