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With an easy command of history, philosophy and current affairs, 'The Future of Freedom' calls for a restoration of the balance between liberty and democracy, and shows how liberal democracy has to be made effective and relevant for our time. With an easy command of history, philosophy and current affairs, 'The Future of Freedom' calls for a restoration of the balance between liberty and democracy, and shows how liberal democracy has to be made effective and relevant for our time.


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With an easy command of history, philosophy and current affairs, 'The Future of Freedom' calls for a restoration of the balance between liberty and democracy, and shows how liberal democracy has to be made effective and relevant for our time. With an easy command of history, philosophy and current affairs, 'The Future of Freedom' calls for a restoration of the balance between liberty and democracy, and shows how liberal democracy has to be made effective and relevant for our time.

30 review for The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad

  1. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Zakaria points out that there is a difference between democracy and constitutional liberalism that Western people take for granted because we assume that they are one and the same. While democracy refers to government elected by the majority of its people, constitutional liberalism refers to the rule of law, separation of powers, instituional check and balances, and most importantly individual rights. The History of Human Liberty: The basic gist is the decentralization of power in favor of human l Zakaria points out that there is a difference between democracy and constitutional liberalism that Western people take for granted because we assume that they are one and the same. While democracy refers to government elected by the majority of its people, constitutional liberalism refers to the rule of law, separation of powers, instituional check and balances, and most importantly individual rights. The History of Human Liberty: The basic gist is the decentralization of power in favor of human liberty for the masses. This occurred first in Rome in creating the rule of law, then the split between the powers of church and state in which Constantine left Rome and the Pope behind. Next comes the rights of nobles versus the monarch which is best exemplified in the Magna Carta. Next comes the Protestant Reformation and the rejection of a formal clergy in favor of personal biblical interpretation. Finally, the role of the yeoman class in England which later morphed into the middle class that had to have their property rights protected by law. Thus establishing the rule of law as an important aspect for liberty and capitalism. Also another thesis that is interesting in his first chapter is that constitutional liberalism and capitalism are prerequisites for a "Western-type democracy". That is you cannot have a true democracy without a middle class and the rule of law. This can be seen in the dictatorship that beset third world countries though their leaders are democratically elected (ie: Venanzuela). Also in the Palestinian territories, Hamas was elected into power democratically but their government is not recognized by Israel or the US. Growing pains of the Constitutional Liberal Democracy: One thing that he points out again is how constitutional liberalism is sometimes at odds with Democracy. He states conservative ultra-nationalistic elements in society occasionally use fear tactics and divisive politics as a means to get democratically elected. The target audience of these movements are the working class people and work on the assumption that there are enemies from without and from within. Once elected, they spend on defense and limit civil liberties, freedoms, anti-immigration, and separation of powers. He states this is how Hitler took power in Germany and to a certain extent one can see this today in the tea party movement. One can also state that W's politics was of this nature although he was decidedly pro-immigration. Another thing that Zakaria points out the importance of constitutional liberal democracy is that it has a m.c. independent of the state. This was the issue with continental Europe pre-WWII the m.c. class was dependent on the state and its bureaucracy for its wealth instead of being purely independent of it. As with Thomas Friedman's thesis, Zakaria also points out that natural resource rich states are the least democratic (oil-rich countries of the middle east) because the state does not depend on its population for its wealth. He states that taxation and representation go hand in hand. That is, the richer its population (capitalism) the healthier the states coffers are and also since the state needs its population wealth to thrive then it needs to be responsive to its needs and demands (democracy). It is interesting to note, that he states the greatest predictor of whether or not a countries democracy will survive and thrive is its GDP per capita. The higher the GDP per capita of a country, the more it thrives as a constitutional liberal democracy. The good news is this means that there is hope for Communist China since they are more or less ruled by the rule of law as well as they are becoming more and more capitalistic. My personal view is once the majority of people in China become middle class, they will become a "western democracy". The bigger question for the US is what does it do once China becomes a fully-democratic country mirroring the US and its true potential of its country is realized. In terms of the policies of today and America's future in competing with other countries, who is right? Should the US strengthen its m.c. by cutting taxes and allowing businesses to grow in the here and now (Republican view point) or should the U.S. invest in its future through research/development/education and updating its infrastructure so that future m.c. people can take full advantage of the resources available to them (Obama Democrats)? What does either one of these growth strategies for m.c. mean to the US deficit? Is Cheney right in saying that Reagan administration proved that deficit does not matter? Or will deficit become important because the world will no longer lend us money because we will default on our debts and if so how will that impact American government and that of its people? The rise of Illiberal Democracy: Zakaria states that a solid middle class and solid democratic institutions such as one that observes the law blindly as well as political parties need to precede democracy in order for it to become a "western-style democracy". Without these two important pillars democacy descends into popular autocratic regimes (original French Revolution, Russia, Venezuela of the worlds) that cater to sectarian demagoguary for its power base. Zakaria favors China's model of slow reform that liberalizes the economy first in order to have a growing middle class and then establishment of laws and the institution of the rule of law next to protect the rights of the middle class rather than a straight jump to democracy. So, he favors liberal autocrats (enlightened autocrats) to illiberal democracies because consitutional liberalism ensures that democracy becomes permanent whereas illiberal democracies lead to dictatorship or oligarch rule. Bush's experiment in Democracy in Iraq brings this seeming abstraction into reality. The question remains does removing Saddam Hussein from power usher "a democratic oasis" in the middle east? True enough, Hussein was not a liberal autocrat that is he was in power to enrich himself only. So removing him at the head of the country would be a good first step but does Iraq have strong democratic institutions? No. Does it have a strong middle class indepedent of the state? According to Zakaria there is a significant middle class but whether or not it is independent of the state is another matter. It does have large reserve of natural resource, oil, so the state could survive without taxation and as a result without representation by the people it governs. He prefers to place the oil revenues into a int'l trust instead of transfering it to Iraqi control so the money will be spent on building a strong educated middle class instead of it going towards the heads of state and his crony oligarchs. He states that the trend in illiberal society with multi-ethnic divisions with newly acquired democracy is for the majority to trample on the minority in its worst case scenario via ethnic cleansing or if sectarian violence. The question remains, will Iraq be the exception to the rule in which democracy will usher a new reign of constitutional liberalism or did we just place Iraq in a possible quagmire of secterian civil war and/or exchange one autocrat for another autocrat? So the real question is will this democracy last? Dysfunctional Middle Eastern governments: Zakaria rejects the notion that Islam is inherently incompatible with western democracy. He cites the predominant Islamic countries of Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Bagledesh as rejection of notion that Islam and democracy are incompatible. He states what happened in the middle east is a special case instead of the rule of the trend toward democracy. In fact, he cites Nassar as the first western leader in that his government advocated Arab pan-nationalism, secular rule, and socialism that was invogue in European countries at the time. The problem was that Nassar and other middle eastern rulers became dictators instead of strengthening democratic institutions. This combine with the socialistic aspect of their regime created both political and economic stagnation. Because of this stagnation, opposition groups propped up all over the place and these groups began rejecting Western-style government. In response, these dictators began repressing all opposition groups against them except the Islamic religion. So the only place Angry Arabs could express themselves was through Islamic institution thus gave birth of Islamist as a political movement as well as a religion. Combine this with the fact that most Arab states get their revenue from oil and not from taxation, thus there has been no pressure to liberalize their economy to retain control of the government. Without these liberalization measure, you do not a have a middle class plus you get angry young unemployed men. And as we said earlier the only place these mad males can vent is through Islamic fundamentalism. Since the state just spends on itself because it owes nothing to its citizenry, the social services are being taken cared of by these Islamic fundamentalist groups giving them popularity in their general population. Because these religious leaders are more popular than the state, the state supports these organizations in the hope of gaining legitimacy in the eyes of its people (ie: prevent a revolution). So in Saudi Arabia this takes the shape of the royal family funding the madrasas that produces terrorists mind set so antagonistic to the west. So the irony of all this, is Americans are indirectly financing terrorist groups by buying oil from OPEC countries. Also since the state fails it citizenry continuously, they deflect personal criticism in favor of allowing angry masses to vent their frustration on demonizing the West and Israel. For the state, this allows them to stay in power and keep petro dollars in their leaders pockets instead of providing for their people. If this is the case, I am really for energy independence from the middle east as a national security imperative. By not buying oil from the middle east, this will force them to liberalize their economies that will create thriving middle class. Even if China and other Asian countries pick up the slack of oil purchasing at least the middle east anger will be directed at Asian countries instead of us. Also, we can support the Israeli/Palestinian peace process as well as demand that the Saudi's not fund these madrhasas. Too much Democracy @ Home? - The best chapter yet!!! Zakaria points to the general public discontent of today is due to the democratization of political process in which public leaders have to be full time politicians to survive in public life. He points to the seventies as the seminal moment in which public discontent with government began. He states that opening up Congress to see how one votes has led to special interest groups and lobbyist to target these Congress people in elections that vote against their specific interest. Although this accountability on the surface seems good, it makes these public leaders always consider politics for the vocal minority in their votes instead what is best for the country or constitiuents as a whole. The advent of special interest and lobbyist industry has the effect in Washington of making it an impossibility to shrink government programs (Republican position) or shift priorities to the strategic long-term needs of the country ( Obama Democratic positon), one only needs to look at past efforts of Reagan, Gingrich, and the two Bushes to see this as true, in their collective administration government spending has grown not shrunk even though they collectively railed against big government. So the effect of democratization of politcs by transparency in the previous close session of Congress allows for the undue influence of special interest groups and lobbyist that allows politics of the minority to rule over policy instead of Congress deciding what is best for the country. This particularly apparent in the Byzantine tax code in which politicians use for their favorite special interest.Thus, are congressional politicians simply playing politics when they vote or are the votes really what they think is best for the country? Also, Zakaria points to the advent of primaries as to the reason US politics has become so polarized. He cites people who vote in the primaries are people who are interested on extreme conservative or liberal issues not issues that concerns America as a whole. Although as a whole I think this is a better way in selecting candidates rather than old party bosses and their political machines, it does give a reason to why politics have had a polarizing trend. Another democratization folly is the California referendum that has caused their government to be a non-entity. That total democracy has created the state legislature and governor as a joke. As well as the well-intensioned campaign finance reform that has diffused the financing of political campaigns to PAC's with lack of transparency of who is giving and gave people who can fundraise the real power in politics today instead of the old party bosses. Public leaders of today also respond to polls a lot more than they once did, I think due to the incesant non-stop news cycle in which every move they make gets scrutanized by the opposition media. It remains to be seen whether doing the right thing ( long-term strategic interest) in today's political climate can trump what is popular (Obama). At the risk of looking undemocratic and if Obama wants to change the tone in Washington, he should target the news media and lobbyist/special interest so Congress can actually function for the people instead of incesantly playing politics to appease the general public. Loss of Authority in society: Democratization of Finance: Since the 1958 when Bank of America began catering to the middle class by issuing credit cards to main street America, the world of finance is now catered to main street USA instead of old institutions and the very wealthy. This trend continued through 70's via money-market funds when people began to realize that they were losing money in savings account due to hyperinflation of the day. Further democratization of finance continued through Congressional action of creating 401k's and IRA accounts as well as the discount brokerage firms that allowed anyone to be his own stock broker. Further democratization of finance was through the creation of Milken's junk-bonds which allowed promising small firms without an establish credit history to issue bonds to raise capital to expand, in return these bonds sell for high interest rates to the buyer. There have been a few companies that started out in junk bond status and have prospered such as CNN and MCI. But of course as any action or trend, there has been some unintended consequences to government deregulation and democratization of finance. The biggest one of course is the default mortgage swaps that led to almost a second depression as well as the dubious mixing of commercial and investment banking that has allowed the banks to bundle peoples capital and pursue risky investments with it. Another unintended consequence is the mixing of investment research departments with the branch of company that sells them causing a conflict of interest that leads to a doubtful objectivity in its research. Democratization of Religion: Evangelical churches have replaced mainstream protestant churches because these churches are populist and highly responsive to its congregants instead of rigid orthodoxy or the clergy. Apparently Falwell used the business model to create the mega church with modern consumer amenities thus marrying religion and capitalism. With the advent of Roe vs Wade, the moral majority was created which became the vehicle for social conservatism, thus softening the ideological divide between the different religions and coming to a shared consensus on key social issues. The democratization of religion of course mirrors America's continues search for spirituality which has deemphasize the role of religious authority in favor of personal conscience. Democratization of Culture: Zakaria laments pop-culture in striving for popularity instead of quality of the cultural artifact. Pop-culture simply mirrors societies baser instinct to sell their goods. Democratization of Society: The problem with democratization of society as Zakaria sees it is democratization leads to increase commercialization that makes businessmen of all professional. The increase commercialization in every aspect of our lives leads to increase competition in the race to the top which in turn leads to increase individuality at the expense of shared responsibility for society. He states that there was a time when professional adhered to rule of honor in their profession to not only make money but do what is right for society instead of "commercializing their services". He laments the effects of this commercializations, in accountants fudging the numbers to please their clients(Arthur Andersen and Enron), to trial lawyers who engage in frivolous lawsuits in order to become millionaires, to even doctors who do questionable procedures to increase there bottom line. Although the intense competition did lead to increase meritocracy (democracy) in regards to talent instead of name, family, or race, it also has led us into an intensely individualistic culture and askews responsibility for society. Apparently, there was a time when people actually wanted to take care of society so government did not have to. The irony between the battle of government vs. individualistic capitalism is they feed off each other, that is when government becomes huge, people feel they are not responsible for society so they concentrate on themselves but since they obsessively concentrate on themselves they need government to take over more and more of civil society. I think the best scenario would be for individual capitalist to take a more active role in society so government does not have to. One is beginning to see this in Gates Foundation as well as Zuckerbergs $250 million revamping of NJ school system. I really truly believe that governments role is to be a catalyst to empower citizens to participate in creating their civil society instead of running it. Conclusion: So what to do about trying to have good long-term strategic policy without unnecessary special-interest interference by an organized vocal minority that seems to be the bane of American democracy. Zakaria favors setting up special non-partisan commission to do most of the long-term strategic policy making and Congress just votes on the findings to decrease the influence of special interest groups and short-term politics in policy creation. Obama is actually trying to do this with Medicare cost-cutting commission that Congress can simply override with votes if they find the measures to be too draconian.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    Too often with books that address contemporary politics, a favorable review is dependent on the reviewer endorsing the same argument as the author. I will start by saying that I reject and/or have major qualms with many of the arguments that the author puts forward. That said, I think Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, published in 2003, raises questions that we cannot afford to ignore given the recent upsurge in authoritarian populism and alt-right v Too often with books that address contemporary politics, a favorable review is dependent on the reviewer endorsing the same argument as the author. I will start by saying that I reject and/or have major qualms with many of the arguments that the author puts forward. That said, I think Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, published in 2003, raises questions that we cannot afford to ignore given the recent upsurge in authoritarian populism and alt-right violence in the United States and elsewhere. While the book, written in the immediate wake of 9/11, devotes many more pages to the future of democracy in the Middle East and East Asia, it does devote several chapters specifically to the United States and offers a theoretical approach to the rise of illiberal democracy that strives for universal applicability. Zakaria begins the book by drawing a clear line between democracy and constitutional liberalism. The former he defines simply as a government in which officials are elected by the adult populace in largely free and fair elections. Liberal constitutionalism, he states, refers to a political system marked not only by free and fair elections, but one which is defined by the rule of law and the protection of certain basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech, assembly, religion, etc. This bundle of freedoms, he argues, has nothing to do with democracy. A democracy can include protection of those freedoms, in which case it is a liberal democracy. If it does not safeguard those freedoms or operate according to the rule of law, it becomes an illiberal democracy. As noted earlier, the vast majority of the book focuses on why liberal democracy has failed to take root in other parts of the world, that is, why newly created liberal democracies devolve first into illiberal democracies and then dictatorships. He claims that democracy requires a strong middle class, a strong civil society, and a system of governmental checks and balances that not only keeps elites in check but also imposes restrictions on democratization. The latter may seem surprising too many Americans, who assume more democracy is always good. But as he notes, civil rights' gains in the 1950s/ 1960s came first through the courts in the United States -- the least democratic of institutions--not through Congress. He also claims that reforms introduced in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s that were intended to make government more transparent had unintended negative consequences. For example, he argues that the so-called Sunshine laws that aimed to make Congress more answerable to the public, actually made Congress more vulnerable to influence by special interest groups. Because negotiations no longer took place behind closed doors, senators and members of the House found it more difficult to ignore special interest groups who controlled the purse strings for their reelection campaigns. Similarly, he argues that the introduction of party primaries undermined the authority of political parties and contributed to polarized politics and legislative deadlock. Once the party no longer chose candidates, it lost substantial power over those candidates. Moreover, since the people in both parties who vote in primaries tend to be more activist-oriented, the candidates that they choose tend to lean more toward the far right or far left. As a result, the introduction of more democracy actually resulted in candidates who were less representative of the US populace as a whole. It also made these same candidates more beholden to fund-raising entities to win elections. The result of these developments has been that parties take on the positions of whoever is at the head of the ticket, rather than the candidate taking on the positions of the party. One need to look no further than the current crisis in the Republican Party, during and post-Trump, to see that there is a grain of truth in this analysis. However, I could not help asking myself is the solution to this problem actually less democracy or more? In other words, is the answer in fact returning to a closed-door system of selecting candidates? Instead, might the correction to this issue be finding ways to ensure that more Americans vote in primaries, so that the candidates chosen would then represent more closely the position of most Americans, rather than that of a minority? This is not to say that more democratization is always the answer, just that we need to be careful that we do not do a knee-jerk reaction in the other direction. I also was surprised after spending multiple chapters explaining why the success of liberal democracy is intrinsically linked to the presence of a strong middle class (minimum average income) in other parts of the world, the author did not spend more time addressing the erosion of the middle class in this country as a threat to democracy's survival. The gap between the haves and have nots in this country as been expanding exponentially since the 1980s. How does the growth of this gap affect the future of democracy in this country? And what will happen, if as Zakaria suggests is necessary, we were to reduce social security benefits? Would not the very middle class that he defines as essential for liberal democracy be crippled if we reduce the social safety net even further? As for other countries, such as South Korea, where the author seems to think the country followed the right approach, that is economic reform first, then political reform, the author largely glosses over the years of human rights abuses that cost the lives of many South Koreans Beyond the political sphere, Zakaria also makes some thought-provoking points about how democratization has reshaped nonpolitical institutions such as cultural and religious institutions. For example, democratization of culture has had some potentially unsavory consequences for libraries and museums, which rather than trying to shape public tastes, now simply mirror consumer interests and tastes. This change can be seen in that many libraries now use the word "customers" or "users" rather than "patrons." This change in nomenclature has been accompanied by libraries stocking more romances, westerns, and mysteries and many fewer difficult reads. The problem with this strategy is that libraries are no longer serving as the "poor man's university" as increasingly the expectation is that libraries should be run using a business model -- give the customer what he/she wants. Ultimately the book boils down to one question: Does less equal more when it comes to preserving democracy in the twenty-first century? And if so, how do we restore the delicate balance between democratization and a system of checks and balances without allowing the pendulum to swing too far back in the other direction? While the author’s concerns about popular democracy and about the tyranny of the majority certainly are not unfounded, his failure to address systematically how the corruption of elites can be checked is a major flaw in his analysis? After all, the reforms of which he is so critical did not occur in a vacuum; at least in the United States, they were the product of blatant abuses of power by elites that the current system of checks and balances failed to prevent (the political boss system of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, Watergate, Vietnam, etc.). So although I would argue Zakaria’s analysis suffers from major flaws, it is a read that is sure to spark discussion no matter where the reader is on the political spectrum.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Fareed Zakaria has never been on my “A-list” of intellectuals worthy of respect. In his many television appearances he has always struck me as a bit of a windbag. After reading his 2003 book The Future of Freedom, I may have to rethink the matter. It’s a good, thought-provoking book. Here is his book’s essential point: democracy and freedom are not twins delivered at the same birth. He trots out examples of authoritarian rule creating the order, domestic tranquility and—--most important, he theori Fareed Zakaria has never been on my “A-list” of intellectuals worthy of respect. In his many television appearances he has always struck me as a bit of a windbag. After reading his 2003 book The Future of Freedom, I may have to rethink the matter. It’s a good, thought-provoking book. Here is his book’s essential point: democracy and freedom are not twins delivered at the same birth. He trots out examples of authoritarian rule creating the order, domestic tranquility and—--most important, he theorizes---the economic progress essential for the gradual introduction of democracy to a people content enough to accept it. Conversely, he cites both frequent examples of tyranny-by-democracy and frequent failure of democracy because insufficient economic prosperity had been laid down as a stable foundation. He brings it home to the USA with this diagnosis: The root cause of current political dysfunction in Washington, he contends, is reform after reform that introduced more democracy to the process. For example, a shift from political conventions to primary elections and new “sunshine laws” that bared to the public every vote on every bill exposed our senators and congressional representatives to the wrath of special interest groups. He writes, “What we need in politics today is not more democracy, but less.” He argues for greater delegation to unelected bodies like the Federal Reserve, institutions that he thinks will act in the public interest without interference from well-funded political action committees and corporations. He points to the Supreme Court as being similarly insulated. A bit naïve, I think, but an interesting starting point for a discussion. It is a book worth reading again every five years or so as a reminder of both the fragility of “liberal democracy” (a term he uses a lot to describe democracies with liberty) and the universal and historical struggle for a government that actually works for its people. What a concept.

  4. 4 out of 5

    liz

    None of the facts or points in this book are especially new or shocking, but what is unusual and nice is seeing them all organized in the same place. What Zakaria sets out to do (and in my opinion, succeeds at) is to examine countries with institutionalized freedoms, and what political and economic conditions guarantee them, historically and at the present time. Shocker: Democracy is not automatically the answer. When doesn't it work and why, and why do Americans have so little faith in democrac None of the facts or points in this book are especially new or shocking, but what is unusual and nice is seeing them all organized in the same place. What Zakaria sets out to do (and in my opinion, succeeds at) is to examine countries with institutionalized freedoms, and what political and economic conditions guarantee them, historically and at the present time. Shocker: Democracy is not automatically the answer. When doesn't it work and why, and why do Americans have so little faith in democracy today? All of those things are examined (and some of what he proposes for the US can be surprising: Less government transparency! More career politicians! What?! Well, yes. You'll see). He looks as well at the role religion plays in governments' success or failure. Definitely worth reading, as it sets up another way to look at where governments succeed and fail, and therefore what our foreign policy priorities should be. Leaders in [Third World] countries have argued that they need the authority to break down feudalism, split entrenched coalitions, override vested interests, and bring order to chaotic societies. There is some truth to this concern, but it confuses legitimate government with one that is all-powerful....The key test of a government's legitimacy is tax collection, because it requires not vast police forces but rather voluntary compliance with laws. No government has a large enough police force to coerce people to pay their taxes. Yet Third World governments have abysmally low tax-collection rates. This is because they--and their policies--lack legitimacy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    According to the copy I've borrowed from my local library, this book was published in about 2003, 2004. 8 or 9 years later, this book could still be about the problems that the world and America face today. In this stunning, against-the-current book, Mr. Zakaria makes a compelling case that many of the problems we face today is not because of too little democracy, but too much democracy. Though written far in advance of the Arab Spring, Mr. Zakaria points how Islamic populism, when left unchecke According to the copy I've borrowed from my local library, this book was published in about 2003, 2004. 8 or 9 years later, this book could still be about the problems that the world and America face today. In this stunning, against-the-current book, Mr. Zakaria makes a compelling case that many of the problems we face today is not because of too little democracy, but too much democracy. Though written far in advance of the Arab Spring, Mr. Zakaria points how Islamic populism, when left unchecked, can produce some rather frightening results. He also writes about the history of liberalism, the idea of limited government powers through checks & balances through written constitution and the Rule of Law, and how it has produced better, more stable, and freer societies than pure democracies. He even points out how liberal authoritarian societies (countries that have no democracy, but a strong rule of law, i.e. China) have done far better economically than modern democracies. But his best case for more liberty and less democracy is his analysis of America, where he notes how badly government has done when legislative and political processes have been opened up to the public, like when Congressional committees began to have open rather than closed meetings. His on the spot analysis of California's experiment with direct democracy is enlightening and, for a native Californian, depressing. His ultimate call for a reinstitution of checks and balances in our government and the curbing of (some) of the public's input in the political process is something that all Americans of every political stripe should consider as they head to the polls this November.

  6. 4 out of 5

    ريحانة

    Like a graduate course on freedom and democracy, this book teaches you, challenges your knowledge, opens your eyes and mind, but does not give you a ready-made opinion ― it invites you to elaborate your own. And just like a graduate course, the book gets really boring sometimes; it focuses too much on meaningless details or quickly skips through important information. But what's trivial for some is primordial for others, and not all students (/readers) have the same background knowledge on the su Like a graduate course on freedom and democracy, this book teaches you, challenges your knowledge, opens your eyes and mind, but does not give you a ready-made opinion ― it invites you to elaborate your own. And just like a graduate course, the book gets really boring sometimes; it focuses too much on meaningless details or quickly skips through important information. But what's trivial for some is primordial for others, and not all students (/readers) have the same background knowledge on the subject. I definitely recommend this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    A tremendously thought-provoking and relevant book that was in a way ahead of the political curve we are now in the midst of. The subtitle about illiberal democracy really brings home the argument: We have seen a wave of democratization in the late 20th century, but it has not necessarily made our politics, economics, and societies that much better. Shedding orthodoxies of the left and right, Zakaria outlines the rise of illiberal democracies in places as varied as India, Russia (still a semi-de A tremendously thought-provoking and relevant book that was in a way ahead of the political curve we are now in the midst of. The subtitle about illiberal democracy really brings home the argument: We have seen a wave of democratization in the late 20th century, but it has not necessarily made our politics, economics, and societies that much better. Shedding orthodoxies of the left and right, Zakaria outlines the rise of illiberal democracies in places as varied as India, Russia (still a semi-democracy in 2003), Indonesia, Malaysia, Venezuela, and elsewhere. He defines these as states that have instituted key aspects of democracy (elections, parliaments, campaigns, usually constitutions) without liberalism, classically defined (civil society, strong constitutional traditions, norms like the loyal opposition, cultural resistance to strongman or ethno-centric appeals, religious tolerance, freedom of speech and the press, the rule of law, independent courts, the separation of powers, etc). He is also skeptical of countries that rush into democracy without liberal institutions or a certain amount of wealth. He cites extensive political science research that shows that democracies are vastly more likely to succeed once they hit around 8-10,000 dollars in GDP per capita. The main reason is that the key demographic for the survival of democracy and a strong civil society that can balance and hold accountable the power of gov't is the middle class. It is educated, solid enough in its socio-economic standing to resist blatant economic populism, usually more political moderate, and it wants accountable government in exchange for taxation. Democracy without liberalism or a baseline level of wealth can quickly become a hollow shell, as Zakaria shows with illustrations from countries around the world. Leaders rely on patronage politics rather than taxation (which, of course, requires a certain level of legitimacy), intimidate the press, scapegoat minorities, and try to undermine weak constitutions and legislatures. Instead of rushing countries into democracy, Zakaria recommends that we take a more kindly view of liberal authoritarians like those of Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey under Ataturk, Indonesia under Suharto, or even Spain. These leaders were not nice guys, but they opened their societies economically, allowing for the building of private enterprises and a rising middle class that then pressed for more political openness. By the time that pressure led to the phasing in of democracy, the countries had the strong liberal institutions needed as the grounding of that democracy. This is not a guaranteed process: authoritarians are just as likely to ruin their countries in the interest of enriching themselves or enacting utopian dreams. However, we should not necessarily see immediate democratization of countries that aren't ready as the solution: following this route will most likely bring you to state collapse (see Sub-Saharan African states) or illiberal democracies like India. I expected Zakaria's argument about American politics to be about the rise of illiberalism at home, but I think that development was not as apparent in 2003 as it is now. Instead, he focuses on hyper-democratization at home and the weakening of elite institutions. This is one of the great ironies of modern US politics: Americans routinely show the most respect for the institutions of the state (the military, the Supreme Court) that are least accountable to direct democratic control while detesting those that are most connected to democratic control (Congress, and to a lesser extent, the presidency). At the same time, Americans regularly complain that Washington is out of touch with their experiences, needs, and viewpoints and they demand more control over politics. Zakaria's lesson here: be careful what you wish for. He surveys the dramatic democratization of American politics that occurred in the 20th century, starting in the Progressive Era: the referendum, the popular primary, the opening of campaign donation laws, the weakening of party structures to the benefit of popular control, the rise of polling, others that I'm forgetting. This shift has had several important and detrimental effects. One is that politicians are ever more obsessed with day to day polling, causing them to "lead" with their ears to the ground rather than by considering broader factors. Zakaria calls for a return of the Burkean ethos of delegated authority in which representatives exercise judgement in the best interests, but not the beck and call, of their constituents. Second, and more pernicious, is that the opening of politics to greater outside influence in the name of democracy has not benefitted the people but led to the rise of special interests in politics. Think of it this way: as politics is opened to outside influence, who is most likely to seize that advantage: the organized, the motivated, and the well-funded. In other words, efforts at democratization opened the door for interest groups, lobbyists, a new and out of control version of patronage politics that have hollowed out the parties and empowered groups like the Koch brothers, enabling them both paralyze and radicalize our politics. It's no wonder that ordinary Americans are fed up with American politics; what they need to realize is that more democratic control is not necessarily the answer. In fact, it's part of the problem (note: Zakaria sees the weakening of elite institutions in American politics as part of a broader weakening of the American elite, or at least its transformation from defenders of the public interest to a self-interested kleptocracy. He puts in more subtly than this, but I'd still like to hear thoughts about this cultural shift) One can't help when listening to this book but see the dramatic connections to the wave of illiberal democracy sweeping the entire world right now. There are factors that he couldn't quite anticipate that now shape our politics: backlash to globalization, immigration, terrorism and Islamophobia, the new wave of illiberal leftism on campuses. However, he does point to many factors that help define the era of illiberal democracy: over-democratization of politics, the rise of populism, the resurgence of ethane-centric nationalism, the dominance of outside money in politics, the hollowing out of institutions like political parties. In sum, this book is great as a study of history, politics, and culture as well as a "how did we get here" read. It is provocative but balanced, firmly rooted in evidence, not too long, and continually relevant.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    In writing The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, Fareed Zakaria hopes to show the reader that true freedom requires more than elections in which all citizens of a country participate; it also requires what Mr. Zakaria calls constitutional liberalism. Constitutional liberalism is marked by existence of a “bundle of freedoms”, which includes rule of the law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. Constitu In writing The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, Fareed Zakaria hopes to show the reader that true freedom requires more than elections in which all citizens of a country participate; it also requires what Mr. Zakaria calls constitutional liberalism. Constitutional liberalism is marked by existence of a “bundle of freedoms”, which includes rule of the law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. Constitutional liberalism protects individual autonomy and guards against coercion, while democracy alone is a means of selecting government. Mr. Zakaria points to America as the greatest example to lead to recovery of the “constitutional tradition”. However, he feels that even in America constitutional liberalism is on a downslide. In the first half of his book, Zakaria spends a good deal of time describing the elements that predict successful democratization of a country. He contends that “democracy is flourishing, liberty is not” because democracy has “paved the way” for dictatorships in many countries. One of the major reasons for this trend according to Zakaria is that it is possible to have too much of a good thing: democracy. In other words, to have policy informed too greatly by the popular majority will result in decreased liberalism. Zakaria is very Machiavellian in his thinking in the sense that he believes that it is unwise for a leader (or government) to seek or accept too much advice from too many sources. He contends that the authority of a number of social institutions, including religion and the elite has been weakened. The elite are weakened by the fact that business now prevents them from providing service to the public. This has led to public distrust of the elite as merely self-interested. Religion has declined as a source of authority in that it is seen less as a guiding authority and now as more of an individual experience. Media is weakened in its authority by the need to provide for the taste of the masses to turn a profit, rather than being dedicated to higher ideals. For Zakaria, populism and profit have dealt a death blow to authority in America. These are what he refers to as the “consequences of capitalism”. He believes that the fact that Congress is more open to lobbyists and special interests has made it nearly impossible to reduce federal spending and also prevents the funding of new government programs. To my surprise, I actually find myself agreeing with him when he says, “in the name of democracy, we have created a new layer of enormously powerful elites”. I believe that the “average” citizen should be able to have their opinions heard and considered and I certainly don’t feel that policy should be sold to the highest bidder. However, this is exactly what Zakaria describes. It is all about marketing and spin these days. Look at how well corporations do at selling Americans products they don’t need. I am not naïve enough to believe that they won’t try to sell me ideas that I don’t need as well. Zakaria proposes delegation, and while avoiding use of the word, what sounds to me like privatization as the solution to the decline in constitutional liberalism. He calls on the elite of this nation to return to a historical sense of responsibility and civic obligation to strengthen and preserve freedom. In the Afterword, titled The 51st State he applies his theories to the ongoing situation in Iraq and concludes that America has before it a long and difficult task in assisting the people in maintaining a democratic and liberal country. This book is a difficult read for the student taking their first college-level course in government. The material is dense and would be more readily understood by an individual already schooled in national and international politics. An entire course could be centered on this text itself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I've always been impressed with Zakaria whenever he's on TV as a commentator/pundit - this book only confirmed what a deep thinker he is. His basic premise is that democracy in and of itself is not sufficient to promote "freedom & liberty" - but that it must be paired with constitutional liberalism (in the classic sense of the word). He shows how many countries that have some elements of constitutional liberalism, but not direct election democracy are better off than countries that lack those el I've always been impressed with Zakaria whenever he's on TV as a commentator/pundit - this book only confirmed what a deep thinker he is. His basic premise is that democracy in and of itself is not sufficient to promote "freedom & liberty" - but that it must be paired with constitutional liberalism (in the classic sense of the word). He shows how many countries that have some elements of constitutional liberalism, but not direct election democracy are better off than countries that lack those elements but have democractic elections. In other words, he is saying that giving people the right to vote isn't enough and in fact, it can promote unhealthy populism that is actually harmful to a government and its country. The book also contains an Afterword that has allowed him to update it based on what has happened in Iraq over the last several years. While this is insightful, I think a whole new edition of the book would be even better. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in world politics.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erica Clou

    This book is excellent, and I strongly recommend it to everyone. Its thesis is that there's a significant difference between freedom (constitutional liberalism) and democracy and that if wielded poorly, democracy can be the foil of freedom. There is so much more to this book, though. Almost every page gave me something important to ponder. It could function as a starter guide to democracy. Frequently when I read, I feel like the same thing could have been said in a much shorter more tightly edit This book is excellent, and I strongly recommend it to everyone. Its thesis is that there's a significant difference between freedom (constitutional liberalism) and democracy and that if wielded poorly, democracy can be the foil of freedom. There is so much more to this book, though. Almost every page gave me something important to ponder. It could function as a starter guide to democracy. Frequently when I read, I feel like the same thing could have been said in a much shorter more tightly edited text, but this time, I felt quite the opposite. This book is very tight and won't waste any of your time. In fact, I wanted to read more about some of the issues he raised at the end of the book. I'm eager to going to read another Zakaria book next, The Post-American World.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    This is an extremely interesting book about the theory, history, and evolution of democracy all over world. Zakaria talks about what is required for democracy, why it doesnt always work, and how a country can become too democratic. Most interestingly he goes into our own contries failures in "spreading democracy" and what historical facts US administrators could have learned from. Furthermore he discusses detail of our own democracy and how it is a shadow of what it once was. This is an extremely interesting book about the theory, history, and evolution of democracy all over world. Zakaria talks about what is required for democracy, why it doesnt always work, and how a country can become too democratic. Most interestingly he goes into our own contries failures in "spreading democracy" and what historical facts US administrators could have learned from. Furthermore he discusses detail of our own democracy and how it is a shadow of what it once was.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    This is a must read. Although Zakaria seems a bit too enamored for my taste with ruling elites, he makes a stark distinction between the increase in democracy and an increase in freedom.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Janusfac3

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Democracy has many forms and the illiberal democracy may not be the ideal one in people's mind. Zakaria pointed out that the illiberal democracy would be harmful to the people and may even be worse than authoritarianism. Statistics showed that rich democratic countries would last longer. Religious, generally Islamic countries, would suppress the freedom of other religions which are not recognized by the current regime. Voting only counts if people actually cast votes and the candidates they vote Democracy has many forms and the illiberal democracy may not be the ideal one in people's mind. Zakaria pointed out that the illiberal democracy would be harmful to the people and may even be worse than authoritarianism. Statistics showed that rich democratic countries would last longer. Religious, generally Islamic countries, would suppress the freedom of other religions which are not recognized by the current regime. Voting only counts if people actually cast votes and the candidates they vote for may not be the representatives of the party. Also in countries where Americanized democracy is replicated without the full extent e.g. without separation of powers, the elected presidents may not deliver their promises to the people but instead abusing political powers to infiltrate business, influence military and affect country's equilibrium. Eventually democracy may eventually become authoritarianism with electron being a formality rather than the crucial means of achieve democratic liberty. Democracy is like fire as a great aid to cook meat but can also burn down houses. People should confront the "dark side" of democracy and reflect on how to preserve the the freedom in the future.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert Narojek

    Incredibly great book, Zakaria takes the reader through thorough and un-emotional analysis of the Liberalism, Constitutional Liberalism and Democracy around the world and most particularly in the USA. He commands that over last decades we experience erosion of responsibility so closely associated with democracy and liberalism during many previous centuries. At some point he argues that we may have a bit too much democracy and I am afraid that since the end of the Cold War, our celebration of dem Incredibly great book, Zakaria takes the reader through thorough and un-emotional analysis of the Liberalism, Constitutional Liberalism and Democracy around the world and most particularly in the USA. He commands that over last decades we experience erosion of responsibility so closely associated with democracy and liberalism during many previous centuries. At some point he argues that we may have a bit too much democracy and I am afraid that since the end of the Cold War, our celebration of democracy has been too superficial. We put emphasis on its plebiscite aspect with the exclusion of all others. So now, when, for example, someone criticizes Donald Trump who utters words that no president candidate has ever said, he often hears in reply: "Well, Trump got 14 million votes and defeated the other 12 candidates." This is what the problem of excess democracy is - when it transforms into a system justifying even illiberal and unconstitutional activities. This is a problem of our time, regardless of whether it takes place in Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, the United States, and many other countries. You will immensely enjoy reading it ☺

  15. 5 out of 5

    King Leonidas I

    Fareed Zakaria's 2003 book, 'The Future of Freedom' explains a nuanced point that is often missed even today - that democracy and liberal ideals do not go hand-in-hand. In other words, that you can have illiberal democracies. This is a prescient book in many ways, as it extrapolates on the tyranny of elite and corporate interests, media conglomerates, and populism. Zakaria weaves a fine thread throughout various areas of political intrigue from culture and law, to institutions and economics. I a Fareed Zakaria's 2003 book, 'The Future of Freedom' explains a nuanced point that is often missed even today - that democracy and liberal ideals do not go hand-in-hand. In other words, that you can have illiberal democracies. This is a prescient book in many ways, as it extrapolates on the tyranny of elite and corporate interests, media conglomerates, and populism. Zakaria weaves a fine thread throughout various areas of political intrigue from culture and law, to institutions and economics. I am glad I read this book. Although the examples and evidence are dated in several areas, it remains a highly relevant critique of democracy that doesn't appeal to authoritarianism but rather delegation, virtue, and specific democratic limitations.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Over a decade after publication, Zakaria's assertions resonate. He argues that the past century has been marked by an over-regulation of capitalism and under-regulation of democracy, resulting in dangerous implications within our own borders and the globally. His solution is "delegation" in order to legitimise institutions and protect constitutional liberalism and ensure safe democracy as the "last best hope" for modern civilisation. Over a decade after publication, Zakaria's assertions resonate. He argues that the past century has been marked by an over-regulation of capitalism and under-regulation of democracy, resulting in dangerous implications within our own borders and the globally. His solution is "delegation" in order to legitimise institutions and protect constitutional liberalism and ensure safe democracy as the "last best hope" for modern civilisation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Yoder

    Huh. So Zakaria's point is that, in this Internet age, we've gone too far with disintermediation, specifically with our government. One can have too much direct democracy--witness California, says Fareed, and I'm not inclined to argue. This book challenged my thinking, made me cranky, and in the end its conclusions are quite strong. Hmmmmm. . .. let's intermediate! Huh. So Zakaria's point is that, in this Internet age, we've gone too far with disintermediation, specifically with our government. One can have too much direct democracy--witness California, says Fareed, and I'm not inclined to argue. This book challenged my thinking, made me cranky, and in the end its conclusions are quite strong. Hmmmmm. . .. let's intermediate!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alexei

    After reading that in the view of the author we live in the postnationalist time, abandoned this book without regret. True, it is fairly old, but this gaffe says everything I have to know about Zakaria's foresight and imagination. A glorified Thomas Friedman in my view (whom he approvingly quotes), and not by much. After reading that in the view of the author we live in the postnationalist time, abandoned this book without regret. True, it is fairly old, but this gaffe says everything I have to know about Zakaria's foresight and imagination. A glorified Thomas Friedman in my view (whom he approvingly quotes), and not by much.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve Scott

    While dated (the edition I read was published in 2007) Zakaria’s book is an excellent introduction to the virtues and pitfalls to democracy. Much has changed on the world scene since he wrote it, but it is still a provocative work whose insights will be badly needed in a post pandemic world. Zakaria says this isn’t an historical work, but I list it on that bookshelf because it has some valuable historical overviews. Additionally, the book at this writing is thirteen years old, and much of what wa While dated (the edition I read was published in 2007) Zakaria’s book is an excellent introduction to the virtues and pitfalls to democracy. Much has changed on the world scene since he wrote it, but it is still a provocative work whose insights will be badly needed in a post pandemic world. Zakaria says this isn’t an historical work, but I list it on that bookshelf because it has some valuable historical overviews. Additionally, the book at this writing is thirteen years old, and much of what was then current is now securely lodged in history. It seems the Iraq war was fifty years ago given our current struggles with potential economic collapse and worldwide disease.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Don

    62% democracy rate, quantity over quality, Rome limited govt and rule of law, Catholic Church cracked the code for individual liberty, European geography vs Asian and African early development, strict restrictive Reformation roots vs liberal Protestantism, 30 year war ended at Westphalia, 1688 British rev strengthened and 1789 French disintegrated, capitalism destroyed feudalism and previous hierarchical structures, rev when raise taxes w/o consent of governed, explosion of entrepreneurial power 62% democracy rate, quantity over quality, Rome limited govt and rule of law, Catholic Church cracked the code for individual liberty, European geography vs Asian and African early development, strict restrictive Reformation roots vs liberal Protestantism, 30 year war ended at Westphalia, 1688 British rev strengthened and 1789 French disintegrated, capitalism destroyed feudalism and previous hierarchical structures, rev when raise taxes w/o consent of governed, explosion of entrepreneurial power, whole society melted into middle class, born equal and equality under law, full vote 20’s US 30’s GB, eastern Europe and Iran difficult transition ripe per capita, Chile strong families religious values determination, govt must control governed and itself, unfair elections in south 50’s Chicago 60’s, British colonialism left behind system of law and capitalism, French colonies in Africa lead to tyranny, nazis gained 44% vote, democracy over $6K per capita survive, money does not produce liberty must be earned growth, easy money means undeveloped politically, educated masses to progress, even some trust fund kids turn out well, without full property rights democracy growth slow, Yeltsin on tank then Putin, china economic first Russia political first, Russian products value detraction, more presidential edicts less liberty, tyranny of majority per Madison and Tocqueville, Islam countries first with women leaders-Indonesia Pakistan India, people against US if support to oppressive regimes as in past at Chile Mexico So Korea, politics in US good intentions gone haywire with too much media attention skewed by special interests who were thought to compete for funds originally, 80% specials and minorities and 20% politicians, CA accountability diminished with initiatives wherein politicians control only 15% similar in CT,finance changes cc inv funds, religion Graham softened vs Cook, make us proud is outdated, lawyers used to state damn fool and should stop, Tocqueville tyranny of majority, politics by minority interest groups, acctg by contingent fees vs hourly, perhaps police self, was 3 network media monopoly of news, schools use to train to be good and useful maybe virtues too, achievement vs character, Titanic men saved women and children vs movie, 20th century reg of capitalism and dereg of democracy creating more govt, Nixon called price controls Keynesian, what respected is not political or democratic as fed reserve and military, perhaps wto eu brac, maybe less is more, do consumption flat tax, fear of democracy killing self, 20’s disenchantment with depression spurred socialism communism eugenics, need those with power to lead morally, best last hope for people, make democracy safe for world.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    This book distilled down the elements of different types of governments and explained them in such a way as it challenged me to think about and consider government, how it works, how it is implemented, and how it can evolve overtime. It gave me much to contemplate in my ongoing quest to be a more informed and educated voter and participant in our country’s political processes. One cannot do that without educating oneself on how things have been and are, as well as all sides and perspectives of i This book distilled down the elements of different types of governments and explained them in such a way as it challenged me to think about and consider government, how it works, how it is implemented, and how it can evolve overtime. It gave me much to contemplate in my ongoing quest to be a more informed and educated voter and participant in our country’s political processes. One cannot do that without educating oneself on how things have been and are, as well as all sides and perspectives of issues. It’s good to step outside my comfort zone and challenge my perceptions and current knowledge. Education is never finished but a lifelong pursuit.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Esmeralda

    A book quite relevant in America, Europe, and abroad.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kylewong

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Introduction: the democratic age Liberty and Democracy are not always the same. Democracy - the shift of power downward. It has gone from a way of government to a way of life. Illiberal democracy vs constitutional liberalism Democracy is flourishing; liberty is not. chapter 1: a brief history of human liberty *Consequence of capitalism as a cause of democracy Reject the argument that "culture as destiny" Capitalism and the rule law first, then democracy. chapter 2: the twisted path examples of authoritati Introduction: the democratic age Liberty and Democracy are not always the same. Democracy - the shift of power downward. It has gone from a way of government to a way of life. Illiberal democracy vs constitutional liberalism Democracy is flourishing; liberty is not. chapter 1: a brief history of human liberty *Consequence of capitalism as a cause of democracy Reject the argument that "culture as destiny" Capitalism and the rule law first, then democracy. chapter 2: the twisted path examples of authoritative government (WWII germany) the more well-to-do a nation, the greater its chances to sustain democracy Money that is earned produces liberty (e.g. oil-producing does not count) When a government taxes people it has to provide benefits in return, which brings liberty and representation ( a reciprocal bargain between taxation and representation) the next wave (countries that may be democratic next) A discussion on China chapter 3: illiberal democracy China is reforming its economics before its politics, whereas Russia did the reverse. First abuse of the democratic system: elected autocrats Second one : tyranny of the majority Democracy is simply not viable in an environment of intense ethnic preferences. DemocratizING states went to war significantly more often than either stable autocracies or liberal democracies. chapter 4: the Islamic exception (not particularly understand) The Arab world today is trapped between autocratic states and illiberal societies, neither of them fertile ground for liberal democracy. The arab mind chapter 4: too much of a good thing (not understand because of a lack of understanding of the US political structure) chapter 5: the death of authority Examples in daily lives In the old days, there are elites with morality Deregulation --> more competitive --> less moral conclusion: the way out delegating democracy the organizations that are respected / highly-rated by people are the ones that do not allow the participation of public

  24. 4 out of 5

    Therese

    The premise of the book is that democracy and freedom are not the same thing. Zakaria believs that too much direct democracy is bad. He believes that the indirect republican form of democracy is the best form of governance that leads to more freedom than direct democracy does. I agree with the author that freedom and democracy are not the same thing. Minority rights can be trampled by direct democracy where people make the laws. Just witness the results Proposition 8 in California. A few polls ha The premise of the book is that democracy and freedom are not the same thing. Zakaria believs that too much direct democracy is bad. He believes that the indirect republican form of democracy is the best form of governance that leads to more freedom than direct democracy does. I agree with the author that freedom and democracy are not the same thing. Minority rights can be trampled by direct democracy where people make the laws. Just witness the results Proposition 8 in California. A few polls have even shown that many United States citizens think that The Bill of Rights is too radical. Conversely, a republican democracy is better able to protect minority rights and give freedom to more people. The Civil Rights Act in the 60s probably never would have passed under a direct democracy. I part with the author most importantly is his sometimes praise of dictatorships where the author contends that there is more freedom than in what he calls so-called democracy. He points out that under the Indonesian dictator Suharto, Indonesia was economically richer and more secular than the democracy that replaced it. Is this true? Ask the hundreds of thousands killed by Suharto's armed forces from 1965-1966. Then ask what the people of East Timor thought. The Indonesians invasion of East Timor killed around 200,000 people in East Timor out of a population of about 700,000. I think Zakaria should not be praising a mass murderer. I found the book interesting and thought provoking. It made me think about democracy and freedom and had many interesting and important observations about the state of freedom in the world. But be forewarned, the author does not necessarily understand and/or take into account all issues of freedom and human rights. For his approval of a mass-murderer I give this book only one star.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Weronika

    I am quite disappointed with this book. The author dedicated very little room to the discussion of the actual concept of liberal democracy at work. He does repeat a number of times the basic assumptions behind the concept (liberal constitutionalism introducing a system of checks and balances on the democratically elected politicians in power, of which independent judiciary is of utmost importance), but he fails to discuss the main pillars of liberal democracy in detail, venturing into a number o I am quite disappointed with this book. The author dedicated very little room to the discussion of the actual concept of liberal democracy at work. He does repeat a number of times the basic assumptions behind the concept (liberal constitutionalism introducing a system of checks and balances on the democratically elected politicians in power, of which independent judiciary is of utmost importance), but he fails to discuss the main pillars of liberal democracy in detail, venturing into a number of peripheral issues instead. Zakaria focuses too much on current issues and proposes analyses which by now have become outdated or have been proven mistaken or false during the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. The part on the European Union became outdated even before the book got published! Oh well.. Furthermore, I found the first chapter (historical outline) very biased and, at points, simply wrong. Few Americans understand the history of Europe, and Zakaria is not one of them. Shame, he is a bright, open-minded and intelligent commentator of current affairs. I expected much more from the book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    'In this well-argued and far-ranging survey, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria shows the damage that is being done by this un-nuanced pursuit of the democratic idea and argues once again for a society in which elites are accorded their proper place and esteemed for what they are—the true guardians of individual freedom and the ones who have the greatest stake in maintaining law, order, and accountability in the public realm. His argument is particularly pertinent now, when allied forc 'In this well-argued and far-ranging survey, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria shows the damage that is being done by this un-nuanced pursuit of the democratic idea and argues once again for a society in which elites are accorded their proper place and esteemed for what they are—the true guardians of individual freedom and the ones who have the greatest stake in maintaining law, order, and accountability in the public realm. His argument is particularly pertinent now, when allied forces are attempting to bring freedom to Iraq by imposing democratic procedures on its people. As Zakaria points out, democracy could as well lead to an elected dictatorship of mullahs as to a modern civil society. For democracy without the rule of law is mob rule, and the rule of law is not built by democratic means.' Read Roger Scruton's full review, "Guarding Liberty From Democracy," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cristian Moisei

    While lacking a well-defined structure and presenting ideas haphazardly at times, this is a genuinely worthwhile read. The main objective of the book is highlighting the distinction between democracy and liberalism, with the author advocating for less direct democracy and more representative democracy via a government formed of powerful branches balancing each other out. He goes on to suggest that the increased democratisation of governments has reduced their efficiency and thus increased the pu While lacking a well-defined structure and presenting ideas haphazardly at times, this is a genuinely worthwhile read. The main objective of the book is highlighting the distinction between democracy and liberalism, with the author advocating for less direct democracy and more representative democracy via a government formed of powerful branches balancing each other out. He goes on to suggest that the increased democratisation of governments has reduced their efficiency and thus increased the public’s discontent with the political system. The book is packed with historical examples and analyses (e.g. Britain’s history as one of the earliest models of a capitalist society, several US governments, the different paths that Asian and middle eastern countries took after WW2, and how that influenced their economies today, etc).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    I knew a lot of people who didn't like this book. Then again, many of the people I know are contrarians. If something's popular, they are sure not to like it. So I'm not sure how much you can take from that. I liked this book because it brought to my attention interesting ways of looking at issues I thought I was familiar with. I was most interested in the discussion of the "at Home" portion of the discussion: the discussion of how our democracy is potentially being paralyzed from being "too open I knew a lot of people who didn't like this book. Then again, many of the people I know are contrarians. If something's popular, they are sure not to like it. So I'm not sure how much you can take from that. I liked this book because it brought to my attention interesting ways of looking at issues I thought I was familiar with. I was most interested in the discussion of the "at Home" portion of the discussion: the discussion of how our democracy is potentially being paralyzed from being "too open" was thought-provoking.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen O'Neal

    I read this book before starting college at Florida State University and it has influenced my thinking on many issues, especially the problem of the tyranny of the majority in democratic societies and the havoc that can be wreaked by relying too heavily on direct democracy. If I read the book again today, I would probably find many of its ideas less compelling than I did at eighteen, but I cannot deny that this book has shaped my thinking in important ways.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Gaiser

    Rather bar level than academic textbook, Fareed Zakaria tweaks in his Future of Freedom his statistics for a biased conclusion. Seen that he has been recently sacked of his jobs because of plagarism, one might question the quality of this book.

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