8 Jul 2017

Can Democracy Survive Without Prosperity?

Debate 2

With rising citizen disengagement, mistrust of elites and experts, and a rejection of partisan and institutional organisations, a veritable democratic crisis appears to be sweeping the Western world, as evidenced by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. For many, democracy is no longer working very well. According to an Ipsos-Sopra Steria survey, a third of French people feel that democracy is not necessarily the best form of government. This growing disenchantment among the people is well reflected in the famous words of Winston Churchill, who said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Similarly, the sluggish global economy and mounting inequalities have had a number of effects including surging populism, nationalism and extreme anti-democratic ideals that appear to reinforce the idea that democracy and prosperity are strongly linked. The economic crisis has weakened Western societies through greater inequality and higher unemployment. Declining political engagement is a hallmark of marginalised social communities and reflects the rejection of our democratic model by part of the population and the divide between the ruling elite and citizens. We are also seeing a return to more conservative values and a real cultural backlash.

Additionally, heavy public spending is supported by substantial taxes, which weigh on the capabilities of businesses to invest and on household consumption. As governments struggle to fill their coffers, social programmes have been cut, resulting in spreading opposition and discontent. Meanwhile, public debt levels have weakened States’ sovereignty and led to a political instability that threatens the future of the democratic model.

Do the economic setbacks experienced by most Western democracies call democratic norms into question? What is the relationship between democracy and economic development? How can democracy’s fundamental principles be reconsidered against the current economic background?




Cercle des économistes



Vincent GIRET

Journalist, deputy director

France Info



Augustin de ROMANET

Chief Executive Officer

Groupe ADP



Senior Fellow & Professor

Stanford University


Anne-Marie IDRAC

President of the supervisory Board

Sciences Po Paris

All the speakers