THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad

Fareed Zakaria, Author . Norton $24.95 (286p) ISBN 978-0-393-04764-6

Democracy is not inherently good, Zakaria (From Wealth to Power) tells us in his thought-provoking and timely second book. It works in some situations and not others, and needs strong limits to function properly. The editor of Newsweek International and former managing editor of Foreign Affairs takes us on a tour of democracy's deficiencies, beginning with the reminder that in 1933 Germans elected the Nazis. While most Western governments are both democratic and liberal—i.e., characterized by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic rights—the two don't necessarily go hand in hand. Zakaria praises countries like Singapore, Chile and Mexico for liberalizing their economies first and then their political systems, and compares them to other Third World countries "that proclaimed themselves democracies immediately after their independence, while they were poor and unstable, [but] became dictatorships within a decade." But Zakaria contends that something has also gone wrong with democracy in America, which has descended into "a simple-minded populism that values popularity and openness." The solution, Zakaria says, is more appointed bodies, like the World Trade Organization and the U.S. Supreme Court, which are effective precisely because they are insulated from political pressures. Zakaria provides a much-needed intellectual framework for many current foreign policy dilemmas, arguing that the United States should support a liberalizing dictator like Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, be wary of an elected "thug" like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and take care to remake Afghanistan and Iraq into societies that are not merely democratic but free. (Apr.)

Forecast:Zakaria has a weekly platform as a Newsweek columnist and high visibility as an analyst for ABC News. Reviews are guaranteed, and the controversial nature of Zakaria's thesis should encourage debate in the media.

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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