From Fareed Zakaria in Foreign Affairs from 1997,  The Rise of Illiberal Democracy:

(this may require registration to read the whole article which I encourage. )

John Stuart Mill opened his classic On Liberty by noting that as countries became democratic, people tended to believe that “too much importance had been attached to the limitation of power itself. That . . . was a response against rulers whose interests were opposed to those of the people.” Once the people were themselves in charge, caution was unnecessary. “The nation did not need to be protected against its own will.” As if confirming Mill’s fears, consider the words of Alexandr Lukashenko after being elected president of Belarus with an overwhelming majority in a free election in 1994, when asked about limiting his powers: “There will be no dictatorship. I am of the people, and I am going to be for the people.”

The tension between constitutional liberalism and democracy centers on the scope of governmental authority. Constitutional liberalism is about the limitation of power, democracy about its accumulation and use. For this reason, many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century liberals saw in democracy a force that could undermine liberty. James Madison explained in The Federalist that “the danger of oppression” in a democracy came from “the majority of the community.” Tocqueville warned of the “tyranny of the majority,” writing, “The very essence of democratic government consists in the absolute sovereignty of the majority.”


The tragic flaw of Progressivism was that “too much importance had been attached to the limitation of power itself”.  Progressivism was about elevating democracy above liberty and liberalism. Zakaria does a fine job of seeing the rise in illiberal democracies,  and demonstrating the vast superiority of our constitutional liberalism.