Predicting the Rise and Demise of Liberal Democracy: How well did we do?

by Richard Cincotta

In 2007, at the (U.S.) National Intelligence Council, a colleague and I set out to determine if we could forecast two distinct political phenomena, the rise and the demise of high levels of democracy. To guide our decade-long forecasts, we relied on a simple statistical model and a spreadsheet of demographic projections from the UN’s 2006 World Population Prospects data set. Now that the experimental period (from 2010 to 2020) has ended, we can look back and ask: How well did these forecasts perform? 

Overall, surprisingly well; but by no means, flawlessly. In fact, we expected too much political liberalization during a decade when democracy was largely in retreat. Yet, had our age-structural forecasts been taken more seriously when first presented and published (see “Half a Chance”, published by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program), foreign affairs analysts might have been amply forewarned of two of the decade’s most unanticipated political events: Tunisia’s rise to liberal democracy (Free in Freedom House’s annual assessments); and the demise of four of West Africa’s liberal democracies (decline from Free to Partly Free or Not Free).

To continue reading, go to: New Security Beat, Predicting the Rise and Demise of Liberal Democracy: How well did we do?

The age-structural model of liberal democracy, based on Freedom House’s (FH) annual assessments (Free, Partly Free, Not Free). Data: FH, 1972 to 2010.


The Beginning of History: Advanced Aging and the Liberalness of Democracy

Read “The Beginning of History: Advanced Aging and the Liberalness of Democracy” by Richard Cincotta, originally published in the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 blog in August, 2012.

Are the combined effects of population aging and immigration powerful enough to place at risk the liberal content of Europe’s democratic regimes? In this essay I’ve argue that it could; that today’s confident clusters of European and East Asian liberal democracies (states rated as “FREE” in Freedom House’s annual survey) will, as they age beyond the median age of 45 years, incur greater risks of losing elements of the political rights and civil liberties that previous generations of their citizens and political leaders worked hard to attain.

Download “The Beginning of History” here …