Friday, March 7, 2003

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DREZNER GETS RESULTS FROM THE ECONOMIST!: The Economist has just reviewed Fareed Zakaria's new book, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. Their critique is eerily reminiscent of another review of Zakaria's thesis that appeared last month. Some key paragraphs from the Economist review:

"America is not Mr Zakaria's main focus: the developing world is. And it is here that his Big Idea begins to get bogged down. He argues that countries need a history of building liberty and an income per head of at least $5,000 if they are to begin sustaining liberal democracy. That gives him just nine candidates, and a strange batch they are—Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and Iran. Yet many countries have managed the trick without meeting those preconditions, including Japan, Costa Rica and, despite his strictures, India. [Hey, didn't you provide the exact same list of countries?--ed. Yes, but I mentioned Botswana and the Baltic states as well.]

He writes rather as if countries face a simple choice between establishing democracy or maintaining incremental reform. In practice, new democracies have often begun because the previous regime had collapsed and there was no other way of establishing legitimacy.....

Illiberal democracies are volatile. That does not necessarily make them worse for themselves or the world in the long run. It is a matter of timing: they get the bad news out early. Reforming autocracies leave tough political problems until later, in the hope they will be more manageable. That is not necessarily an argument against rapid democratisation. Mr Zakaria's book is not an attack on democracy, but on its over-extension. He calls the problem 'too much of a good thing'. The same might be said of this book."

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Hmmm.... Influencing the zeitgeist..."

posted by Dan on 03.07.03 at 11:06 AM