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Monday, November 06, 2006

A book by Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria

(Click here for the Romanian version)

The Future of Freedom – the book of Fareed Zakaria is passionate while consistent, incisive, even provocative, while thoughtful, and makes a strong point: democracy and freedom are different things. Democracy means the rule of the majority while freedom means the rule of law. Democracy means the authority of the people while freedom means the authority of the institutions. Democracy means politics while freedom means policies. Democracy means liberty while freedom means liberties. Democracy can lead to the tyranny of majority while freedom means legal and institutional guaranties for any segment of the society. Special interest groups go very well under democracy, only the rule of law and strong institutions can limit their power. Extremes go very well under democracy, only the rule of law and strong institutions can keep the balance. Democracy can be illiberal while freedom is always liberal, whether guarantied by a democratic or by an authoritarian regime.

So, more democracy does not mean always more freedom, actually often means the opposite. Freedom leads toward democracy (proof: the success stories from some Asian countries, like South Korea or Taiwan, which started as liberal authoritarian regimes) while uncontrolled democracy can pave the way towards dictatorship, through populist demagoguery. The key resides in keeping a careful balance between democracy and freedom. This key seems to be lost today, in underdeveloped as well as in developed countries. The subtitle of the book is Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad.

Here is the outline:

The first chapter offers a concise but self-contained history of liberal principles and institutions. The second chapter puts forward the conflict that appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century between democracy and freedom and is going on. This chapter offers explanations for questions like why Germany was not able to follow the British model and brought to power the Nazi regime or why today’s India is dominated at large by nationalistic forces. The third chapter analyses the Islamic issue – the root cause is, in Zakaria’s opinion, the failure of modernization in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, due to illiberal approaches. The following two chapters analyze the situation in the United States, where the balance between democracy and liberalism was also lost, considers Zakaria.

Fareed Zakaria is one of the most distinguished political analysts of today. He is the editor of Newsweek International and writes a regular column for the domestic edition of Newsweek. Often his columns appear in Washington Post, too. He is the host of a new weekly PBS show, Foreign Exchange, which focuses on international affairs. The most recent article of Zakaria, Rethinking Iraq: The Way Forward, deserves a separate discussion. I’ll come later on it.



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