Friday thread: “Where is the source of legitimacy?” I said, “How about competency?”

We haven’t had one of these for a while. I saw this Ted Talk a few weeks ago and thought, whilst not advocating the adoption of the Chinese model of state communism these thoughts of Eric E Li, the idea that legitimacy arises from competence is particularly topical.

This section is worth highlighting:

Westerners always assume that multi-party election with universal suffrage is the only source of political legitimacy. I was asked once, “The Party wasn’t voted in by election. Where is the source of legitimacy?” I said, “How about competency?”

We all know the facts. In 1949, when the Party took power, China was mired in civil wars, dismembered by foreign aggression, average life expectancy at that time, 41 years old.

Today, it’s the second largest economy in the world, an industrial powerhouse, and its people live in increasing prosperity. Pew Research polls Chinese public attitudes, and here are the numbers in recent years.

Satisfaction with the direction of the country: 85 percent. Those who think they’re better off than five years ago: 70 percent. Those who expect the future to be better: a whopping 82 percent.

Financial Times polls global youth attitudes, and these numbers, brand new, just came from last week. Ninety-three percent of China’s Generation Y are optimistic about their country’s future. Now, if this is not legitimacy, I’m not sure what is.

In contrast, most electoral democracies around the world are suffering from dismal performance. I don’t need to elaborate for this audience how dysfunctional it is, from Washington to European capitals.

With a few exceptions, the vast number of developing countries that have adopted electoral regimes are still suffering from poverty and civil strife.

Governments get elected, and then they fall below 50 percent approval in a few months and stay there and get worse until the next election.

Democracy is becoming a perpetual cycle of elect and regret. At this rate, I’m afraid it is democracy, not China’s one-party system, that is in danger of losing legitimacy.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty