Faith in democracy flares up in moments of triumph, such as the overthrow of unpopular regimes in Cairo or Kiev, only to sputter out once again.
Outside the West, democracy often advances only to collapse.
And democracy’s problems run deeper than mere numbers suggest.
Many nominal democracies have slid towards autocracy, maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections, but without the rights and institutions that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system.
The damage the crisis did was psychological as well as financial.
It revealed fundamental weaknesses in the West’s political systems, undermining the self-confidence that had been one of their great assets.
Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife.
Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world.
The collapse of the Soviet Union created many fledgling democracies in central Europe.
By 2000 Freedom House, an American think-tank, classified 120 countries, or 63% of the world total, as democracies.