A recent piece by Joshua Kurlantzick in Foreign Policy argues that middle-class reformers around the world are turning against democracy:

Despite its name, the
People’s Alliance is explicitly antidemocratic. In its platform, the
group seeks election reform measures that are basically meant to slash
the power of the rural poor, who comprise the majority of Thais. In the
minds of the Thai middle class, poor voters only vote for politicians
like the populist Thaksin because they’re offered incentives such as a
few baht on voting day. One former U.S. ambassador to Thailand puts it
bluntly: The middle class “disdain[s] the rural masses and see[s] them
as willing pawns to the corrupt vote buyers.” Instead of fighting for
democratic rights, in other words, the People’s Alliance is protesting
against them.

This shift from a reformist middle class to a
reactionary one over a mere two decades should be surprising. But,
unfortunately, Thailand is not alone. Across the developing world, from
Russia to Venezuela to Mexico, as democracy faces new threats —
elected leaders who disdain its institutions, rising corruption, and
nationalistic economic plans — middle classes, once the vanguard of
democracy, have increasingly turned against it.

Why “unfortunately”?  On Kurlantzick’s account, the middle classes are turning anti-democratic out of narrow self-interest; democracy costs them their “privileges”:

after acquiring democracy, urban middle classes often grasp the
frustrating reality that political change costs them power. Outnumbered
at the ballot box, the middle class cannot stop populists such as
Thaksin or Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Once the middle class
realizes it cannot stop the elected tyrants, it also comes to another,
shattering realization: If urban elites can no longer control
elections, all of their privileges — social, economic, cultural —
could be threatened.

Isn’t it possible, though, that the middle classes, having witnessed “elected leaders who disdain its institutions, rising corruption, and
nationalistic economic plans,” might correctly determine that overall well-being – not just their own – would be higher if democracy were more limited?  Suppose middle-class reformers were fighting for anti-majoritarian protections for free speech.  Wouldn’t international observers take their side?  Indeed, they would probably describe them as “pro-democracy” reformers despite their opposition to majority rule.  So why not here, too?

HT: George Paci