- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (April 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393047644
- ISBN-13: 978-0393047646
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 202 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#869,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #605 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Political Science > Comparative Politics
- #843 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Specific Topics > Political Freedom
- #1402 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Ideologies & Doctrines > Democracy
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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad Hardcover – April, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Democracy is not inherently good, Zakaria (From Wealth to Power) tells us in his thought-provoking and timely second book. It works in some situations and not others, and needs strong limits to function properly. The editor of Newsweek International and former managing editor of Foreign Affairs takes us on a tour of democracy's deficiencies, beginning with the reminder that in 1933 Germans elected the Nazis. While most Western governments are both democratic and liberal-i.e., characterized by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic rights-the two don't necessarily go hand in hand. Zakaria praises countries like Singapore, Chile and Mexico for liberalizing their economies first and then their political systems, and compares them to other Third World countries "that proclaimed themselves democracies immediately after their independence, while they were poor and unstable, [but] became dictatorships within a decade." But Zakaria contends that something has also gone wrong with democracy in America, which has descended into "a simple-minded populism that values popularity and openness." The solution, Zakaria says, is more appointed bodies, like the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Supreme Court, which are effective precisely because they are insulated from political pressures. Zakaria provides a much-needed intellectual framework for many current foreign policy dilemmas, arguing that the United States should support a liberalizing dictator like Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, be wary of an elected "thug" like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and take care to remake Afghanistan and Iraq into societies that are not merely democratic but free.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Newsweek International's editor exposes the down side of democracy, i.e., the assumption that what's popular is right.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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That probably sounds strange to most Americans, which is why Zakaria wrote this book. We've been raised to believe that Democracy is unquestionably good and that more of it is always better. In reality, that's a pretty new attitude. At the time of this country's founding, Democracy was viewed very skeptically. The Founders knew that left unchecked, the majority could be an even worse tyrant than an individual because it would have the illusion of morality on its side. For that reason, our nation's government was set up as Republic, not a Democracy (think of the Pledge of Allegiance). A Republic allows the people to choose from pre-screened applicants for leadership roles and then delegates leadership to them.
Zakaria argues that the gradual breakdown of the protections against the Tyranny of the Majority as we've moved further and further towards democratization has had a vast negative effect. Politicians most focus increasingly on the short-term approval of voters in order to get re-elected and are kept from using their judgment and long-term outlook.
The book is filled with eye-opening insights and makes you aware of problems you may never have considered before. It is one of those books that has the power to change your outlook on major issues. That said, it isn't perfect. Zakaria needs to fully form his ideas just a little more. He obviously is a fan of the free market in most cases, but then says that too much of the free market can act in the same way as too much democratization (he uses the downfall as the Book of the Month Club as an a example of cultural diminution brought about by too much free market.) It's an interesting point, but the reader is left wondering where Zakaria thinks the free market is good, and where he thinks it should be cut back. He needs a clear rule to say, "Use more until "X", then stop." There are a couple cases where Zakaria seems to want to have his cake and eat it too, and that rarely works out.
None of that stops this book from being a very important read for modern Americans. I believe Zakaria is striking at the central issue that will determine whether America can retain (or maybe even reclaim) its current and former glory, or whether it will slip off into history. Zakaria doesn't sound an optimistic note, but at least he's done his part to sound the alarm. I applaud his efforts. Read this book and give it to your friends as well.
It is impossible to miss his larger message: that democracy is more than just elections. It is really "elections plus." That is to say, it is elections plus an important package of assorted and related measures he refers to as "constitutional liberalism" -- such as freedom from tyranny, the rule of law, free speech, civil society, freedom of religion, etc. These "illiberal measures" that lay above and beyond democratic process itself, are the actual glue that makes democracies work. They depend completely on the moral strength of the people that devise them and carry them out.
And therein lies the rub, the fly in the ointment of all governments whether they be full fledged oligarchs or the best of Western democracies: Ideals do not automatically come into force by themselves; and governments are not inherently insulated against moral and political corruption, they require morally strong people to see them through. In short, ideals and governments, no matter how well designed, cannot be better than the people designated to carry them out.
The examples that Professor Zakaria chose in a rather backhanded way to make this point, could not have been better chosen: Hitler's democratic election in Germany and America's majority rule racial Apartheid which has lasted for over a century. Both came into being as a result of fair democratic elections by the majority of the respective nation's peoples. So too did Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for that matter.
Thus in the first part of the book, Zakaria makes a telling case that neither elections nor even democracies, are panaceas: It is moral legitimacy that is needed no matter what is the government's type. Yet, his prescriptions for fixing our problems seem to have gone off the rails. They ignored this important point at the subtext of his analysis, one of the most important forensic results of the autopsy. In his conclusions he falls back on the "mechanics of process" rather than rest his case on the strength of character of the people involved. The good professor thinks we need a better balance between capitalist regulations (which we now have too much of) and the regulations on our democracy (which he thinks has become entirely too free, as in free-wheeling). Sounding like one who has been recruited by the cult of neo-cons: he thinks the problem with American democracy is that we have gone too far in both cases, and that we now need to pull in our reins. Go figure?
But this solution does not fix the problem mentioned at the subtext of his analysis: the illegitimacy of creeping moral corruption, which sneaks in through the backdoor, and attacks all democracies whether large or small, East or West, like the locusts that descended on Egypt after the Jews fled to Israel.
It is corruption, not process that is the problem. No wonder people from the U.S. to Europe are losing faith in their democracies. Five stars.