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Future Of Freedom [Hardcover]

Fareed Zakaria
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 25 2003
Today we judge the value of every idea, institution and individual by one test: is it popular? Or, more practically, do the majority of those polled like it? This transformation has affected not just politics, but also law, business, culture and even religion. Every institution and profession in society must democratize or die. Democracy has gone from being a form of government to a way of life. Like any broad transformation, however, the trends that democracy unleashes are not uniformly benign. Democracy has its dark sides, yet to question it has been to provoke instant criticism that you are "out of sync" with the times. No more. Zakaria uses his command of history, philosophy and current affairs to reinterpret our past and outline our future. Woodrow Wilson said that the challenge of the 20th century was to make the world safe for democracy - this book challenges us to make democracy safe for the world.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More is not always Better July 15 2004
Fareed Zakaria (born in India, Harvard PhD, Editor of Foreign Affairs, Editor of Newsweek's International Edition) examines Liberal Democracy in his recent book, The Future of Freedom. His main themes:
1. "Liberal Democracy" must be both Liberal and Democratic, Liberal in that it protects its citizens from abuse by the government and Democratic in the sense that it is responsible to its citizens.
2. "More Democratic" is not necessarily better than "Reasonably Democratic". Socrates was forced to drink hemlock by Athenian Democracy. The Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France sent thousands to the guillotine via very Democratic National Assembly. Hitler was democratically elected. None of these examples were Liberal.
3. Emerging/developing nations have demonstrated a propensity to form stable democratic governments only when their per capita GDP exceeds a threshold of $3000 - 6000. Instituting democracy at lower levels of per capita GDP has usually resulted in unstable governments that end up being illiberal, undemocratic and economically stagnant. I interpret this phenomenon as an example of Maslow's hierarchy of needs: People are unlikely to have the time, energy, or motivation to be active participants in a democratic process if their primary concerns are hunger, safety or other lower level needs.
4. Liberal Autocracies are not entirely bad. Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Chile are all examples of Liberal Autocracies that have or are evolving into Liberal Democracies.
5. In mature Liberal Democracies, more democracy may also be a bad thing. The US has become more democratic in many ways (direct election of senators, nominating primaries, open congressional hearings).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Democracy, the insidious threat April 23 2003
Fareed Zakaria is an intellectual whose time has come. Handsome, foreign-born, a possible candidate for the first Muslim Secretary of State, he has the sort of cachet the mass media love. His only problem is that he is a shallow conventional thinker with nothing intelligent to say. But that isn't really a problem for American journalism. The United States is a country where you can say anything you want. But being listened to, if you are to the left of Michael Kinsley or Robert Kerry, is another thing entirely. In the absence of real debate we have pseudo-debate and here Zakaria can shine. His thesis is that we are threatened with too much democracy. Rich and wealthy businessmen do not have sufficient power to insulate themselves and the world economic system from democratic pressure. It's an appalling injustice. Zakaria does not put his argument quite like that. Instead he argues that while Americans naturally wish to encourage free elections in the world, those free elections have the unfortunate habit of electing people like Yeltsin, Putin and Chavez. They would probably elect all sorts of nasty fundamentalists in the Middle East if those countries deigned to have elections. What these countries need is not more democracy, but more liberal constitutionalism. This means not merely the rule of law and an independent judiciary, but also vigorous action to encourage the free market economy and open investment. At the same time American democracy has weakened liberty by unwise congressional reform leading to lobbyists while plebiscites and initiatives have paralysed local government.
It is nice to have Zakaria admit, after decades of Republican cant against elites, that it is really conservative economists who would like to form an elite protected from public scrutiny and debate.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Overtly Fascistic Diatribe. Corrected Review. Sept. 3 2003
By A Customer
This book is a recipe for fascism: the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary components of finance capital. In case anyone hasn't noticed: we voters here in the US have had our "choice" of 2 corporate candidates for each important position for many many years. A choice of 2 corporate candidates is not an election or democracy: it is an exercise in futility and a disquised dictatorship. Looking at the results of corporate owned government and censored corporate owned media and corporate war machine that the US people have been yoked with for 70 years ...this author declares "this democracy" doesn't work. It would be more accurate to say that the corporate dictatorship hasn't worked. Do you really think that if this were a democracy that we would have so many with no health care, high pollution, decaying infrastructure, highest poverty, corporate media cartel propaganda outlets instead of a free media, and infant mortality rates of any other major industrialized nation to name a few results of the autocracy?
Finally, The US and European oligarchs installed and funded the European fascists and Nazis to prevent a worker's revolution in Europea and to attempt to overthrow the SOviet Union. The Nazis were not elected. They only got 1/3rd of the vote in 1933 even though they had shut down the presses of the other parties and had corporate funded goon squads in the streets. They had the corresponding # of seats in the Reichstag...only 1/3rd. (Some Background= Real History: 55 million members of the "left" were murdered in the WWII holocaust. The Jews were used as a demagogic scapegoat for the people's hatred of the capitalist looting system but were not a target at the upper echelons.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous.....
Never ever I thought that a socio-politico-economic treatise could be such a breeze. Not only is it an interesting book, but also one that will leave you on the edge of your... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2007 by J. SANDHU
4.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual slight of hand
I throughly enjoyed Mr. Z.'s book. He took some dense information and made it into amazyingly light reading. Plus, I think Mr. Z.'s comments about the Middle East, like T. Read more
Published on May 14 2004 by Isaac Webster
5.0 out of 5 stars "And the survey says........"
Mr. Zakaria's thesis is that we live in a democratic age, but we'd be better off with less democracy, not more. Read more
Published on March 21 2004 by Gary C. Marfin
5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy and Constitutional Liberalism
A must read for any serious student of History and Political Science. A highly readable work.
Mr Zakaria develops well documented, lucid arguments to explain WHY democratic... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004 by David E. Bassert Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars Is democracy the best form of government for everyone?
The author of this book is the editor of Newsweek International and a political analyst for ABC news. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2004 by Linda Linguvic
4.0 out of 5 stars We've confused elections with freedom
"The Future of Freedom" is worth reading if only because it calls into question one of our most unexamined assumptions: that democracy is inherently good and that more democracy,... Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2004 by "amm6176"
3.0 out of 5 stars Skillful political analysis but weak on history
Zakaria skillfully outlines a theory present in both the founding of the American Republic and one that appears in some relatively recent academia--i.e. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2004 by Evan N. Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Has Democracy Gone Too Far?
"The Future of Freedom" is a difficult book to review, in part because the author hedges his bets. The book contains many fragments of wisdom, but it also conveys one Big Idea: the... Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by Larry Willmore
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be on Book of The Year List for 2003
I strongly recommend this book to anybody interested in public policy, particularly as it has pertains to the functioning of democracy both here and abroad. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by John V. Kjellman
5.0 out of 5 stars Zakaria - a name worth remembering
Fareed Zakaria has long impressed me with his pointed essays in Newsweek magazine. In this book, he expounds on the role of institutions in government, primarily democratic... Read more
Published on Dec 30 2003 by Donald L. Stauffer
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