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FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: The Best of 2018

The End of the Democratic Century

Autocracy’s Global Ascendance

The dictator’s dividend: a monument in Astana, Kazakhstan, September 2016. HAMIL ZHUMATOV / REUTERS

At the height of World War II, Henry Luce, the founder of Time magazine, argued that the United States had amassed such wealth and power that the twentieth century would come to be known simply as “the American Century.” His prediction proved prescient: despite being challenged for supremacy by Nazi Germany and, later, the Soviet Union, the United States prevailed against its adversaries. By the turn of the millennium, its position as the most powerful and influential state in the world appeared unimpeachable. As a result, the twentieth century was marked by the dominance not just of a particular country but also of the political system it helped spread: liberal democracy. 

As democracy flourished across the world, it was tempting to ascribe its dominance to its inherent appeal. If citizens in India, Italy, or Venezuela seemed loyal to their political system, it must have been because they had developed a

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