But stand farther back and the triumph of democracy looks rather less inevitable.
Representatives of more than 100 countries gathered at the World Forum on Democracy in Warsaw that year to proclaim that “the will of the people” was “the basis of the authority of government”.
A report issued by America’s State Department declared that having seen off “failed experiments” with authoritarian and totalitarian forms of government, “it seems that now, at long last, democracy is triumphant.”Such hubris was surely understandable after such a run of successes.
This is what happened in much of the Arab spring, and also in Ukraine’s Orange revolution a decade ago.
In 2004 Mr Yanukovych was ousted from office by vast street protests, only to be re-elected to the presidency (with the help of huge amounts of Russian money) in 2010, after the opposition politicians who replaced him turned out to be just as hopeless. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes.
Governments had steadily extended entitlements over decades, allowing dangerous levels of debt to develop, and politicians came to believe that they had abolished boom-bust cycles and tamed risk.
Many people became disillusioned with the workings of their political systems—particularly when governments bailed out bankers with taxpayers’ money and then stood by impotently as financiers continued to pay themselves huge bonuses.
Freedom House reckons that 2013 was the eighth consecutive year in which global freedom declined, and that its forward march peaked around the beginning of the century.
Between 19 the cause of democracy experienced only a few setbacks, but since 2000 there have been many.
The crisis turned the Washington consensus into a term of reproach across the emerging world.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has broken the democratic world’s monopoly on economic progress.