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Democracy's Good Name : The Rise and Risks of the World's Most Popular Form of Government
The last thirty years have witnessed a remarkably rapid rise of democracies around the world. In 1975, only thirty countries were democracies. Today, 119 of the world's 190 countries are democratic. How did democracy establish itself so quickly and so widely? Why do some important countries and regions remain undemocratic? In Democracy's Good Name, Michael Mandelbaum, one of America's leading foreign policy thinkers, answers these questions. He discusses the relationship between democracy, on the one hand, and war and terrorism, on the other, and assesses the prospects for the establishment of democracy in Russia, China, and the Arab world. And he explains why the United States has found it so difficult to foster democratic governments in other countries.
Democracy, until recently, was an anomaly in a landscape of monarchies, dictatorships and empires; its critics--including America's founding fathers--associated it with mob rule and demagogic tyranny. In this engaging treatise, Mandelbaum (The Ideas That Conquered the World) explains how the modern democratic fusion of popular sovereignty--i.e., majority rule--with individual liberty came to dominate the world's polities. His first reason is straightforward: democracy works. Democratic nations, he notes, especially the flagship democracies of Britain and the U.S., are wealthier, stronger and more stable and inspire other countries to emulate them. His second, more provocative explanation, is that the modern spread of free markets provides a school for democracy by establishing private property (the fundamental liberty), respect for law, civil society, organized economic interests as the forerunners of political parties, and the habit of settling differences by negotiation and compromise rather than violence. Mandelbaum's market rhetoric--he calls democracy the leading brand of political system among knowledgeable political consumers--can be a bit simpleminded. But readers will find a lucid, accessible blend of history, political science and sociology, with a wealth of fresh insights into the making of the contemporary world. (Aug.)
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August 03, 2008
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