Why is the US so illiberal

United States

Josef Braml

To person

Dr. phil., born 1968; Research assistant and head of the editorial team of the "International Politics Yearbook" of the German Society for Foreign Policy (DGAP), Rauchstrasse 17-18, 10787 Berlin.
Email: [email protected]

During his tenure, George W. Bush expanded his agency. The restrictions on personal freedoms presumably illustrate temporary deficits in the former model democracy, the USA.


During the term of office of President George W. Bush, in the course of the so-called "Global War on Terror" (Global War on Terror), illiberal tendencies of the former model democracy USA also became clear internally. In the following, a frame of reference - the concept of embedded democracy - is introduced, in particular to assess the effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on society and the political system of the United States. In this way, the current and specific defects of American democracy can be made visible, namely the restriction of personal freedom rights - especially those of foreigners - and the restricted function of the systemic principle of mutually controlling powers (checks and balances). These illiberal tendencies are an expression of the tensions inherent in democracies in times of national uncertainty.

The term "illiberal democracy" is used here to describe a specific defect in America's rule of law democracy, which partially and presumably temporarily restricts its functionality. In order to operationalize this concept, it can be assumed "that a democratic system of rule is a multi-dimensional political order and consists of distinguishable complexes of functional rules (partial regimes)". This "structure of partial regimes" is to be understood as the "internal embedding of democracy". [1]

Two of the total of five interdependent subregimes are highlighted in order to make defects of the two central dimensions of a liberal rule of law and constitutional state visible: In addition to the subregime "civil liberties", special attention is paid to the "horizontal control of violence", because the basic principle the competing, mutually controlling state powers has - in addition to numerous specific constitutional principles - a special meaning for the safeguarding of individual liberties in the USA, the so-called civil liberties.