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 'thinking seat'.
Read on, read on.........
Published on Feb. 13 2007 by J. SANDHU
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Democracy, the insidious threat
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...
Published on April 23 2003 by email@example.com
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Democracy, the insidious threat,
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. But otherwise this is a shallow book. For a start, Zakaria is a remarkably sloppy writer. Thessalonica is a city, not a tribe, and the vicious massacre that he cites occurred there, not in Milan. The National Assembly is confused with the Revolutionary Convention. The final deal between Clinton and Arafat is dated well into Bush's presidency, while the last Mexican presidential election is placed in the wrong year. Disraeli's support for the Second Reform Act is placed in 1882, after he had already died. "The masses, Bismarck believed, would always vote for the pro-monarchial conservatives. He was right." No, he was wrong: soon majorities voted for Socialists, Catholics and Liberals. Zakaria has Saddam Hussein using biological weapons against his own citizens, when he clearly means chemical weapons. At other times Zakaria is simply tendentious. In trying to present a relatively favourable picture of Islam as a whole, he notes that the four largest Islamic countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, have all elected female presidents or prime ministers. He neglects to add that they were all elected because they were the closest relatives of leading male statesman. Much of his discussion of the origins of democracy is conventional guff about the rise of the Catholic Church, the Reformation, the success of Britain, while the Third French Republic gets only a sentence.
More serious are the limitations of Zakaria's picture. He notes how successful liberal democracy has been after military pro-market dictators in Chile, South Korea and Taiwan. He forgets that Chile was a successful liberal democracy for decades before Pinochet overthrew it in 1973, and that Sri Lanka has, despite a brutal civil war, been both more democratic and more liberal than South Korea. Certainly the Germany of Bismarck, von Bulow and Bethmann-Hollweg was more liberal, more democratic and arguably even more capitalist than the South Korea of Colonel Park. He credits South Korea's progress to its attachment to the market and ignores the special hothouse conditions of the cold war that encouraged its rise (Japanese investment diverted there from a blockaded China, more American aid than given to all of Africa for a start. He never asks what the "liberal" consensus of "The New Republic" and "The National Review" has done to deserve Arab support, or, after their support of Yeltsin, Russian support. Often Zakaria pines for a prosperous middle class, which will bring democracy. Yes, I remember how we were all inspired in 1980 when the Communist regime in Poland was brought to its knees by the strike of Gdansk shipyard's middle management. Likewise, COSATU did far more to encourage South African democracy than Paton or Oppenheimer, and one can make the same statement for South Korea, Brazil and much of the rest of the world.
Zakaria blames many of the United States' current problems on excessive democracy. He blames primaries for destroying the old party elites, but that did not stop them from ensuring the nomination of Bush I, Clinton, Dole, Gore and Bush II. He ignores the fact that many of the "democratic" reforms he blames are actually "liberal" ones, such as The Independent Counsel Act and initiatives against raising taxes (a model Hayekian measure). Zakaria comments about media vulgarity, but he ignores signs of media concentration and the oligarchic Telecommunications Act. He blames California's problems on excessively democratic machinery, and not on a ruthless well-organized elite that benefits from an electorate skewed against California's large Hispanic minority. One would better off reading Mike Davis' "City of Quartz" and "Dead Cities." Likewise one would be better off reading Lizabeth Cohen on credit cards and Deborah Rhode's "In the Interests of Justice," rather than blaming "democracy" for the fall of legal integrity. His vision of democracy says nothing about free trade unions, gender equality, social welfare or diversity of public opinion. And while he might want Alan Greenspan to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board For Life, what do the rest of us do if the economy should ever sink? At the end he twists Woodrow Wilson's famous statement of "making democracy safe for the world." Or for capitalism. Or for the Republican Party. Whichever is easier, and more profitable.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Overtly Fascistic Diatribe. Corrected Review.,
By A Customer
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. The US&UK only showed up in Europe in 1944 after Russia had won the war to prevent them from liberating more of Europe. The US reinstalled the fascists and Nazis where possible and brought many others into the US military. Since WWII the US has installed fascist oligarchic regimes around the globe and murdered an additonal 20 million members of the left). Real history does not support the continued rule of the fascist war machine so you have been denied real history. To return to the author's assertions that autocrats/fascists make better choices than the people: Hindenberg was elected chancellor. He abdicated and appointed Hitler. Hitler was not elected. Hitler then rounded up and murdered many of the worker's groups representatives that had opposed him (social democrats, communists, socialists, and union leaders). I usually reserve judgement but this educated and worldly author's use of this major lie can not be seen as a result of ignorance. This is well known history. Let me guess the pro-dictatorship crowd won't try to pass this lie off in Germany. They'd be laughed at ....after the people quit crying.
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous.....,
This review is from: Future Of Freedom (Paperback)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 'thinking seat'.
Read on, read on.........
5.0 out of 5 stars More is not always Better,
This review is from: Future Of Freedom (Paperback)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.
"Democracy" has become so hallowed a concept that most people today (myself included) have accepted it as a universally desirable goal. In reading Dr Zakaria's book, I was reminded of a supplemental reading for a college history course: American Revolutionaries in the Making by Charles Sydnor. His thesis, as I remember it, is that much of the success of the early United States can be attributed to the Gentleman Farmers of Virginia: Washington, Jefferson, et al. These leaders created and practiced a very limited form of democracy but devoted their time, effort and considerable thought to making it work. Sydnor's book is still available. I recommend it as a supplementary reading to The Future of Freedom.
4.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual slight of hand,
I say 'intellectual slight of hand' came into play regarding Mr. Z.'s take on Reform within Islam and his claim that, ". . . U.S., Canada, and Europe have large Muslim communities. . . (wherein) Islam is adapting to modern life without a grand Reformation" Pg. 150.
Islam needs to Reform. 9/11 points to the need for moderate Islam to reclaim 'true Islam' from the minority, i.e., fundamentalists. No matter how one slices the issue, moderate Islamists are failing by not being as forceful as Islamic fundamentalists, in reclaiming Islam's heart, soul and intellect.
Secondly, Islam is not adapting to modern life. The U.N. Middle Eastern Report or some such, for 2002 or 2003, indicates the failure of Islamic countries to adapt to modernity. "In The Shadow of The Prophet" also notes, quite well, the failure of Islam to accept modernity.
Lastly, Mr. Z., thinly makes his point writing that Islam is adapting to modernity, citing the develop of Islam within the U.S., Canada and Europe. Islamic development is needed in the Middle East, i.e., Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, to name a few countries. When Middle Eastern countries, themselves, can be cited as examples of Islamic modernity, Mr. Z. will have made his point.
Otherwise, Mr. Z., writes an excellent book. Very inciteful, literally it seems as if Mr. Z., is speaking to the reader, as he does to the viewer on, 'This Week' on ABC. I strongly endorse this book as a must read, for those interested in political science.
I. Webster/Detroit, Michigan
5.0 out of 5 stars "And the survey says........",
This review is from: The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Homeand Abroad (Audio Cassette)Mr. Zakaria's thesis is that we live in a democratic age, but we'd be better off with less democracy, not more. "By this," he means, not that we should "embrace strongmen and dictators but rather we should ask why certain institutions -- the Federal Reserve and the Supreme Court -- function so well and why others -- such as legislatures -- function poorly." The thesis is intended not just for the United States, but on a global scale; Singapore would not, arguably, be where it is had it been captured by special interests, as too often happens in democracies. Zakaria, following Richard Holbrooke, is concerned about the proliferation of illiberal democracies -- that is, governments in which the majority rule, thus satisfying democracy's procedural requirement, but which produce substantive outcomes at odds with Constitutional democracy -- protection of minority rights, property, due process and the like.
This is a wide-ranging book. In its sweep he offers a quick survey of the evolution of liberty in the West, and a discussion of Islam and liberty which addresses the way Islam has evolved outside the Middle East, where, he correctly notes, most of its believers reside. In the end, he lands almost precisely where James Madison started; that is, he views with disdain direct democracy and opts for a Republican form of government for the U.S.
The problem with this book is not its thesis, which is as sound today as when Madison first articulated it. The real challenge is in attempting to achieve Zakaria's aim in a world that places a premium on transparency, the flow of information and individual empowerment. It's not clear that citizens will today easily tolerate the level of delegation that Zakaria proposes. In fact, there have been times relatively recently, as during the New Deal, when the Supreme Court itself has had its jurisdiction seriously challenged. We would benefit tremendously if Mr. Zakaria would channel his intellectual gifts toward the development of other options. Until then, the Future of Freedom, for all its virtues, is going to seem like an exhortation to swim like mad against a really strong current.
5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy and Constitutional Liberalism,
Mr Zakaria develops well documented, lucid arguments to explain WHY democratic elections alone do not produce western style liberal democracy. He goes on to discribe and document the conditions which must be met if liberal democracy is to develop and survive in the long term.
His thesis is as important to nations (such as the U.S.) with long standing histories of constitutional liberalism as it is for nations striving to attain liberal democratic institutions.
3.0 out of 5 stars Is democracy the best form of government for everyone?,
I learned a lot from this book, especially about the way that various governments work, but I'll likely not retain much of it because every word was targeted only to advance his particular point of view. I agree up to a point. Our world seems to be run by popularity polls that change from day to day. And it seems obvious to me that when change in legislation is being debated, it is not in anyone's interest to have the public and media aware of every little detail. This is because it is mostly the paid lobbyists and special interest groups that follow these public debates, and their agendas are often in direct conflict with the public good.
Even though there were only 264 pages in this book, it was much too long. Everything he had to say could have been condensed into a few dozen pages. I suspect he's written articles about this topic and decided to expand them into a book. Frankly, I was bored most of the time and struggled to finish it. Therefore, I can only give it a mild recommendation.
4.0 out of 5 stars We've confused elections with freedom,
Zakaria highlights many examples, the most compelling of which may be post-soviet Russia. Vladimir Putin is a democratically elected president who censors the press, withholds the salaries of judges he dislikes, hires and fires regional governors, and represses the business class, making them wealthy but politically powerless. The effect has been to concentrate power in the executive and prevent the rise of an independent judiciary, a free press or an independent business class that could challenge his czar-like power. It is a system without respect for the rule of law, minority rights, and without the checks and balances that are necessary for a liberal (in the classical sense, apart from American political parties) society.
Compare this with China, where an unelected one party state has joined the WTO, promised to protect property rights, promoted a more independent judiciary and created an expanding entrepreneurial middle class (at least on the pacific coast). The theory holds that this middle class will help promote economic and legal reforms over time, so that they can protect their property and enforce contracts. These reforms will gradually be introduced and elections (presumably) will follow generations after liberal institutions are built and established.
Zakaria argues that elections without liberal institutions (a free press, an independent judiciary, the protection of property rights, an independent business class etc.) can lead to ethnic and religious politics, tyranny and less freedom. Milosevich and Hitler both capitalized on ethnic and religious hatred spawned by war torn nations that were deeply illiberal, and both won elections because of it.
This has obvious implications for the future of Iraq after American troops leave. It also is a warning to those who now call for "Iraqification" and elections by the next summer.
Perhaps because of our post 1960's, anti-elitist culture, "undemocratic" has become four letter word. Factory workers, secretaries, doctors and bank vice presidents will all label themselves as "middle class". While this populism has many benefits, we fail to see that a popular, democratic choice can be uninformed and awful.
In a sense, the book is about semantics. It is a needed call to change our ultimate goal, both here and overseas, from "democracy" to "constitutional liberalism", of which elections are only one part. I don't think the change is as daunting as Zakaria believes. When we talk about "democracy" in conversations with friends, or when politicians and pundits speak of it, I think we all mean liberalism. We recognize the difference between Russia and China but lack a vocabulary to express it, for fear of sounding "undemocratic" or neo-colonial in our support for liberal autocrats.
A new vocabulary is now required because we have confused elections with freedom. Zakaria's brief book is a well argued, and badly needed, counterpoint.
3.0 out of 5 stars Skillful political analysis but weak on history,
In making his conclusions about the development of liberty versus democracy, however, Zakaria begins with a brief historcal analysis. He runs into some problems, for example by missing key historical details, making assumptions not necessarily backed by historical scholarship, or by taking things out of their contexts.
In the first instance, for example, Zakaria describes the rise of the French absolute monarchy under Louis XIV as being centered on Versailles. This analysis is supported by firsthand documentary evidence, most famously the memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon. But Zakaria identifies the political purpose of the lavish palace on the outskirts of the French capital as an attempt by Louis "[to bring] France's aristocrats to Paris permanently, luring them with the most glittering court in Europe."(43) He misses the point that Louis was attempting to lure the nobility OUT of Paris, where, he believed, an attempt to overthrow him in his youth (known colloquially as Fronde), had been hatched. Hence the royal hunting lodge at Versailles was expanded, in order to bring the seat of the monarchy away from the dangers and intrigues of the capital.
As an example of his making assumptions not backed by historical scholarship, consider his classification (p. 36) of Kaiser Wilhelm (He does not designate which Kaiser Wilhelm, so the reader is unsure whether he means the King of Prussia before and after Unification or his grandson who ruled the German Reich until 1918, but here I assume he means the latter, as the index refers this page to him.) as a ruler who attempted to conquer Europe, akin to Napoleon or Hitler. Other than Fritz Fischer's infamous Griff nach der Weltmacht (1961), which took its form only after the Second World War and the postulation of the Sonderweg (special path) thesis, only Allied War Propaganda circa 1916 supports this assertion. Germany's underlying aims in the Great War as an imperial power were hardly different from those of Britain, and probably more honorable than those of Russia. Germany, after all, was standing in defense of its ally Austria-Hungary, whose heir was assassinated by a group of Serb terrorists.
Thirdly, Zakaria in at least one instance takes his sources out of context. In explaining the weakness of Germany's bourgeoisie (and hence, its democratic development), Zakaria cites Blackbourn and Eley's Peculiarities of German History (1984) to demonstrate that the German aristocratic elite held a majority of the bureaucratic and diplomatic positions around the turn of the century. If one turns to the page he cites, however, (244) one finds that the information Zakaria provides is correct, but the context shows that DESPITE these facts, the bureaucracy, army, and diplomatic service in Germany had become overwhelmingly middle-class and bourgeois. In fact, the central thesis of Peculiarities is a refutation of the Sonderweg thesis, which held that Germany's development had been hindered by a tendency of liberals and the commercial middle class to unswervingly obey the aristocratic, bureaucratic and military elites. Zakaria on the other hand seems to support the Sonderweg thesis, thus Peculiarities of German History is not an appropraite book to use to back up this position.
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Future Of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria (Paperback - April 16 2004)
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