• Case studies document the political systems of 21 different countries from most regions of the world, including South America, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, and East Asia
• Each chapter presents a different potential reform to American democracy and scores it in terms of desirability, practicability, and plausibility
• A carefully thought-out conclusion clearly summarizes, analyzes, and prioritizes the 21 reforms
• A comprehensive glossary defines key terms used throughout the text
• Conclusion charts provide a rank ordering of the proposed reform and a suggested "blueprint" for change to U.S. politics and government
"While there is no shortage of American politicians, media figures, and others ready to offer their thoughts on "exporting democracy," it is rare to find Americans willing to examine the lessons of democratic practices from outside the proverbial "shining city on the hill" and consider 'importing democracy.' This volume by Smith (political science, Columbia U.) is the exception to the rule, discussing major changes modeled on other countries' democratic experiences that offer the
potential to expand popular participation in governance, better balance the promotion of majority rule with the protection of minority rights, improve the effectiveness of government while maintaining democratic limits to government power, and/or advance individual liberty and social equality. The focus of the case studies is on political institutions and processes, rather than policy. Examples of the 21 cases discussed include the Italian experience with proportional representation, Chile's experience with runoff elections for executive offices, Brazil's introduction of compulsory voting, Switzerland's system of national referenda, Turkey's limitation of the executive's legislative and judicial powers, New Zealand's acceptance of legislative overrides of judicial opinions, and South Africa's constitutional social and economic protections."
Reference & Research Book News
"This fascinating book advocates much-needed political reform in the United States, and Smith (adjunct, Columbia Univ.) brings fresh perspectives, in-depth analysis, and provocative thinking on transforming U.S. democracy to a more
representative and effective government. … Recommended."
"Treating other countries and their governments around the world as laboratories, this thoughtful and highly original book offers 'outside the box' thinking about how to improve American democracy. More important, by reflecting on the rationales for particular rules, institutional arrangements, and the provisions and consequences of the U.S. Constitution, students and other readers will come to understand more fully the normative and empirical issues that face democratic governments." (Robert Y. Shapiro, Professor of Political Science, Columbia University)