Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks for the opportunity to address the committee, some of whom are colleagues from my days in the House. I send a warm and respectful greeting to members of the committee on all sides of the House. Greetings from Budapest.
Here at Central European University we provide world-class masters' and graduate education to students from over 100 countries, including from Canada. For two years, as you know, the Hungarian government has been trying to drive us out, but we're still here as a symbol of academic freedom in Europe. We've had support from universities around the world, including from Canada, and the Canadian government's support for our position and our right to stay here has been unequivocal and strong throughout.
The committee has heard from some extremely distinguished academic experts on central and eastern Europe and I concur with their findings. I read their testimony and thought I would try to concentrate on the implications for Canada. I'm going to go a little wide here and at a little high altitude, because that might be helpful to the committee as it puts its report together.
One way to think about the implications of the parlous state of liberal democracy in central and eastern Europe is to situate it in a wider context. You could almost say that the Atlantic Ocean has been getting wider and wider over the last couple of generations. By that, I mean that the gap between Europe and North America is growing and is likely to grow in the future.
One reason for this is that the memory of our shared history is fading. Canadians fought and died for European liberty and freedom in two world wars, and that memory is very important in our founding myths, but the memory of it is fading from Canadians' minds slipping out of Europeans' memory as well. People don't remember just how central Canada was to their story of liberty.
This is having strategic implications. Our American ally, as you know, is publicly questioning the value of the North Atlantic alliance, the NATO alliance. I sometimes wonder if in the future, Canadians will begin to question the value of the NATO alliance as well. We've done so recurrently over time. It hasn't become a salient issue in Canadian politics simply because it doesn't cost us very much, and it's not at the centre of Canadian debate, but it's only a matter of time before Canadians start asking, “What we are doing in NATO?”
On the European side, Europeans are increasingly aware that they will have to defend themselves, that the North Atlantic alliance was the alliance that got them through the Cold War but that they're going to have to start spending on defence and defending themselves.
Another factor that's changing the relationship between Europe and Canada has been the way in which our own population has been transformed. A decreasing percentage of our people trace their roots back to Europe. An increasing percentage trace their origins to Asia, Africa and Latin America. This has been a revolution in our country and an enormously positive one, but its net effect is to weaken the European-Canadian tie.
On the European side, when the Europeans, particularly in central and eastern Europe, look across to Canada, they see a model they increasingly reject. Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal have embraced the multicultural future. We're one of the great success stories in that way.
It's wonderful for our country.
However, if you look at Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and Belgrade, they've turned their backs on such a future.
We have a multicultural future in Montreal, Quebec City and across the country, but it's a future that the Eastern Europeans no longer recognize.
At the same time, in the biggest sense, the axis of the world is shifting inexorably from the North Atlantic linkage that was the centre of our foreign policy for the whole of the 20th century. The axis of the world is shifting from the North Atlantic to Asia-Pacific, and I think that means that Canada is going through the most substantial transformation of its foreign policy in my lifetime that I can remember. Canada is struggling to maintain its relationship with the United States. It is in deep difficulty in its relationship with China, and it's necessarily having to rethink its relationship with Europe. It's one of the architects of the post-1945 world order.
Canada was a founding partner of the UN, a founding partner of NATO, and a founding partner of the Bretton Woods achievement, and we were so because we thought multilateralism was a vital lever of influence for a middle power. But these institutions, all of these international multilateral institutions, are in some difficulty, particularly because the increasing standoff between the U.S. hegemon and rising powers is preventing these multilateral institutions from being effective.
This is a slightly gloomy tour d'horizon, but it's designed to make us think about the European-Canadian relationship in a new way. What do we do now as a country if we can't depend on others for traditional alliance structures?
A couple of things seem pretty evident to me. We're going to have to spend more on our defence. We're going to have to commit to defending the peace of others through our skills in peacekeeping. We need to remain a beacon of hope for people seeking to emigrate and become Canadian. We need to figure out how, as a major oil producer, we can meet our climate change commitments without blowing our federation apart.
We need to ensure, most of all, that our own liberal democracy remains vital and viable.
This means maintaining the national unity of the country, which is everyone's country.
We need to keep our federations civil, and we need to be a good example of freedom.
We need to teach our own people that liberal democracy is a balancing act between majority rule and minority rights, between parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law, and between cabinet government and parliamentary oversight. Liberal democracy is constantly having to be reinvented and retaught to the next generation, and I know that's something that parliamentarians take immensely seriously in their lives as members of Parliament.
What does this mean for eastern Europe? I think, to put it bluntly, we can't export democracy. We can't export our multicultural model to eastern and central Europe. The world may need more Canada, but I doubt that the world wants more Canada. That's a bit of cold water down our necks, but I think it's salutary. We're a much admired country. I love Canada. I love it even more being outside of the country, but we shouldn't be foolish about whether our models are exportable.
We need to understand whose business is whose here. Preventing the authoritarian turn in central and eastern Europe is not fundamentally the business of Canada. It's the business of the European Union, and they've concluded—very controversially—that keeping authoritarians inside the democratic club is better than expelling them, but I don't think Canada can assume the perennity, the indefinite future, of the European Union, because this tension between a Europe founded on democratic principles and an increasingly authoritarian eastern Europe might just, in 10 or 15 years, blow the whole wonderful experiment apart.
What can we do? I'm very impressed, as a Canadian working in central and eastern Europe, at the quality of our diplomats. Many of them are ambassadors. Three of them, I think, are female, and they're absolutely fantastic, but they all tell me in private that they don't have any resources. The Danes, the Swedes, the Dutch, the Germans, and especially the Norwegians have money to invest in civil society, free media, democratic education, student exchanges, and academic research exchanges between Canada and the countries of this region, but our diplomats have very little in terms of resources, and that's a shame.
We know what happens when we do invest. The Canadian investment in Ukrainian democracy, above all through election monitoring, has been a crucial part of the stabilization of Ukrainian democracy, and we need to follow that. When you think of central and eastern Europe, please don't forget the Balkans. These are frozen conflicts that can blow up at any moment. We would be well advised to invest in civil society and peace-building in that region, especially because their prospects of getting into the European Union any time soon are very slight. We can't neglect our security obligations. We've sent support to the Baltic states and their sovereignty. That has sent a message that we are prepared to stand in alliance to defend the sovereignty of these states. That seemed to be tremendously important.
Finally, we need to figure out what team we can play with. The Americans, to an astounding degree, have withdrawn from the security and stabilization of Europe. They regard Europe increasingly as a geostrategic and economic competitor. We are the North Atlantic society that still retains a commitment to liberal democracy in Europe, and we need to find the team we can play with. It looks like the Nordics, the Dutch, the French, the Germans and the Spanish are the pickup hockey team we want to be part of and working constantly with to sustain the democratic experiment in Europe. These are the democracies that give us some leverage. They're the team we want to be on, and I don't think there's another one. I don't think the Americans are coming back to this part of the world.
Finally—and I'll stop here—the message of our country is incredibly optimistic in a troubled world. We are a very pragmatic, practical people who get up every morning and make this enormous country work. People admire the fact that we do it so well. This is a message of hope and optimism that the whole world needs, and I hope we have the investment in our diplomatic resources and the shrewdness of focus that allow us to spread that message of hope and optimism to this part of the world.
Thanks so much for listening. I'm happy to take any questions you may have.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It gives me great pleasure to address your august committee this morning.
Of course, I am appearing before you as the secretary general of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, but most of the views I'm going to express today are my own and should not be construed as the official views of the organization.
As I address your committee this morning, the image that comes to mind is this mass movement that has been recurrent in France since November last year, called the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests. This vest epitomizes a level of discontent, anger and disenchantment among the European population and has fuelled a lot of violence that has no place in a democracy, especially in a liberal democracy.
You may then ask why it is that the very foundations of democracy are being rocked in the bastion of democracy that Europe should be. I think what is happening in Europe is reminiscent of what is happening in the rest of the world. The world has become a big village, and there are a number of factors that might be general, but also specific to Europe. If you asked me, I would say that the factors are at once political, societal and economic.
When we look at what is happening in Europe, we have the impression, and people feel, that their economy is failing them. There is growth in GDP in Europe, but the benefits are not being felt by the ordinary person. We see recently, for instance, that retirees in France have been complaining about their pension, which [Technical difficulty—Editor].... It does not compare....
Okay, thank you. I'm very sorry for that.
I was just saying that people really believe that their economic systems are failing them, that these systems are not beneficial to the ordinary person. They feel that the system is heavily skewed in favour of the wealthy.
If you look at the political scene, too, you realize that there is a lot of disenchantment with the institutions of governance, in Europe in particular. While you have more informed citizens who want to be more involved in democratic processes, we see that opportunities for democratic consultation are shrinking. They boil down just to elections taking place every four to five years, whereas given the modern means of communication, the democratic engagement has to be more frequent and regular.
We also look at external factors, such as the influx of migrants into Europe that is fuelling discontent, that is fuelling xenophobia, because there is anxiety among the indigenous populations in Europe that migrants are taking over their jobs, are taking over those opportunities that accrue to them.
We can name any number of factors, but I do want mention also the issue of terrorism that is emerging in Europe. This terrorism is fuelled by conflict, intolerance and the development of hate speech. This has created a foundation for populism in Europe, whereby politicians are becoming unscrupulous and playing on the sentiment of anxiety among the population.
Let me just take a few moments to say a few words about how parliaments feature in all of this. We think parliaments, as institutions of democracy, have to restore popular trust in institutions of governance in Europe, as well as in the rest of the world. For this to happen, parliaments have to start from within. They have to be seen to be representative. They have to be seen to be more accessible and accountable to citizens, and they have to be seen to be delivering and being relevant. We believe it is important for us to move from the abstract conception of democracy and parliament to reality, looking at how parliaments can deliver for their citizens across the board. This is something that is important.
We also think when you talk of representative parliaments, you are not talking only of numbers; you are not talking of the number of women in parliament or the number of young people in parliament, but you are also talking about the ability of a parliament to address issues that appeal to the cross-section of society.
If I could dwell a little on representation, we see that Europe is just slightly above the global average when it comes to women's representation in parliament. The global average is 24.3%, whereas in Europe it's 28%. This is not enough. If we want to achieve gender equality, then we should be looking at more....
Also, another point that needs to be addressed, and this is based on a study that we carried out last year, is violence against women, sexism, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct against women parliamentarians. When we did a survey of European parliaments, we realized that at least 85% of women reported having been subject to some form of violence, psychological, physical or otherwise. This is unacceptable because it's a major obstacle to women's political participation.
I also think parliaments should address the issue of youth empowerment. Many youth are apathetic to governance processes, to democracy today, because they believe their voice is not being taken into account. They see that their interests such as climate change, employment and educational opportunities, all of these, are not being factored into decision-making processes. It is important that we involve them in decision-making. It is important that we increase their numbers in parliaments so that democracy can be rejuvenated.
Those are some crucial points that parliaments need to address when it comes to restoring trust in democracy and the institutions thereof.
Let me just conclude by saying that I'm always an optimist. I do not think democracy, liberal democracy, is about to die. It will not die. It has proven its resilience over the years.
By the way, it is the only system of government of similar values that is self-correcting.
I want to go back to what I mentioned at the beginning, the gilets jaunes movement in France. If it were an authoritarian regime, the government would have sent troops, the military, to quell the riots in Paris, but no, being a democracy, albeit an imperfect one, the government decided to hold a general debate to listen to the people, to their concerns, and see how this could be addressed. That is the value of democracy, which we want to promote.
We also think it's important for us to reaffirm the validity and values of multilateralism. We work as a government in a global village, and the issues that we need to deal with in countries cut across national borders. We cannot be seen to be doing things in an isolationist manner. We want to call out those people who are calling into question the very foundations of multilateralism.
We have to work together at the interparliamentary level and at the parliamentary level. We think that parliaments have to stick together to reaffirm the validity of those values of democracy that have to do with freedom and respect for human rights.
Then, one particular thing I want to point out is that parliaments are under threat because their members are under threat. Even in Europe, which, as I said, is supposed to be a bastion of democracy, we see what is happening in Turkey where parliamentarians are arrested and thrown into jail because they have sought to express their views and perform their duties as members of parliament. This is unacceptable. This has to be addressed in a robust manner, not only within national borders, but also in the form of co-operation between parliaments in the form of parliamentary solidarity between members of parliament whose colleagues' parliaments' integrity would be jeopardized, which is not good for democracy.
I would like to stop at this point and answer any questions that members of the committee may have.
Can I just jump in because I wanted to ask a follow-up question?
I understand there is a lot we could say in the debates about European integration. As I say, I don't really think it's my business to have strong opinions one way or the other.
I did want to follow up on some of the comments you made about Hungary. You referenced indirectly the Sargentini report. That report obviously wasn't viewed as favourable for the government of Hungary, but here's what the report said about the elections:
In its preliminary findings and conclusions, adopted on 9 April 2018, the limited election observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights stated that the technical administration of the elections was professional and transparent, fundamental rights and freedoms were respected.... The election administration fulfilled its mandate in a professional and transparent manner and enjoyed overall confidence among stakeholders.
There's confidence, according to the Sargentini report, in election administration. The criticisms of Hungarian democracy that were made in that report refer to—in the context of the elections, an “adverse climate”—concerns about government advertising and single-member constituencies. Again, these are important debates. I will observe—and you'll remember these discussions well—that issues like government advertising, the relative merits of single-member constituencies and the tone of debate overall are part of our democratic conversation in Canada as well.
I do wonder. As we talk about threats to liberal democracy, we compare Canada with other countries, and your comment about the Atlantic getting wider.... If we saw things like the SNC-Lavalin affair taking place in countries in central Europe, I wonder what the tone of criticism would be there and what people would say about what that says about the importance of the rule of law and the independence of institutions.
We're running tight on time, and I want to give you a chance to respond, but do you agree with the findings of the Sargentini report in this respect? Do you have further thoughts on their conclusions about the administration of the elections?
This the story of what has happened to the European transition from communism to liberal democracy in general.
Orbán's story is the story, in a way, of the whole region. He begins, as you quite rightly say, as an anti-communist insurgent, and has—all credit to him—a very courageous role in calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops in 1989.
I think he then begins to see that there's a space on the right that is not occupied by the liberal transition elite and, like a clever politician, begins to flow into that space. I think he's influenced by international tendencies. He starts as a CSU Christian democrat conservative on the German model, and then begins to move steadily to the right.
The question of how far right he will go is a question of how far the European institutions step in to restrain him.
I think he's trying to perfect a kind of Christian democracy mark 2—not the Christian democracy of Adenauer or De Gasperi in the post-war period, but a Christian democracy in which Christianity is really a symbol for hostility to Muslims and foreigners. Whatever else Christianity is, it's also a language of mercy, but you don't hear that very much.
As for your question about Visegrad, I think he is a model for the Poles; they have adopted some of his actions on the Constitutional Court of Hungary very directly. I think the Czechs are much more reticent. I think the Austrians like his immigration policy, but don't like some other aspects of his illiberalism.
I would not overemphasize his impact in the Visegrad Group.
Thank you very much. It's very good to see you again, Professor Ignatieff.
I'm very pleased to have you here and very happy that you mentioned that we should not forget about the Balkans, and particularly the former Yugoslavia, which is a scenario that I know you've written extensively on.
When we talk about the distance between North America and Europe, there is within the public memory the more recent intervention in the former Yugoslavia, followed by a significant period of Canadians' going through OSCE and multilateral institutions to provide expertise on democratic transitions. I think at that time there was a tremendous amount of hope, and the idea of democracy brought with it great expectation.
I'm wondering whether or not the resurgence of nationalist impulses and authoritarianism, anti-pluralism, and even in many cases a backsliding on gender equality.... In many transition countries, women were more economically empowered, educated and involved in political institutions, such as they were, before the democratic transition. In some ways the high expectations, the inability to meet those expectations, the corruption and a number of other forces are perhaps the reasons why there is a backsliding. Does that mean that for a country like Canada, there may be an opportunity through OSCE and other institutions to provide that kind of expertise, not to export our democratic model, but to be able to provide that kind of expertise for institutions?
I do want to bring Mr. Chungong into the conversation as well, because parliamentary institutions.... I was a senior adviser to the parliament of Kosovo when Kosovo declared independence, and overnight it had to be a modern parliament. There were many, many Canadians involved in that.
Could both of you, perhaps, comment on what Canada's role might be in that regard?
I'm going to start by answering a question that arose in the previous panel, about how I think about liberal democracy.
I'm a philosopher. We think of liberal democracy as based on two values, liberty and equality. Core to both of these values is truth. You can't have liberty without truth. Nobody thinks the people of North Korea are free, if they're going to vote for their leader each time, because they've been lied to.
You can, then, have a majority vote and not have liberal democracy, because if you don't have access to truth, then you're not going to have any sense of who to vote for or what to do. You're not going to be free; you're going to be operating on lies. You can't have equality without truth, because political equality is speaking truth to power. Liberal democracy is a system designed to preserve these two values, liberty and equality, that we cherish so much.
Thank you to the committee for having me here, because I think of Canada as representing these values to the world right now.
It's characteristic for political philosophers to divide democracy into a voting system, a set of institutions, and a culture. We can think of the attack on liberal democracy that's happening right now as an attack on the institutions and the culture. Illiberal democracy is the idea that you can attack the institutions and the culture and let the majority voting system remain.
We learned of the attack on liberal democracy and what the key institutions are. Jair Bolsonaro just announced that he's going to cut funding to philosophy and sociology departments in universities; CEU is attacked in Hungary; universities are attacked. The education system is central to liberal democracy. This method of dismantling the institutions of liberal democracy focuses on courts and universities. We pay attention to courts, but we need to pay attention to universities as well. This method involves these politicians who exploit this method, trying to transform universities into job training centres instead of places where people learn their citizenship. We need to pay attention to this.
The culture of liberal democracy is a culture that values liberty and equality. The secretary general, in the previous panel, spoke of extreme rhetoric. Extreme rhetoric destroys the norm of equality—gender equality and equality of religious minorities, etc.
Since I'm a philosopher, it is my vocation to dissent from previous witnesses, so I will take that opportunity here. I've spoken of the method to attack liberal democracy. I think it's useful to think of it as a method, not an ideology. I think that, say, Viktor Orbán, is after power and he's using a method to achieve power. This is a method.
Previous witnesses have described this method as populism. I'm going to dissent from that. First, I think populism is ill-defined. I can think of no way of defining populism whereby it doesn't rule some people who are perfectly liberal. I also think it's unfair, because if we look at the crisis of liberal democracy, we have to look at the failure of elites, such as the Iraq war and the financial crisis. I'm reluctant to place the blame, in the attack on liberal democracy, on populism, when fake news was most prevalent in 2003 in my country and in the UK. The problems, then, have been caused by elites, and people are quite right to be suspicious of them.
Populism? Yes, Venezuela has terrible problems: it's a kleptocracy. If you want to describe what's happening, it's somewhat different from what's happening elsewhere, particularly in Europe. I think the problem we face is ethnonationalism—and indeed, as I've argued in my work and Professor Snyder has as well, neo-fascism.
Yascha Mounk in previous witness testimony tried to argue against this. He said, well, it's not islamophobia, because Erdogan is one of the people we have to think about, and Erdogan is clearly not islamophobic. But I think that's a wrong way to think about it. The problem is ultranationalism, and islamophobia is going to appear when the ultranationalism is Christian ultranationalism. White nationalism is going to be the form of ethnonationalism when it's my country, the United States—or, indeed, your country. Islamophobia and white nationalism are instances of the problem of ethnonationalism.
The problem is far-right ethnonationalism. That's the method that cynical politicians are using to distract people from the actual problems they face. I don't think it's a violation of law, because, as the case of Hungary and Poland, and increasingly my country, you can change the law.
We need to pay attention to the structure of these neo-fascist far-right ultranationalist movements. We need to understand them as they arise to identify them, and there are some core elements. They talk about a revitalization of some ultranationalist pride. They appeal to dominant group victimization, as in the loss of their culture in the face of minority groups and gender equality, the loss of male hegemony.
They're harshly anti-feminist. CEU was targeted for gender ideology. Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil has been targeting institutions for gender ideology and feminism. The European University of St. Petersburg was targeted for gender ideology. We have to pay attention to the way in which these movements centre feminism as a target. They centre institutions and the press, as was discussed in the previous panel, with these old tropes of anti-Semitism where dominant institutions, like the press and universities, are targeted as left-wing indoctrination centres run by shadowy anti-nationalist elites.
They seek a one-party state. They seek to represent the other party and minority groups as sort of betrayers and traitors. They portray immigrants and minority groups as criminals, as threats to law and order, as lazy and a drain on the state. You have this paradox in the United States where immigrants are both lazy drains on the state and here to steal jobs.
What Canada represents, given this attack on the norms of liberalism, is a country that has successfully absorbed minority groups and immigrants, and welcomes immigrants. Canada, more than my country, is struggling with the memories of its settler colonialist past and indigenous peoples, because a core part of this movement is trying to erase the problems of the past. It's trying to say we should be proud of the dominant group's victory and domination.
If you want to preserve liberal democracy, you want to preserve the memory of the problems, the memory of the history of the country, warts and sins and all. It's no surprise that Germany is a core liberal democratic nation, because its education system focuses very seriously on remembering the past.
Canada's increasing confrontation with indigenous issues is, in fact, part of Canada's liberal democratic culture, a culture that includes gender equality, tolerance of religious minorities and immigration, and support for universities—not transforming universities into job training centres but keeping them as places where you confront the past and have critical discussions of policy.
Finally, I'll end with the point that this is a method that's being used. We have cynical politicians. All these politicians run anti-corruption campaigns, which is funny. Putin ran an anti-corruption campaign in, I think, 2011. My president ran an anti-corruption campaign, but corruption doesn't mean corruption, right? It means that the wrong people are in charge.
Anti-corruption means that the wrong people are in charge, women, minority groups, etc. Anti-corruption means that the non-dominant group has been given a voice. These are signs, when terms mean the reverse of what they do, when anti-corruption is cynically used as a method to bring corrupt politicians into power.
We need to both make sure that institutions are not corrupt, of course, so they can't be used so cynically, and also need to be especially attentive to the cynical use of anti-corruption campaigns.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify to this committee. I wish you all success as you begin this project.
What I would like to do is to make a very brief list in this initial set of remarks of seven areas that I, as a historian, believe are areas of concern, but then also areas of opportunity. That is to say, I think each of these areas demonstrates a risk to liberal democracy, but also an opportunity for liberal democracy to defend itself.
In my remarks, I'll be focusing on the history of the recent past, although I will range a bit into the earlier part of the 20th century. I presume that's where all of our minds go when we worry about the end of liberal democracy.
That is my first point, by the way. Liberal democracy is not a state of nature; it's not a feature of the way that the universe is. Liberal democracy is a set of institutions, values and practices in which people have to believe. There has never been a moment when liberal democracy was alone in the world and unchallenged. Liberal democracy only exists insofar as the people who are in favour of it are willing to make a case. Therefore, my first area of concern or first area of opportunity would be precisely that: ethics.
A great mistake that we have made in the western liberal democracies in the last 30 years is to fall into a kind of determinism, to believe that history had come to an end, to believe that there were no alternatives to liberal democracy. This is ironic, of course, because the problem with communism, before 1989, was precisely determinism: the certainty that one could deduce the future from the present.
We've fallen into that same trap. When you believe that there are no alternatives or if you say that history doesn't matter, what you're doing is depriving your own democratic society of a sense of responsibility. If democracy is going to happen regardless of what we do, then no particular citizen has to do a thing. That's the spirit in which democracy is going to die. Therefore, the first point is ethics.
The second point is time. This may seem like a strange one. You're probably looking at your watches, wondering how much longer I'm going to talk. Maybe your phone is itching in your pocket. Democracy requires a sense of time. For people to believe that their votes matter, they have to be reflecting on the past. They have to be thinking about the choices that are before them in the present, and they have to have a sense that the future is coming.
This may seem like a very simple point, but it's precisely this normal continuity, normal flow of time that the enemies of democracy attack. They attack it on two fronts. The first is that they use technology to get us all excited and obsessed about the emotions of any particular moment, so that the present seems to go on forever and we never think about the past or the future.
The second method, as Professor Stanley also observed, is to drive nations or formally dominant groups into a kind of mythical version of the past, where we were always right and they were always wrong, where we were always the victims and we therefore are always the deserving ones now. That kind of rhetoric, whether it's Mr. Putin or Mr. Trump or Mr. Orbán, is absolutely ubiquitous. It's one of the very few things that's absolutely common across all the people who are challenging democracy.
The third area of concern or opportunity—again, this is very big—is humanity. I'm going to be very literal here. Democracy means rule by the people, but in the 21st century, we've entered a moment where people are spending an awful lot of time on, and their brains are very often divided by, entities that are not human. The average American spends 11 hours a day in front of a screen. The way that we think is increasingly determined by the algorithms that have been designed to distract us or to draw us into particular directions. There's a very strong body of research showing that the behaviourist techniques used on the Internet, on social platforms in particular, tend to polarize us politically as well. That's a specific consequence of the world we're living in now.
This is a very basic point. There are digital beings in our lives. They don't function according to human laws; they function according to other laws. Neither they nor usually the people who program them have any affiliation whatsoever with the idea of democracy, so we need to be very sure that the people are in fact ruling.
To give a dramatic example, in the Russian intervention in American politics in 2016, the main agents that the Russian Federation used to try to determine the outcome of the presidential elections were, of course, digital beings. However, these were digital beings designed by American companies. The people who ran those companies generally favoured the other presidential candidate, that is to say Hillary Clinton. So there's a question here about who or what is really in charge.
The fourth and very much related point—and here I'd like to echo Professor Stanley's remarks—is factuality. Without factuality, a public sphere is impossible. If there isn't factuality, we have nothing to talk about. There's no common subject. There's no way for us to meet in the public sphere and share opinions, if there isn't a common body of facts.
The rule of law is also impossible without factuality. Court proceedings do not seem meaningful unless there can be findings of fact upon which there is general agreement. This has obvious policy implications, because despite what a very strong Anglo-Saxon tradition says, facts do not grow out of the ground. Facts actually require labour. Fiction is cheap. In fact, fiction is free, but facts require labour, which means that states that are interested in preserving democracy have to invest heavily in factuality, which is to say in journalism, and, in particular, in local journalism. It also means that countries like Canada, which are embattled regions but which speak an important language, might consider investing in a foreign policy that projects investigative journalism beyond its own borders.
The fifth point, the fifth area of concern, an area of opportunity, is mobility. It's very hard for people to take democracy seriously when they do not believe that their vote has some kind of an effect on their own ability to change their lives, to move forward in some sense towards something that they want. We know from history, from the history of the Great Depression, for example, that the sense of stasis, the sense that one cannot move forward, tends to radicalize people or lead them towards what we now call “protest votes”, as in the United States in 2016. Mr. Trump was correct, sociologically speaking, when he said that the American dream is dead. This is one reason why he did so much better than people expected.
This is connected to the sixth area of concern, one that Professor Stanley mentioned, which I would also like to highlight, which is equality. People can believe in democracy only if they believe that it's their vote that's making the difference, their participation as citizens, as opposed to, let's say, dark money, campaign contributions, or individuals who for reasons of wealth have qualitatively more influence than they do. When people believe that they're no longer living in an equal society, they're vulnerable to various temptations such as protest votes. They're also vulnerable, as we've seen in places as far afield as Ukraine or the United States, to the idea of voting for an oligarch on the logic that if the oligarchs are in charge anyway, you might as well vote for the oligarch who at least makes some attempt to appeal to us.
Another very important reason why equality is important is communication. If you allow inequalities of wealth and income to become too great in a democratic society, people no longer believe—and they're right—that they're living in the same world. They no longer believe they have things to say to one another. The people who are the wealthiest will also be tempted to escape with their resources and also with their minds.
This is connected to the seventh and final point that I want to make, which has to do with energy. It's interesting that when one tries to define what populism is, or when one is asked what all these various populist movements have in common, the two things that these various movements that we call populist tend to have in common are actually quite strange: They all like Mr. Putin and they all deny that global warming is happening. Those are two things that seem very far afield, I would venture, from normal democratic politics or the interests of the people, which are things that populism is supposed to be about, but nevertheless it's true. Every time a new so-called populist parliamentary party appears in a European parliament, whether it's AfD in Germany, or just yesterday Vox in Spain, those two things always hold. They always like Putin, and they always say that global warming is not happening.
I think this is very suggestive of where one needs to go in a democracy. In a democracy one needs to make sure that electoral proceedings are not influenced too much by hydrocarbon oligarchy. In a democracy one also needs to make sure that the problem with global warming is being taken care of, because, if it's not, then people lose their sense of the future, and democracy starts to seem senseless.
These are the seven areas of concern I wanted to highlight: ethics, time, humanity, factuality, mobility, equality and energy.
Thank you very much for your attention.