Safeguarding liberal democracy

Safeguarding liberal democracy refers to attempts to improve, promote or protect liberal forms of democratic government, characterized by universal suffrage, competitive elections, a market economy, separation of powers, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.


It has been claimed that liberal democracies seem to foster economic growth, promote peace and spearhead innovation to a greater degree than do other forms of government tried so far.[1] Many alternatives to liberal democracy, on both ends of the political spectrum, have also been historically with great human suffering: totalitarian regimes, in particular, are estimated to have been responsible for the deaths of over 125 million people in the 20th century alone, mostly in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and communist China.[2] It has also been argued that many attributes of liberal democracy are conducive to intermediate longtermist goals, such as reduced great power conflict, moral circle expansion, and the flourishing of effective altruism.[3] For these and other reasons, safeguarding liberal democracy is considered a promising cause by some members of the effective altruism community; as of March 2022, 80,000 Hours rates it a "potential highest priority"—an area with the potential to be as important as their highest priority areas, but which has not yet been investigated thoroughly.[4]

Further reading

Wiblin, Robert & Keiran Harris (2021) Mike Berkowitz on keeping the U.S. a liberal democratic country, 80,000 Hours, April 20.

democracy | totalitarianism

  1. ^

    Koehler, Arden (2020) Problem areas beyond 80,000 Hours’ current priorities, Effective Altruism Forum, June 22.

  2. ^

    Bernholz, Peter (2000) Totalitarianism, in Charles K. Rowley & Friedrich Schneider (eds.) The Encyclopedia of Public Choice, Boston: Springer, pp. 565–569, p. 568.

  3. ^

    Barnes, Tom & Marie Buhl (2021) Towards a longtermist framework for evaluating democracy-related interventions, Effective Altruism Forum, July 28.

  4. ^